So today was the day I finally got to fondle a Palm Pre.
It was a disaster of epic dimensions!
I went to a Sprint Store in lower Manhattan where I knew two demo units were available to molest.
I had no problem trying one. The salesman was smart enough not to hover at my shoulder. He dismissed himself when I said I didn’t have any questions, that I just wanted to try it.
The Pre was on top of the Touchstone, so I got to see that too. And the matte rubbery special back that’s required for it.
The Pre was tethered. I expected that. What I didn’t expect is like ten Gs of resistance when trying to hold the Pre!
Tip One: People want to feel the weight of a gadget. Making it feel like it has the weight of a sack of rice is not good.
I was shocked at how tiny the Pre is. Not small — tiny! People have said it’s like a bar of soap. Well maybe one of those bars they give out at hotels! Really, it’s tiny!
I didn’t think it was thick overall. Despite the ten Gs of resistance, it felt good in my hand although, again, damn that thing is tiny!
And then there was the screen. Damn, that thing is tiny too! It’s bright and lush in terms of color, though.
Then I tried to do my thing on it. I was real eager to put webOS through all those delicious and delightful flow paces we’d all seen demonstrated in seemingly hundreds of videos.
This was not going to happen.
The Sprint Pre live demo units are running a Demo program. You’re asked up front if you want to use this Demo or explore on your own. I chose the latter option.
Unfortunately, that Demo program is seemingly always running in the background — invisibly. There’s no Card for it to kill it altogether.
And that’s what killed the demo for me and made it an epic disaster.
The Demo program seemed to hog most of the Pre — both its CPU cycles and its RAM.
I went immediately to Card View to kill all Cards because I’d already read of that slowing things down. OK, there were like six Cards open. Card View and dismissing those cards was slow. Like “Is this thing working?” slow!
But once I got rid of them — and it really was an effort because the Pre kept freezing! — I began to play.
Except that goddammed Demo monster had other ideas. About every 60-90 seconds, the Pre would vibrate and what I was doing would be interrupted!
Would I like to Exit the Demo? What? I wasn’t in the damned Demo! I said Yes at times, and No at times. It didn’t seem to make any damned difference because I’d get the Demo Welcome Screen again asking me if I wanted a Demo or if I wanted to explore on my own!
Tip Two: Sprint, Palm, if you have multiple live demo units in a Sprint Store, make sure at least one of them is free of this damned program! This is making the Pre act like crap!
I got to try the camera. I’m not sure exactly what I saw, though. Here’s why: I’d just spent the previous hour at the Apple Store on both an iPod Touch and an iPhone. I specifically made a point to use the Photos app and the Camera app. When I took a picture, I looked at it and pinched out to its maximum size to judge its quality. This made me realize that while the iPhone’s camera delivers more vibrant colors than what I’ve seen of numerous Pre photos, at full size there are just as many jaggies (although the iPhone camera still does a better job with edges).
When I played with the Pre, I did the same thing. Took a picture and pinched out. Except I think the Photo app on the Pre is cheating. The camera is three megapixels. The image should have really really gotten larger. At no point did it! It went to a certain size and wouldn’t enlarge further. I suspect the Pre is not letting people see photos at actual size on the device itself.
Tip Three: If this is the case, Palm, if you’re cheating with the Photo app, stop that right now! Let people enlarge to full size so they can see the actual quality!
Then I wanted to email a sample photo to myself. This is something I’ve been able to do at the Apple Store all the time. Not so with the Pre. The Pre was not set up with an account from which it could email a photo (or anything else!). Sprint, how hard is it to have every live demo model set up with a “firstname.lastname@example.org” account?
Tip Four: Let people be able to email things from the live demo Pre!
I tried the keyboard in Twitter. Thanks to that damned pernicious Demo program, I couldn’t get much done even with that! It interrupted me before I was able to complete my Twitter password. This meant I had to go through the dialog and screen of the Demo before I could get back to Twitter. Then once in Twitter, I sent one tweet. That went OK. When I tried to send a second, I was interrupted again by that damned Demo app! I gave up Twitter in disgust.
I accidentally called up Google Maps. I was pleasantly surprised to see that even inside the Sprint Store, in a crowded area of Manhattan, it correctly showed the location with a (tiny!) blinking dot.
The keyboard … can you guess by now that I’m going to say it’s tiny? It is!
I had very little trouble typing on it, though, except for one important bit. Part of my Twitter password is a string of numbers. Trying to hold down the orange button and then type in the numbers, I found my left thumb was getting in the way of the number keys. Because the keyboard is tiny!
One other thing about the keyboard — trying to slide up the screen was a pretty hairy experience for me. The Pre seemed stuck and I was sweating bullets hoping I wasn’t about to break it! I hope this reflects this particular demo unit and not the Pre people are buying.
Multitouch. Oh boy. This did not seem to work well for me at all. It felt sluggish and the screen too often didn’t register my touch. The contrast between multitouch on the Pre and the iPhone was shocking: the Pre felt like a poor Chinese knockoff of the iPhone! Again, I hope it was just this particular demo model and is not a sampling of what the Pre is really like.
Overall, I was deeply disappointed with my micro-fondle of the Palm Pre. I chalk it all up to that damned Demo app that’s running on it, interrupting me every minute or so, getting in the way, and irritating the hell out of me.
I didn’t get to experience any of the flow I expected.
Tip Five: And if this is what I experienced as a tech vet, how much more frustrated would the general public be, Palm and Sprint?
I really wanted to molest the hell out of the Pre, especially having played with an iPod Touch and iPhone right before my encounter. What happened was that the Demo program wound up molesting me!
I’ll have to wait until Best Buy’s staff have live demo units. I hope these will be free of the plague of a Demo program and I can experience webOS and the Pre in full.
And Palm and Sprint, if you’re reading this: Act!