Looking for a smart phone? Consider the Palm Pre 2. Seriously.

Over the last few weeks I’ve been checking out the Palm Pre 2 — the next generation keyboard / touch screen dataphone from HP. Previously I’d not considered a webOS phone much of a contender against the traditional leaders (Blackberry and iPhone), but this little unit changed my mind.

hp_palm_pre_2.jpg

In this review, I’ll touch on the things that appealed (or didn’t) to me about the unit. I won’t be going into a long description about each and every feature though, so if you’re interested in that, you can read more here.

For a $99 phone (with 3 year contract) there’s a lot going on inside this little black box.

It’s a phone.
First off, it’s a phone. You receive calls on it. You make calls on it. It works quite well at this — and it should, this technology isn’t really new and frankly, isn’t really the reason we select one mobile phone over another these days.

On the outside.
In the Palm Pre 2’s case, let’s start with the case!
If you’ve seen the original Palm Pre, the Palm Pre 2 will look quite familiar.

PalmPre.jpg PalmPre2.jpg

Palm Pre (left). Palm Pre 2 (right)

The touch screen is has the same resolution as the previous model, but appears brighter, sharper, and perhaps more responsive to touch commands. It’s very nice.

HP has kept the overall design and dimensions of the unit the same, including the slide-out style keyboard — similar to the previous version and which also took me a while to learn how to use comfortably.

One often overlooked feature I really, really liked was the physical Ringer Switch. It’s mounted on the case, rather than being a virtual switch buried within a settings menu or some such. When I want a phone to be quiet, a nice quick flick of the switch did the job and kicked the phone into silent / vibrate mode.

On the inside.
If you’re looking beyond simple voice communications, here’s where the differences in mobile devices start to appear.

Web OS 2.0 and multitasking
According to HP, the Palm Pre 2 is the “first phone to run the new HP webOS 2.0, the most significant update to the platform since its launch”.

This is cool because the webOS 2.0 was built upon the multi-award-winning Palm webOS — originally designed by some big brains at Palm before they were acquired by HP.

webOS 2.0 is nice extension and on this new hardware feels much snappier and responsive, especially when switching between running applications.

And speaking of multitasking, other OS designers take note: the way you move between running applications feels much more natural than other multi-tasking phone operating systems.

…webOS lets you easily manage multiple open applications and notifications using natural touch gestures. New in webOS 2.0, Stacks logically groups together your open apps so they work the way you do. Whether you’re reading email or planning a night on the town, Stacks keeps related items together so managing multiple tasks is even easier.
Kind of a neat way to group your open apps. Find out more about webOS 2.0 here.

Oooh, Shiny!
In the ‘fun and games’ department, the Palm Pre 2 will hook into the webOS store. With thousands of applications available, the selection is quite respectable — including AAA gaming titles like Angry Birds, and a host of Business, Lifestyle, Social Networking apps.

Though finding the app you want can be a bit of a chore as the store interface is a bit awkward.

As well, unlike iOS phones, the Palm Pre 2 will let you experience Flash enabled websites as intended. No workaround needed. Nice.

Share your bandwidth.
Another neat feature is the ability to turn your Palm Pre 2 into a mobile hotspot. Once you download and set up the free app, your mobile phone will act as a router to provide Broadband Internet access wirelessly. Great for those long business road trips.

Conclusion
Overall, there’s a lot to like in this phone, and a few things that may get in your way. Given the price for it tends to come out ahead against similar phones ($99/3yr contract). So here’s my take:

Likes
– Cool award-winning ‘Touchstone’ conductive / magnetic charging base
– well populated webOS store
– webOS 2.0
– Mobile Hotspot
– Sharp, attractive display touch screen
– Rubberized case

Dislikes
– Better way of searching and finding apps in the webOS store
– the device is a bit thick and more difficult to carry around in a pocket than other current generation data-phones
– runs slightly warm when doing graphic-intensive work (games)

Price
Palm Pre 2 will cost as little as $99 on a three year voice and data plan.

Disclosure: A sample of this product was provided for review by the manufacturer or their agent.
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