The first thing I notice as I pull this Pre out of the Fex Ex box is the color on the side of the Pre box: black. The color of the box of my first Pre, purchased on June 16th, was orange.
Meaningful or not, there has been some discussion on the Pre Central forum about the color of the box possibly having some correlation to the hardware inside--namely, the speculation is that black box Pres come from an earlier build/release and, perhaps, have more hardware problems: loose slider, separating halves, dead pixels, white/hot spots on screen, and various battery issues.
Because I had read about all of this, the first thing I did was check the hardware for any of these issues. I found none; however, I did notice some residue of either glue or tape on the back side that seemed odd and made me think the phone I was sent could be refurbished--perhaps it's a launch phone that had been returned and fixed? I don't suppose it matters as long as everything works (the phone was free after all).
In any case, I found no hardware problems with this new new Pre from the black box. The phone feels solid in my hand, opens smoothly, closes with a secure-feeling click, and all of the buttons seem to work as they were meant to. A number of early reviewers noted the sharpness of the edges surrounding the keyboard. Though I see what they are talking about, I find this to be a non-issue (not noticeable at all) when using the keypad.
In this image, you see everything that comes in the box: headphones with a corded mic and a combined "answer call" and "pause/skip music" button, micro usb cable, wall charger attachment, soft black/orange Pre pouch, and "getting started" guides.
Completing the requisite phone set-up procedure on my own (no phone call required) took less than 2 minutes and included creating a "Palm Profile" so that the phone can perform automatic over-the-air (OTA) back-ups (very cool), allowing (or not) the location feature for various applications that use GPS to provide location-based info (also very cool), and a short tutorial about how to use "gestures" to navigate WebOS.
As you can see from this image, the screen is vibrant and beautiful. The gestures needed to interact with the OS are intuitive and easy to master, and the touch screen is responsive.
I checked to see which version of the OS was on the phone once I had the phone activated and found that 1.0.4 (the most recent, as of just a couple days ago) was pre-installed. So, basically, aside from the weird glue issue and what appear to be slightly different included wallpaper options (odd), the new new Pre itself looks and feels identical to my old new Pre. And that's a good thing.
Bottom Line: If I had to sum up my impression of the Palm Pre based on this unboxing in a word, that word would be "smooth." Everything looks and feels good and (more importantly, I suppose,) everything appears to work. Score one for Palm/Sprint!
NEXT UP: Early Impressions...