Palm Pre – Day 20

(originally posted 6/25/2009)

I’ve updated my review again.  In case anyone cares. I figured I’d give up and repost the bulk of it here, rather than linking to the previous posts.

  • Calendar – My previous experiences with a smartphone begin and end with the Palm Centro.  The thing I like (and need) most about it is the calendar.  I work, I have 3 kids in all kinds of activities, and I have an active social schedule.  So the calendar feature is a necessity. And this is one of the biggest problems I have with this phone.  My Centro calendar data did not transfer properly.  After much fooling around, I have started entering all my calendar info (and geez, it’s  ton of stuff, I’ve been working on it for two days and am only about a quarter of the way through) into Google calendar because the Pre will sync it’s calendar with the Google calendar.  I shouldn’t have to do this but fine, I’ll do it (the biggest problem is the recurring events, they all showed up on the wrong dates.  But there are other problems, such as the very limited selection of reminder times for an appointment. The forced selection of a preset reminder time is a step backwards from the totally customizable reminders on the Centro). Also, I’d really like someone to incorporate the sweet customizable snooze setting for calendar reminders that Outlook uses.  Maybe I need a reminder in an hour, I don’t want the phone reminding me every 5 minutes.
  • Communication – I love the combined MMS (thank you Palm for finally added MMS capabilities, it took you long enough), SMS, and IM communication card.  Everything’s right there together.  And I like how Palm makes text messages into “conversations” and keeps everything together just like a IM chat (the Centro did this too) because sometimes a text message reply is so far after my text message that I’ve forgotten what I wrote and the fact that I can click on the reply and scroll up to see the previously exchanged messages is very handy.  It’s insane that you cannot forward a text message.  And where did my happy yellow emoticons go?  And I miss the character counts in the text message mode.  That’s very handy for those of us who like to twitter.  But I love that the Pre automatically splits messages longer than 160 characters into multiple messages and then numbers them 1 of _.  That’s handy, especially since my text service with Sprint is such that messages are often received out of order.  I’ll be texting back and forth with someone and the responses I get don’t go with the texts I’ve sent.  Then I realize that they are out of order.  I like that texts are time stamped, this sometimes helps with the out of order issue as it appears that the stamp is applied when the text was sent and not when received.  The Centro did this also.  I’m not sure if this is a function of the phone or of Sprint, but I appreciate it either way. Also, the quicktext is gone (I think that’s what it was called, where you can set quick messages and insert them as texts.  I had set a few inside jokes as quicktext and would occasionally shoot them off to my husband).  It was useful, especially the “where are you”, I sent that to my kids a lot.
  • Picture Mail – I was always under the impression that sending picture texts to a web site was a function of Sprint and had nothing to do with the capabilities of the particular phone.  Most people I know have other cell phone providers and even the cheap phones had MMS capabilities.  I just recently found out what MMS and SMS meant and now know that it’s the phone and not Sprint (although Sprint could be helpful and CARRY PHONES THAT ARE MMS CAPABLE!).  So prior to June 6th, I had to use Sprint’s ridiculous Picture Mail service to send/receive pictures.  I can’t access any of the pictures I uploaded from my Centro.  This normally wouldn’t be a problem because the pics should still be on my Centro, and I can transfer those to my pc.  However I did something stupid and removed some pictures that I now want.  They still exist somewhere in the depths of cyberspace.  However, Sprint’s customer service told me that my Pre is not capable of using Sprint picture mail and therefore I cannot retrieve them.  I know those bastards have all the pictures that I uploaded.  They should be able to give me access to them.  It should be as simple as giving me a website address.  Plus, until a few weeks ago, I thought that my uploaded pictures were only stored for 60 days.  Any pictures sent to a Sprint customer are only kept on the picture mail server for 60 days,  why would they keep customer’s pics longer than that?  And if they are keeping them longer, why can’t I go and manage those pictures?  I am tempted to take my Centro up to the Sprint store, have them activated long enough to retrieve the pictures I want from the picture mail server and then to reactivate my Pre.
  • Resetting the phone.  I hate that you can’t turn a Palm device off.  There’s no off button.  You have to take the back off and remove the battery.  The Centro was like that too.  At least with the Centro, you could turn the phone off, not the device itself, but the phone features could be turned off.  I don’t see a way to do that with the Pre.  But I’ll admit that I haven’t looked very hard.  I’ve spent so much time trying to transfer the files from my Centro to the Pre that I haven’t had time.
  • Reception – The reception and call quality of the Pre have not changed from the Centro.  At least not noticeably.  And that’s sad because they weren’t that good.
  • Battery – I’ve had many problems with battery life and charging.  As I stated before, both phones, during one week of usage, had issues with recharging after totally drained.  Since there is a school of thought that you should occasionally fully drain your phone battery before recharging, I will guess that this issue will be a big problem for many people.  Even the time when I fully drained the battery and it came back properly, it took a full 5 minutes from plug in until the phone came back! 5 minutes! Most electronic devices will become functional after about 30 seconds of plugging them in for a recharge.  I’m not talking about the time it takes to fully charge the device, I’m referring to the time until the device boots.  5 minutes is insanely long. Also, the phone gets really hot when it’s charging!
  • Contacts – Contacts are the only things that transferred smoothly from the Centro to the Pre.  Well, let me qualify that.  The numbers and addresses and caller id photos all appear to have transferred smoothly.  I lost my contact categories.  Which sucks.  I do like that the Pre will sync contacts with Google contacts and Facebook contacts.  I don’t use either one really (I have a Facebook account to check up on my daughter’s facebook activities), but it’s neat.  It would be far more useful to have Pre contacts sync with Outlook but… I don’t use Outlook Contacts either, well, at work, but I’m not calling any of those people from my personal cell phone.  A feature I’d love to see is allowing one to set call alerts (ringtones) based on the contact group.  Even my ancient LG did that.  But my Centro did not.  It would be nice if the Pre allowed you the option of putting people into contact groups.
  • Preferences – There is no single place where one can set all one’s phone preferences.  In fact, there are very few preference options.  You cannot change how long your screen stays lit before it’s powered down. There are no themes.  You cannot change the alert tone for texts, IMs, or calendar alerts.  This is the first phone I’ve ever had that didn’t let you set each of those things.
  • Camera – The camera is ok.  It’s only a 3 megapixel, which isn’t a big improvement over the Centro’s 2 megapixel, I expected a bigger improvement.  And there’s no zoom.  Don’t take away my zoom! There is a flash! Nice.  But autofocus is slow.  There is a cool mirror that is available on the back of the phone when you slide the keyboard out. Nice for taking self-portraits of the myspace variety. When you slide the keyboard out, the camera lens ends up near the middle of the phone, where it’s natural to hold it, and I’ve had lots of pictures that included portions of my hands. Oh, and you can’t turn off the clicking sound! I could turn off the camera sound on my Centro.  That’s an important option for a pervy girl like me.  How can I surreptitiously snap a pic if the camera makes the sound?  Boo, Palm, boo! I realize the flash might tip someone off, but you can turn the flash off.
  • Interface – the touchscreen is not very accurate, so doing things like selecting boxes, or inserting the cursor are very difficult and frustrating.  This would be aided greatly by directional buttons but alas, there are none.  Menus are totally spartan.  Keeping menus as part of the way to interact with the phone would have eased existing customers into the Pre’s drastically new software.  Changing things for the sake of change is not good.  Forcing your customers to relearn everything is annoying.
  • Privacy – as I’ve stated in my previous posts.  I liked having desktop software to sync my phone with.  This allowed me to back up data to my own pc.  And this kept me in control of my information. Now, there is no desktop management software but you can have Sprint back up your data.  Using this service takes my information out of my hands.  It may be simpler I suppose, but I’ll take the extra time to insure my privacy.
  • Sprint Backup – this service is supposed to backup (hence the name) the data on your phone and for the most part, it does.  However, photos are not backed up.  For some people, this is one of the most important part of the backup.  I almost never use the expensive super zoom Panasonic camera I own.  My kids pictures over the last two years are almost all taken on a cell phone camera.  I don’t want to loose those.  You can’t recreate those.  That sucks.  So you have to 1) e-mail the pictures to yourself, or 2) use the mini USB cable and manually find the pics on your phone and transfer them to your hard drive.  LAME!
  • Included accessories – the only included accessories were a pair of headphones, a sueded case, and a proprietary mini USB cable that has an adapter so that it can be an AC adapter or a data transfer cable.  I’ve seen cheaper phones include great things like a car adapter (especially if it’s proprietary, come on the battery life on this thing is terrible, you know we’ll need a car adapter to really use it).   And maybe an extra battery would be nice.  I’d rather pay a little more up front and have these things in the box.  It saves me time and makes me feel less resentful than having to buy all these things separately.  A car adapter, screen protector, and maybe an extra battery would be really cool things to have in the box.  Plus, you know people who buy these types of phones are total techno-geeks, how about different color backplates? Something fun.
  • Music – I had to convert all my MP3 files into iTunes format because the Pre uses iTunes as the media manager for the Pre.  It took 24 hours to convert my 36 GB of music files.  I don’t use iTunes much, only when I’ve had free codes (from buying concert tickets).  It was really annoying to have to do this. I do like the way the music is shown on the Pre.  I haven’t tried searching for a specific song yet though.  I hope that it’s less cumbersome than the Centro.  But, I really don’t get using your biggest competitor’s software on your device.  This is a strange business decision, I don’t care that your new CEO was a big shot for Apple.  It’s still weird.  I understand not wanting to spend the time and money developing and maintaining your own software.  It’s far easier to get your device to run others’ software than to develop your own.  But there has to be another company that makes media management software.
  • Ringtones – You can use any song loaded into your phone as a ringtone! Sweet.  You don’t get to pick which part of the song it uses, it starts from the beginning but you can use some audio editing software (even iTunes lets you pick which part of the song to play) and select the part you want! Good job Palm!
  • Memory/Storage – I miss the microSD expansion slot.  I know the Centro only recognized 4 GB and the Pre has 8 GB of memory, but I’ve already filled the available music space and I wasn’t even trying.  I expect more features on a new phone, not less.  And even though total memory available on the Pre is more than the Centro, the loss of the expansion capabilities makes this a lost feature and I’m NOT happy about it!
  • Copy/Cut Paste, Selecting Text – these features were a huge benefit on the Centro and the Pre has these features listed in the menu (other than “Help”, these are often the only menu options) but they are just there to taunt you, they don’t work! Trying to select text just moves your card (the applications are opened in “cards”).  You can’t select a block of text and delete it. When you’re editing an e-mail, this is a really great feature.  You have to delete each character individually, very inefficient.  The loss of this functionality is a huge step backwards for the Pre (if you consider the Centro as a starting point, which I probably shouldn’t.  I know the Centro is considered a baby smartphone and the Treos were much more sophisticated.  But regardless, the sentiment is the same).  If you have a great feature, why wouldn’t you keep that great feature in new versions of your product?
  • Memory/Running Applications –  having multiple applications running is really neat, now give the phone enough power to run more than one without totally bogging down.  If you’re going to give me the ability to do something, have it work well.  Don’t just have it there to taunt me!
  • Applications – the Apps catalog is so cool – I love Pandora! And Where has lots of potential but I’ve not really used it.  LinkIn is a useless app.  I played with it for a bit but have already removed it.
  • Web – the web display is beautiful.  I love how you can double tap on the screen and it will zoom in, making the page larger.  Unfortunately, the double tap doesn’t always work.  Mostly because the phone is a bit slow.  And I love being able to watch youtube videos from my phone.  You could with the Centro, sometimes, but it was a bit cumbersome.
  • E-mail – the constant access to my e-mail accounts is nice.  The html display is really cool.  The e-mails open relatively quickly.  I could use this as my only form of interacting with my e-mail.  I could read the text only versions of e-mails with my Centro, but many e-mails just weren’t comprehensible and I’d have to wait to get home and read them on my laptop.
  • Display – the screen is large and the colors are beautiful.  I have no complaints.   It’s really impressive looking.
  • Missed Call Alert – when you tap on a missed call alert to see who has called, it automatically calls that number! Ah! No! Not Good!
  • Call waiting – Does not work with the Pre! I hated the Centro.  The Centro manual said that you should press “hang up all” and the phone would ring you back with whichever call was still on the line.  Stupid, but if it worked it would be fine.  However, it didn’t work.  The button did exactly what it said, it hung up on all calls, and nothing more. And the Pre functions the exact same way!  Why would you build this crap non-feature into a new phone?  If you can’t hang up on the call that you want, then you are losing the functionality of call waiting.  How can you build a phone in this century that is not compatible with call waiting?
  • Camcorder – there is none.  It’s supposed to be part of a software update however, I haven’t seen an update yet, and there are many things that need to be updated.
  • Memos – you can’t send your memos.  It was nice to beam or use bluetooth to send my memos to my husband.  My memos consist of grocery lists and such.  The Centro let you send everything.  It was handy.  Again Palm, you should be adding new features, not taking away old features.
  • Sharing Photos via E-mail – this feature doesn’t seem to work.  I have tried going to a specific photo and selecting the “share via e-mail” option twice and I just received error messages.  I know if I start in the text message screen, I can successfully attach a photo.  I haven’t tried sending a photo via MMS from the photo screen though.
  • Microphone – I don’t have a headset, if it is expected that I should own one to use this phone, it should come in the box.  I often cradle the phone between my left shoulder and my ear so that I can use my hands to do things (I’ll let you imagine what I could be doing, it’ll be more interesting than what I’m actually doing).  And I always use my left shoulder because, like most of the population, I’m right-handed (no hate for you lefties, these are just the facts).  Unfortunately, the microphone is on the right-bottom of the phone and therefore becomes wedged under my cheek and no one can hear me.  While my husband enjoys this if I”m complaining to him, I generally am not complaining and so it just frustrates him and anyone else I’m talking to.
  • Updates – supposedly, according to the Palm rep who spoke to my brother-in-law, there would be almost daily software updates (as of June 30th, there have been 2 operating system updates for the phone.  I have no idea what specific issues these updates were meant to correct because 1) there was no information on the download screen 2) the link on the download screen went to a generic Palm support page, not even a Pre support page. Sure the Pre has a nice internet interface but nice web browsing capabilities on a phone are relative to the idea that you’re using a phone rather than a pc.  Trying to hunt for a tech bulletin on a phone is akin to trying to perform open heart surgery with a butter knife. So good thinking it through, Palm support staff!)
  • Actually placing and answering calls – is a nightmare.  If the screen saver has been activated, and your phone rings, you have to drag the little green circle up to answer the phone.  If you’re like me, you kind of haphazardly make the motion upward.  But his won’t answer the Pre.  You have to drag the icon up in an almost perfectly straight line to answer.  And there are plenty of times where I believed I dragged it pretty straight, and it still didn’t answer my phone. Placing a call isn’t much easier.  I always use the contacts books to place calls.  They only go through half the time.  The other half are disconnected before they ever begin.  I don’t know if my cheek hits the screen and cancels the call, but it’s extremely frustrating.  And when I’m in a hurry (which is most of the time), and I don’t get my call connected the first time, I get flustered and it’s even harder to place the call.  If I ever needed to call 911, whoever was waiting for emergency services would die before I could place the call because it’s too difficult.  This goes back to the imprecise functionality of the touch screen.

Sprint doesn’t carry a single phone that has all the features I want.  Why? Why? Why Sprint, do you have such a rubbish selection of phones? If this phone worked the way that it should, the way that it says it does, then Sprint would carry a total of ONE acceptable phone.  Ah, why does my sense of conserving (in this case, conserving my cash) play such a strong role in my choice of certain things.  That big 25% discount swayed me to renew with Sprint, again.  I always swear that I’m leaving Sprint, and then the frugal me steps in.  I don’t mind spending money: on others, on entertainment, on clothing.  But for some reason, when it comes to a utility bill (and a cell phone is a utility, just like my gas, electric, water, sewer and cable), I just have this switch in my head that refuses to let me pay more.  I must quash this next time.  I have two long, long years with Sprint to build up to switching to a better company.

Palm, you attempted so much and fell sooooo far short.  How did this happen?  Promise less and deliver on those promises you do make.  Don’t hold out those promises to mock me when they don’t come true.  And I understand that I am very picky.  And I understand that the new OS requires rebuilding from the ground up, so it’s not that you removed features that I previously had on my Centro.  It’s a fresh start, so it’s a matter of building those features into the new OS.  I understand.  But companies want customers to feel certain ways about their products, to have certain expectations.  The Centro shaped my expectations for Palm products.  And that’s a good thing.  But that’s also a bad thing if Palm can no longer meet those expectations.  And Palm, you just didn’t do it with this product.  I know 4 other people who got this phone the day it came out (June 6th).  My husband and I are keeping ours, for now, but just barely.  We still have 10 more days to ring it back.  And we might.  One of the other people just always has the new toy.  He’s content for now, but it has nothing to do with the phone’s performance and everything to do with having the latest and greatest.  Another friend took his back.  His comment was “I’m returning it.  It’s the best phone I’ve ever had.  But I can’t use it”.  That is the worst complement EVER! The other friend is like my husband and I, on the fence.

Companies need to spend more time developing a product.  Stop shipping out products that aren’t ready and then put the burden on the customer to find the flaws and hope the company will fix those problems. Beta testing should be done in house by people who are being paid to beta test.

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