We just sat down with Palm for a more in-depth look at the Pre, and here are our takeaways. First off, the software and hardware they're showing right now aren't the final versions. They're updating and tweaking as we speak, so some of the features haven't been implemented yet. Our take? Check it all out after the break, along with video, a full spec rundown... and in case you're wondering... it rhymes with Tree!

Palm Pre first hands-on with live updates, part 2!

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Software
The UI is incredibly well thought out and smooth. Animations going in and out of apps, and all of the menus and switching are done with a grace and simplicity that we rarely see on any device. The UI outclasses most of its competition on a number of levels, and actually may be quite a bit more revolutionary than the iPhone. Multitasking works like a charm, and reps say you can push it quite hard before you'll need to close applications. One of the most fascinating components of the UI is that when you're zoomed out to cards, the data is still active in the previews.

There are all sorts of little perks to the OS that make things easy and convenient. For instance, when viewing an email you can click on the sender and view their contact card, which is populated with traditional info like phone and email, but also includes statuses for different services like GoogleTalk and Facebook -- another tap and you're chatting with them.

The browser is based on WebKit, though it's actually faster at rendering, displaying and scrolling through pages than any of its competitors, including Mobile Safari. If you're on a web page you can flip the display around and it will automatically reorient.

We're told that the OS is based on Linux, and is in some way an extension of what they've been crafting for a while now, but on top of that Linux core is a display layer that is basically WebKit: all of the apps, including Palms own, are built in HTML, CSS and Javascript, and can make calls deeper into the OS for certain functionalities. That means almost any web developer can build an app for the phone, but there are limitations. 3D gaming, for instance, won't be possible, at least with version 1.0 of the OS -- though Palm might add a different, more powerful display layer in the future. Palm has confirmed that there will be an app store and an SDK which will be available to anyone.

The device features copy and paste, which is implemented by holding a thumb on the gesture area and grabbing the text you want with your other thumb or a finger -- there's also a dropdown menu that lets your move through a number of editing options.

Hardware
We were playing with prototype versions of the phone, but it's certainly all there, other than a bit of a rough slider mechanism that will certainly (hopefully) be worked out before the device goes to market.

The phone is very light and surprisingly thin, though it doesn't feel like a "toy." There are buttons and ports around the edges, but everything's fairly flush with the device -- and almost impossible to spot in the dark room we were checking it out in. The most notable protrusion is the ball / button, which feels a lot like a ball bearing -- if the OS relied on it more it might be a bit too small, but with plenty of swipes and gestures to do on-screen, it's probably just about right.

The screen is encased in the rounded shell of the device, but comes through incredibly bright and sharp, with zero trouble with viewing angle. Glare might be an issue outdoors, but it's not too bad otherwise. Touching the screen is responsive and precise, we never felt like it was "glitching out" on us, and with a few exceptions everything in the OS was large enough to be tapped on the first try with our gargantuan fingers.


The keyboard is reminiscent of the Centro or Treo Pro, but closer to the Pro in that the keys are spread out and somewhat larger. The key presses are about as shallow as the keys on the G1, but the rubberyness makes that forgivable. At a glance, it doesn't seem quite as robust as something like the Bold's clicky keyboard, but we didn't really get much time to play with it, so we'll hold our official statement. It's definitely useable, and we're looking forward to logging a few hours with it.

You can charge the phone over that wireless Touchstone accessory or over the microUSB plug... or by replacing the battery, as Palm was happy to point out.

The camera takes decent pictures, and that LED flash certainly helps, but it's not a particular strong suit of the phone.

On the Sprint end of things, they'll be pushing their "Everything" plans, and there'll only be a black version of the phone to start. There's no global roaming (of course), though Palm does have plans for a UMTS handset.




Here's a quick rundown of everything you need to know spec-wise:
  • High-speed wireless (EV-DO Rev. A or HSDPA, depending on version)
  • 802.11b / g WiFi
  • Integrated GPS
  • 3.1-inch 24-bit color 480 x 320 display
  • Dedicated gesture area below display
  • Slide-out portrait QWERTY keyboard
  • Exchange email support in addition to POP and IMAP
  • IM, MMS, and SMS messaging
  • High-performance browser
  • 3-megapixel camera with LED flash and "extended depth of field"
  • 3.5mm headphone jack
  • Bluetooth 2.1 + EDR with A2DP
  • 8GB of internal storage
  • USB mass storage mode
  • MicroUSB connectivity with USB 2.0
  • Proximity sensor for detecting when phone is near face
  • Light sensor to automatically dim display
  • Ringer mute switch
  • Removable rechargeable battery
  • 59.57 x 100.53 x 16.95mm closed
  • 4.76 ounces

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Palm Pre in-depth impressions, video, and huge hands-on gallery