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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