A smartphone of this caliber is nothing without a decent network to cruise on, and we were really pleased with data over Sprint's EV-DO option. Since we weren't testing side-by-side with another Sprint device, we can't tell you how it stacks up to something like the Instinct, but running side against the G1 and the iPhone on their respective networks, we definitely saw favorable results. In a somewhat unscientific run of repeated DSLReports mobile speed tests, we found that the Pre averaged 634Kbps downstream, while the iPhone and G1 nabbed 552Kbps and 413Kbps, respectively. Not drastic differences -- and obviously only in a single location -- but certainly promising if you've got good Sprint coverage.
In terms of daily use -- or what the phone actually felt like -- we found that data pushes and pulls were non-obtrusive, and it didn't seem as if we were anxiously waiting for even robust pages like Engadget to load up. Our major gripe is actually directed at Sprint's network: you can't do voice and data concurrently with EV-DO, which meant that we were constantly getting a spew of emails after speaking to someone on the phone. The problem is circumvented if you're in WiFi range, but that doesn't help you if you're on the road. The same goes for web browsing or any other instance where you need to use data -- you're not going to be checking out sports scores while talking to your buddies, and that kind of stinks.
Backup / restore
Palm offers a new service called Palm Profiles, which promises to never leave you in the lurch should you break or lose your device. Like syncing via iTunes, it's meant to store your important user data, such as preferences, email account settings, and what applications you've downloaded. Unlike iTunes sync, however, Palm Profiles are backed up periodically in the background, over-the-air -- meaning you don't actually have to do anything to keep your info in place. Since we had a second device delivered to us by Palm, we got a really good preview of what it would be like to use the service.
In not so many words, it works... kind of. When we swapped devices and input our Palm Profile login into the new phone, it warned that another device was registered, and that it would be pulling that data down to our new phone (along with a warning to backup any files we added via mass storage mode). Then it did some kind of secret Palm voodoo where it filled our device with apps, settings and data from the other phone. It wasn't without issue, however, as we found that details like brightness settings and ringtone selections hadn't carried over to the new phone, and more shockingly, we found that when it restored our AIM and Gmail accounts, it unlinked all of the contacts layers that we'd hand-linked. Not so cool.
It did do most of what it promised, but we'd like to see some extensions to this service. It should at least get your preferences right if nothing else -- though we won't complain too much about a feature that saves us the trouble of having to re-add all of our data.
We didn't have the time or the resources (like multiple users) to put the Pre through the kind of lengthy, hard-hitting, take-no-prisoners battery testing some of you might want, but we did have a chance to use this as we would our own device for a pretty good run of days (we'll likely do a follow-up post with harder numbers for specific tasks, like media playback).
In terms of real-world use, the Pre battery situation is good, not great -- though we think that you can (mostly) put your Apple-inspired fear of background processes to bed.
During heavy use -- phone on all the time, browser testing, media playing, lots of conversations -- we could make it about three quarters of the way through a day without having to plug in. We weren't over the moon with how quickly we noticed the numbers dipping, but we also weren't completely surprised. Compared with the G1 (and we're talking 1.5 here), we'd say the Pre does a tiny bit better (or very close) on battery life -- but if you're a heavy talker or plan on running media on this all day long, you'll be reaching for the charger (or second battery) come dinnertime.
Still, for the battery size (1150 mAh) and amount of data being pushed, it didn't seem like the phone was performing unreasonably, and we don't knock the fact that you can snag a second (or third!) battery if you know you're going to push it. During the more conservative days -- which we think reflect the kind of moderate use we put our phones through -- battery life declined much less noticeably from morning till night. We'll be keeping our eyes peeled for third-party options with more juice, but the brick in the box isn't too shabby at all, especially given our expectations.
We didn't have a wide variety of devices to test the Pre with when it came to Bluetooth (we were on the road for the entire review period), but we did have an Aliph Jawbone and Motorola ROKR S9-HD on hand. Our experiences with the two devices were slightly different.
For the Jawbone, no matter what we tried, we couldn't get it to pair with the phone. We would have been more alarmed with this situation, but we're not entirely convinced it's the Pre's fault. We couldn't get the thing to pair with our iPhone either. We're leaving the verdict out on this one, because our experience was far different when testing out the S9-HD.
Obviously, stereo A2DP is a feature that end-users are becoming more and more accustomed to seeing on their devices -- we think Apple's addition of the option in iPhone OS 3.0 speaks to that. Palm smartly saw fit to include it out of the box with the Pre, and it seems to work perfectly. Pairing with the headset only took a few seconds (once we'd charged the thing up, of course), and the Pre flawlessly switched over from playing audio out of the external speaker to the Moto device. Quality was excellent, though in this case, you've either got a connection or you don't. Overall, the experience was about as painless as it gets -- and we see ourselves putting the feature to quite a bit of use.