Saturday, June 6

Problems with the Palm Pre - Day One

I have been a long term user of Palm products (way back to the Palm 5000) and I have been waiting for the Palm Pre since I have played with my friend's iPhones. So, when I found out that the Pre was available on Saturday morning at the local Sprint store, I got up, pulled on my clothes and headed to the store.

Nicely enough, the store was incredibly gracious (Thanks guys!) and within 20 minutes I had the hot little object in my hand going through the tutorial. So, an hour later, when I caught up with my brother and his brood, I was deeply engrossed with the Pre.

Love at first site (yes, site)
Initially, I was enamored. The new cards interface, the interactions within the browser and interface elements (form elements and navigation) are incredibly familiar from using my friend's iPhones. As I played with the Pre, it became evident that the Pre interface had things that I did not see how to address - such as how to take a picture (since my camera app seems to be having problems).

So while you can read all sorts of great posts on the Pre (which I agree with them all), I have my issues with the Pre:

Help Info is "slow"
When I discovered that the camera was not working as advertised in the excellent reviews, I started looking for information on how to use the camera. I started with the documentation in the box (which was limited to gestures and other high-level options) and then went to the Help documentation. Since the docs are online, the speed of the Sprint network seem to impact the access to the Help documentation. Took me a bit of time to find the info (since there is no Search option within the documentation), which made me a little disappointed in learning how to use the phone through the documentation.

-1 point for the increasing difficulty to use the Pre

Camera App is "flaky"
Since I heard that the Pre had a 3.2M pixel camera, I chose to to leave my standard Canon IXUS at home as I headed to my cousin's bat mitzvah. While in the car, I tried to use the Pre camera and wondered why I could not take a photo. I would choose the camera icon, a grey screen would show up, the camera icon would sit in the middle of the screen and sit for 20 seconds, then would go dark and restart the campera app. Twenty seconds later, the camera app would end, restart and go through the sequence one more time until the phone went dark based on the power settings.

After wondering if I had done something wrong, I discovered how to kill the app (toss it north) and tried a couple of times, I thought "Maybe there is an update" and I checked for updates and downloaded the 1.0.2 update on to the phone. Much later, after the webOS 1.0.2 update was installed, I tested the app - and still the same behavior.

Later in the evening, just on a whim, I would try the app. One time out of five, the camera app suddenly worked. And yes, the photos are gorgeous. But still, I have no camera on the Pre.

-2 points for a flaky app or driver management

Pre web browser has weird quirks
The web browser is very similar to what I have seen on the iPhone - full page support, zoom in, zoom out - all of the things that make the iPhone mobile experience wonderful (heck, I even can use the interface for iPhone, the interface for WAP browsers and the interface for normal browsers. But, the Pre web browser has some other quirks:
  1. Strange reflection of a short page on the lower third of the page
    When I logged into twitter via their Login link, the top part of the browser shows the login div - but the lower part (2/3rds) should be blank. Instead, there is a stretched out version of the login div in the lower third of the browser. And this is not only on twitter, I also saw it on the opening page of Spymaster.

  2. Form elements do not expand to access the hidden parts of the content within
    On the Blazer browser, if you entered more text into the form field that was visible, the browser would become an editable text field that showed up on the lower third of the page. You could modify any portion of the text that was entered - and did not need arrow navigation to get anywhere, since you could point to the needed correction. Now, with the Pre web browser, you find yourself having to make sure you type everything correctly, or you have to refresh a page if you make a mistake and need to edit character 23 in a 20 character visible field - when the text has already exceeded 25 characters.

  3. On mobile sites, the browser does not support number shortcuts
    On the Blazer browser and other WAP browsers, mobile site designers could set up a situation where, if the browser sensed a number being pressed, it would act as if the link was hit that was tied to the number key (see this action on the mobile version of twitter, Yahoo! Mail and Facebook). Now, when you hit a number key on the Pre web browser, the browser thinks youa re typing a new URL - which makes shortcutting difficult. Additionally, on mobile twitter, hitting the aforementioned number shortcut link via a finger touch changed the page - but has the page still at the same location on the browser (the page does nto refresh with the start at the top of the page).
-2 points for browser issues

Charging up the phone is a bit cumbersome
One of the comments I heard on some blogs was the fact that the Touchstone charger might be an extravagance for $80. But, after trying to charge up my phone a couple of times, I can see why they did the Touchstone. If you try to plug in the USB cable into the phone, you have to work the cover off of the mini jack, which I will bet wears out eventually. Additionally, you need to know that the mini jack has to be inserted in only one position, you might accidentially insert it into the Pre upside down. To extend the life of the cover, you should get the Touchstone recharger.

-1 point for product issues

Now, all of these issues are not critical - and will more than likely be addressed soon. But it is funny - I was one of the people who got a treo 650 when it came out, and went through 19 (yes, nineteen) returns to the Sprint store (because Sprint at the time did not have a solid tech support for the treo smartphones).

I have only had the phone for a single day (not even 12 hours yet) so i will continue to learn more about the phone as I use it.

I am happy to be a guinea pig for the Pre (and the new one), as I was for the treo 755p and the Centro - but please fix the phone. I want to love this device - I have waited almost two years.


Philip said...

Hi Sanford,

I was really impressed with the presentation of the Pre at CES in January, but couldn't get to see it at MWC in Feb. Jealous you've got your mits on it, even if it is a proprietary stack ;-)

I'm still in the first two weeks of owning the (open... Symbian S60) Nokia E75, and whilst the hardware is beautifully engineered, I'm having some difficulty with sync'ing with Google Apps (

Guess we should both be later-adopters and avoid the pain.

Sanford Dickert said...

Phillip -

I am an Early Adopter more than an Innovator, but on certain things (like a Pre), I will take the dive. I am happy to learn and solve the problems with Pre rather than waiting for the second version.

Anonymous said...

I wanted to love this phone too,,but I sent a text messeage and left it on the table and went outside. When I came back in nothing . It would not turn on or nothing. I did see a comment about holding the power switch and turning the ringer switch on and off three times ,but still no go.So back to the store tomorrow :(

Anonymous said...

Looks like you can search the Help content by selecting Search in the Help Application drop down menu...

Anonymous said...

we have had a few issues with the camera this can be fixed by a 30 day return hope this was helpfull

Sanford Dickert said...

Re: the camera - for some reason it sometimes works, and sometimes does not. One change recently was the camera had the battery swapped and then the camera operation became more frequent - while still having drop out.

Great photos.

Anonymous said...

My browser crashed. When I plugged the phone to computer to charge battery it crashed completely and is now entirely inoperable.

Sanford Dickert said...

Sorry dude - you need to explain more...

Markus said...

I have the same problems with the camera... i'm dubbing this the grey screen of death. Looked throught the manual, online.. nothing. In fact, you're the only one on google who even mentions this problem. I've put out some feelers in other forums to see if there is a fix, but I have a strong feeling that I'll just have to wait for updates from palm.

Anonymous said...

same problems with camera. intermittent use at best. took it to the store, and they basically did nothing. it worked for a day. now i can't get it to work at all.

Anonymous said...

I love my palm pre, but it definitely loses a couple points for the camera. Mine hardly ever works. It NEVER works when I want/need it to! Also, I got my pre on day one also and it took forever to start getting some apps. Still kinda dissappointed in the app selection at this point. Facebook app is ridiculous, but the friendsbook app is acceptable. All in all 8 out of 10, with a possible 10 out of 10 if palm would fix these problems.

Anonymous said...

I was so excited with this phone but my first phone, the sound stopped working..the second replacement phone just died. Will not even turn on while plugged in. Truly disgusted.