Announced back in October 2010, the Palm Pre 2 is finally available from Verizon Wireless for $149.99 with a two-year contract and after a $50 mail-in rebate. On the one hand, it's wonderful to have another WebOS product on the market, especially with the great enhancements of WebOS 2.0. On the other hand, the timing of the release is rather unfortunate since HP just announced the Pre 3, which is due out this summer and has a faster processor, better hardware, world phone capabilities, and more. Given that a bigger, faster Pre is on the way, is the Palm Pre 2 still worth it? Let's have a look.
The Palm Pre 2 doesn't stray far from its roots, sporting a design very similar to the previous versions of the Pre. It retains the attractive pebble-like shape, but it's not quite as round since the smartphone's display is flat instead of curved. Still, it's comfortable to hold and has a soft-touch finish on the back and along the outer edges. It's also compact and pocket-friendly at 3.96 inches high by 2.34 inches wide by 0.66 inch thick and 5.1 ounces.
As we just noted, the Pre 2's display is flat but remains at 3.1 inches with an HVGA (320x480-pixel) resolution, just like the Pre Plus. Admittedly, it feels small compared with the bevy of smartphones we've tested lately with 4-inch-plus displays and it's not the sharpest, but it's still clear and bright and the multitouch screen is responsive.
In addition to the touch screen, you can navigate the phone using the gesture area below the display. Though there are no physical buttons, tapping the middle of the area will bring you back to the home screen and the deck-of-cards or stack view. You can also do a long press and sweep your finger upward toward the screen to bring up the application launcher, so you can simply launch another program without having to exit the current one. Swiping from right to left will take you back to the previous page.
Sliding the screen upward reveals the Pre 2's full QWERTY keyboard. (The slider mechanism, by the way, is smooth but still a bit rickety when closed.) The buttons and layout are pretty much the same as on the Pre Plus. The small size and cramped layout of the gel-like buttons will give users with large thumbs some problems. With some time, one can learn to adjust to the keyboard. That said, we're definitely looking forward to the HP Pre 3, which features a roomier and easier-to-use keyboard. There is still no onscreen keyboard option.
On the top of the device you will find a power/lock button, a silent ringer switch, and a 3.5-millimeter headphone jack. A volume rocker sits on the left side, and a Micro-USB port on the right side. The latter no longer features a protective cover, which we think is a good thing since it was a bit cumbersome. Finally, the camera and flash are located on the back.
The Palm Pre 2 comes packaged with an AC adapter, a USB cable, a wired stereo headset, and reference material.
Though the Palm Pre 2 doesn't reflect a lot of design changes, there are some nice improvements behind the scenes. The smartphone ships running WebOS 2.0, which brings a handful of enhancements to some of the operating system's already impressive functionality.
The first feature is called stacks. It expands on the awesome multitasking capabilities of WebOS by grouping together similar tasks in the deck-of-cards view. For example, a stack can consist of your e-mail inbox and a new message you are composing. Some tasks are automatically grouped together, but you can also manually stack cards together or reorder them by doing a long press and dragging one on top of the other.
The idea behind stacks is to help you better manage your tasks, and we certainly found the organization to be better. Before you had to swipe through individual cards, which could get a bit unruly if you had a number of apps open, but stacks help reduce the clutter. We had at least a dozen cards open and didn't encounter any memory problems.
Another area of improvement is universal search, now called Just Type. You can simply start entering a search term and the phone will search through your contacts, e-mail, apps, the Web, Google Maps, Wikipedia, Twitter, and the Palm App Catalog.
But wait, there's more. The reason it's called Just Type is because you can also simply start typing a note, such as, "On my way to the movies," from anywhere in the phone's user interface and then use the menu of Quick Action functions to create a text message or an e-mail or post a Facebook status update with a single tap of a button. There are also quick action buttons for creating new calendar appointments, memos, and tasks, and this is open to third-party developers, so you can expect to see more in the future.
Developers will also have access to other WebOS features, including Synergy and Exhibition. Synergy is the existing contact, e-mail, and calendar system and syncing was limited to Microsoft Exchange, Google, Yahoo, Facebook, and LinkedIn for a while. Now that third-party developers have access to Synergy, the list has already expanded to Skype, YouTube, and Photobucket.