The first bit of news actually came out of the Web 2.0 Expo in San Francisco where Palm announced that it's ready to release the Mojo SDK to developers so they can create apps for the Pre and Palm WebOS.
Back here in Las Vegas, Sprint and Palm hosted a VIP Lounge where invitees could kick back and check out the Pre in a more intimate setting, away from the masses. I stopped by the lounge, and we were disappointed to learn that there's still a "look, but don't touch" policy (more on this later), but we were happy to see that they were demoing a number of third-party apps on the smartphone, which we really haven't seen before.
The first app I saw was Fandango. The movie ticket site was announced as a partner back when the Pre made its debut at CES 2009, but we finally got to see how it would work on the smartphone, and I've got to say, it's pretty sleek. You can view trailers, check show times, and buy tickets through the Fandango app. If you buy tickets, the Pre will even create a calendar entry to remind you about the show.
Next up was FlightView. This is a real-time flight-tracking app that's designed to make it easier for you to know the status of a friend's or family member's flight. It lets you view in-air maps, receive status notifications, and also offers Calendar integration. FlightView will also use the smartphone's GPS to find the nearest airport to your location
Perhaps the most exciting app for me was Pandora. I love music, and Pandora's introduced me to some great new artists, so it's wonderful to see the integration of the Internet radio service on the Pre. Even better, you can run Pandora in the background while using other applications and without having to go back to the dedicated app, you can use the notification bar along the bottom of the screen to check out what's currently playing and perform some basic functions (e.g., stop/pause, next track).
Last but not least, we got to see a couple of Sprint's services demoed on the Pre, namely Sprint TV and Nascar Sprint Mobile app. The latter lets you get live race audio, keep tabs on your favorite drivers, and receive alerts on their latest results, and so forth. Sprint TV, of course, allows you to access to programming from a variety of channels, including CNN, Comedy Central, Sprint Exclusive Entertainment. The video playback on Sprint TV wasn't all that great. Picture quality was choppy and at one point, there was a couple-second stall in playback. However, to be fair, we've seen this on other Sprint TV-enabled smartphones and cell phones.
In general, I was impressed with what I saw. There were, of course, some hiccups, but everything's still in beta stage and I understand there are issues to be resolved, so I'm not going to pass final judgment. The bigger picture is that the smartphone offers great multi-tasking capabilities, and this is where I think the Palm Pre trumps the iPhone. Being able to run and interact with Pandora while working in another application is just a great example of the Pre's multitasking capabilities. Well played, Palm, well played. Check out photos of the apps and more beauty shots of the Palm Pre above.