Palm Pre 2

3rd Dec 2010 | 20:00

Palm Pre 2

It doesn't look much different to what's come before, so is the Pre 2 more than just Pre Plus Plus?

TechRadar rating:

3.5 stars

There's a phenomenal phone to made using webOS, but this just isn't it.

Like:

One of the best OS concepts around; Build quality; Generally quite snappy; Decent camera; Good keyboard

Dislike:

Feels like minor update; No improvement to screen; Some bugginess; Battery life; Not subsidised

Palm Pre 2 review: Overview

The Palm Pre 2's history starts, unsurprisingly, with the original Palm Pre. When it launched, many had high hopes for it to be the device that rivalled the iPhone for slickness and ease of use.

Unfortunately, sales never really bore this out, but the webOS-powered phone received an iterative update in the Palm Pre Plus.

Now we have the Palm Pre 2. The HP webOS operating system has had an upgrade to version 2.0, which brings a host of new features.

The addition of Flash 10.1 is one of the biggest changes, though the most obvious difference for general use will probably be the new Stacks feature, which groups multitasking cards together to make it even easier to browse your apps.

Palm pre 2

There are some handy behind-the-scenes changes, such as HP Synergy for tying apps into your Messaging, Contact and Calendars, which will enable Facebook instant messaging to be added to the unified Messaging app.

Internally, the processor has been boosted to 1GHz, bringing it up to the standard of modern smartphones such as the HTC Desire HD and Samsung Galaxy S. The camera has also been upgraded, now shooting at five megapixels, rather than its predecessor's three.

So will all these changes mean this latest version of the Pre is more than just the small update the Pre Plus was?

Palm pre 2

There's still all of the good old specifications knocking around too, of course. 3G data connectivity, Wi-Fi access for speedy browsing and the physical keyboard all return, along with Palm's App Catalog for expanding your software collection.

The Palm Pre 2 is available unlocked for £399. It's not subsidised through networks at the time of writing.

Palm Pre 2 review: Design

Palm Pre 2 review: Design

While the Palm Pre 2 looks much the same as its predecessors on the outside, there are actually a fair few differences.

An all matt-black finish on the back and around the edges makes the Pre 2 easy to grip, but picks up fingerprints and smudges more than just about any other handset we've seen recently.

The glass front is equally as bad for this – it really is a total nightmare to keep clean. It rarely becomes totally unusable, but it can get very annoying, very fast.

Palm pre 2

Interestingly, the glass is now totally flat. It gives the Pre 2 an odd look, since the handset on the whole is clearly designed to be curved all around – it's almost as if someone has just sheared off the very front with a meat slicer. It makes the screen nicer to use than before, though.

We know that the curved back and sliding mechanism is an important part of the Pre, but we would have preferred a flat back. When you've got the phone closed laid out on a table and are using the touchscreen, it's fine.

However, open it up and it becomes almost unusuable due to the level of wobbling it does on the table. Obviously, it's intended that you'll hold it in hand most of the time, but it would be nice if it didn't spin all over the place anyway.

Palm pre 2

Underneath the screen in the 320 x 480 HVGA screen. It hasn't received an upgrade since the Pre Plus, which is a real shame, since the 3.1-inch screen isn't that much smaller than something like an iPhone 4, which has a much higher resolution.

We're used to seeing stunning 480 x 800 WVGA screens even at the cheaper end of smartphones, such as the HTC 7 Trophy and the Orange San Francisco.

The card system in particular would do much better with a higher-res screen, because you'd be able to see each card with more clarity.

However, the screen is bright and vibrant, and the resolution is still high enough for text to be perfectly readable in the nice large fonts used in webOS.

Below the screen is the gesture bar, with a small light that indicates which direction you've swiped in.

Slide open the handset and you'll have access to the keyboard. It's still as tiny as ever, and the edges of the slider are just as sharp, too. We'll go into what it's like to use for writing in the Messaging section, but it's incredibly solidly built.

The backlit keys feel as though the whole lower part of the case is one solid piece, rather than individual buttons, and it feels like it'll last forever.

Palm pre 2

On the left side of the device is a volume rocker, while the right houses the microUSB port for charging and connecting to a PC. On top of the Pre 2 is the on/off/sleep button, as well as a little switch for setting the phone to silent. It's also up here in the centre that you'll find the 3.5mm headphone jack.

Palm pre 2

Palm pre 2

Palm pre 2

Turn the phone over and you'll see the lens for the five-megapixel camera, along with its little flash. There's also an outlet for the loudspeaker.

This rear battery plate is ready for use with Palm's Touchstone charger. To open it up, you press a little button on the bottom, then slide your nail around the edge to pop open a catch (it's a bit like opening a car bonnet). Underneath the cover is the battery, which can be removed using a handy pull-tab. However, you don't need to pull it out the get at the SIM-card slot, which sits in the bottom-right corner.

Palm pre 2

The materials used in the Palm Pre 2 all feel nicely premium. There's a small amount of give in some of the joins, but nothing concerning, and we'd say build quality is very high overall.

At 59.6 x 100.7 x 16.9mm, it not a small phone, and the 145g weight is also pretty hefty these days.

Palm Pre 2 review: Interface

Palm Pre 2 review: Interface

The beating heart of the interface of HP webOS and the Palm Pre 2 is the card system that the original Pre was famous for.

Effectively, any application you open registers in the OS as a 'card'. Each app runs fullscreen when you want to use it, but you can flick down on the gesture panel at any time to minimise the app into its card form. On the Home screen, all the different cards are laid out side to side, each displaying where you were in the app before you minimised it.

Palm pre 2

It's still right up there with the best multitasking systems on a smartphone (and is arguably the best of all), displaying information about each app in a effective way. It's been tweaked in the latest version to include a new feature called Stacks.

Stacks simply means you can now group cards together. Any option you choose in one app that causes the Pre 2 open another app doesn't simply close and navigate away from the first app – it now minimises the it instead and opens new instance of the other app in the same stack.

This means the first app is still readily available to you, represented on the Home screen, just hidden behind the new app. Because new screens open in a stack with the app that spawned them (rather than, say, moving all instances of browser windows that open into one pile), everything you do is effectively grouped by task.

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It's an elegant, intelligent system that puts everything else out there to shame for a simple way to keep track of everything you're doing on your phone.

Because of this, and the way cards display whatever you were doing before but in miniature, webOS is the mobile operating system closest to using a windowed desktop OS.

At the top of the Home screen is the Just Type bar. While you could always start typing on the Home screen of webOS to look up things on the handset, or start an online search, this functionality has been expanded.

You can now just start typing longer parts of text in the bar, and then use the Quick Actions options to choose an app. Whatever you typed will then be in the email/SMS/memo/whatever, and you can just choose a recipient or save it.

Palm pre 2

Palm pre 2

At the bottom of the Home screen are four shortcuts to apps and a button to bring up the full Applications menu, Extras menu and System menu, which holds your settings.

You can also bring this menu up by executing a swipe up from the gesture area onto the screen.

The four shortcuts can be changed for whatever you used most often, but only having four can feel quite limiting, especially for those used to having every app at the fingertips on the Home screen of the iPhone 4.

The persistence of the card system is supposed to make up for this, but you can only have one card or stack on screen at a time, so if you want an app that isn't in your shortcuts or on the current card, there'll be a fair bit of tapping and scrolling no matter what.

What we'd really love to see HP and Palm do is crib Leap View from HTC's Sense UI, used on phones such as the HTC Desire and Desire HD.

If you could pinch the Home screen to zoom out and see, say, nine cards in a square, and then flick across to the next nine if needed, we'd be in smartphone Home screen nirvana.

The time and signal bar at the top of the Palm Pre 2's screen can be tapped to bring up information such as the date, battery life, Wi-Fi status, Bluetooth status and more.

Palm pre 2

At the bottom of the UI is the notifications bar. Again, this is right up there with the best on smartphones. Any new information scrolls along the little bar, while the symbols tell you if there something to look at, and in which app.

Tapping the bar will bring up small widgets for each notification you haven't attended to yet. This is also how you can access quick controls for music playback.

The other persistent UI element in HP webOS is a contextual menu that you'll find in the top-left corner of most apps.

This is where you'll find options such as cut, copy and paste (which, while present, aren't all that useful, since they won't seem to function on a lot of text). You'll also usually find settings for an app here, as well as links to help, if you need it.

Palm pre 2

Generally, if there's anything you think you should be able to do, but can't find it in the app's layout, try this menu. It's sort of the webOS equivalent of the BlackBerry Menu key found on handsets such as the BlackBerry Bold 9780.

While we're full of praise for the basic layout of the Palm Pre 2, we do have a few quibbles. We'd suggest that it's actually not as intuitive as some of its rivals. Some people we know found Windows Phone 7 handsets, such as the HTC 7 Trophy and Samsung Omnia 7, easier to get to grips with, and it's certainly behind the iPhone in terms of being newbie-proof.

We also found the phone a buggy at times. While the touchscreen is normally quite responsive, there are times when it can feel slow, as can using the gesture area.

We also saw moments where the Notification Bar would overlay an app for some time (rather than the app move up to accommodate it, as is supposed to happen), including in the Now Playing screen in the Music app, which caused the music controls to be hidden behind it.

Another time, we couldn't get Just Type to work. The keyboard was fine in apps, and the OS was working perfectly otherwise, but typing on the Home screen just produced no results. It corrected after a restart, but was frustrating at the time.

All of these, combined with some difficulties with the web browser (see the Internet section for more information), leads this version of HP's webOS to feel like a 1.0 version, not the 2.0 release.

We suspect webOS' development time has gone on adapting it for the other devices HP is planning to embed it in, but it leaves the Palm Pre 2 feeling light years ahead in concept, but lagging when it comes to polish.

Palm Pre 2 review: Contacts and calling

Palm Pre 2 review: Contacts and calling

The contacts on the Palm Pre 2 are one of the showpieces of the cloud connectivity of HP webOS, just as they were on the original.

You have to set up a Palm Profile when you first receive the phone, and if you have no other online accounts with contacts in, this is where your new contacts will be stored.

However, if you have a Google, LinkedIn, Yahoo, Microsoft Exchange or Facebook accounts, you use those to bring in contacts. More should be potentially available through the webOS 2.0's Synergy feature, but pressing that option led to a dead end at the time of writing.

Palm pre 2

Add any of these accounts, and all your contacts' information will be added to your Pre 2. Duplicate contacts are easy to merge if they should appear, but folks with the same name in each of their profiles will be squished into one super profile automatically.

Palm pre 2

Now, you may be wondering what about this is a showpiece, considering that lots of other phone do this kind of thing, including those nice new Windows Phone 7 thingies we keep going on about, such as the HTC 7 Trophy or Samsung Omnia 7.

Indeed, this is a stark reminder that many of the original Pre's innovations are simply ordinary these days, and done just as well by its rivals.

Each contact can contain all the information you'd expect: name, job title, company, phone numbers, email and instant messaging addresses, postal addresses and websites are all options.

Palm pre 2

You can also add a reminder or a note (we're not 100 per cent sure what the difference is), as well as information such as birthday, spouse, children and nickname. Finally, you can set a ringtone and a picture (or let Facebook do the latter for you, if you like).

When you look at a populated contact, you can just tap on the method of communication you want to use to set things in motion; hit the phone number to call, or the email to open a new message, for example.

A new email (or message, or similar) created in this way will stack with the contacts app on the Home screen, rather than stack with your email inbox (if you have that open as a card). You can always drag it to place it with the email if you want.

You can also access your contacts using the Just Type search feature. If you only type in half a name, it will come up with any close matches and you can choose from the list. If you type something specific enough, it will show almost their whole contact entry, and you can choose your method. It works beautifully.

Palm pre 2

You can use the Phone app bring up a dialpad, from which you can also type in a name to bring up contacts and their numbers.

Palm pre 2

On top of that, you've got your calling history, your favourite contacts (which can be added from each contact entry by pressing the star in the lower right, or by selecting Add Favourite in the favourites screen) and your voicemail.

Signal handling wasn't superb for us. We often found that even when it appeared strong, it struggled to make a good connection.

As a result, even when calling a landline, the other person's voice was flat and easily lost in any background noise.

You can make people out well enough nearly all the time, so don't think that the Pre 2 is useless for calls, but there was almost always a small amount of distortion in people's voices. It's not a disaster, but not a strong feature by any means.

Palm Pre 2 review: Messaging

Palm Pre 2 review: Messaging

With all those fancy contacts drawn from the cloud and a keyboard attached to the bottom of the phone, it's probably time to send some prose.

The Messaging app combines your SMS conversations and instant messaging, all in one handy threaded view.

Palm pre 2

The main screen shows the different people you've been conversing with, and from here you can select which to look at.

Palm pre 2

The back and forth is much more defined than on a lot of other phones, with clear distinctions and different colours, rather than just the subtly differentiated speech bubbles you get on a lot of other phones.

If you have a picture attached to the contact of the person you're chatting with, this will also appear next to their words.

You can switch the conversation with someone to another number or IM account in their contact details using the button at the top right of the window. You enter text in a field at the bottom, and there's a paperclip icon should you want to attach a photo or video.

Email is simple for Google, Yahoo and Microsoft Exchange users – these all ready for simple setup with your username and password, and you can manually enter POP or IMAP settings for a webmail account off the menu.

Your inbox is arranged by date by default, but you can sort it by sender or subject if you'd prefer.

Palm pre 2

Emails are clear and easy to read. You have the sender's name (and picture, if they have one in your contacts) at the top, and you can tap this too see their full contact details. The subject appears in a blue field, and you can use the left and right arrows on here to move between messages without going back to the inbox.

Palm pre 2

Email conversations aren't shown grouped or threaded here, which is a shame. It's something most other phones are doing these days, so it would be good see it added to HP webOS.

The icons at the bottom of a message enable you to reply, reply to all, forward and delete the message.

Palm pre 2

Writing messages and emails using the keyboard is nowhere near as bad as the Pre 2's small keys would have you believe. It was a criticism of the first Pre, and though things haven't overtly changed, we don't think it's all that bad now.

Believe it or not, we actually found it easier to use than the BlackBerry Bold 9780, thanks in part to nice clear gaps between each letter. It wasn't as easy to use as a keyboard with larger keys in the first place, such as the Nokia C6 or HTC Desire Z, but we didn't make too many mistakes.

Palm pre 2

The sharp raised edges do make it feel as though you're trying to type in a shoebox or something, though. Just having a nice flat (or at least smooth) edge would have been preferable.

The backlighting on the keyboard is fairly subtle, but is more than enough to let you see what you're doing in the dark.

Palm Pre 2 review: Internet

Palm Pre 2 review: Internet

The internet experience was central to the original Pre, and HP webOS takes this up a notch with the inclusion of Flash 10.1 support.

Palm pre 2

All the old features that made the Pre the great browsing hope against the iPhone are still here, but now it has one up over its rival.

Sort of.

Okay, it definitely has one up in terms of features. After all, the two can go blow for blow when it comes to most features, including pinch to zoom, but Flash is firmly in the Pre's favour.

Palm pre 2

Unfortunately, features don't make the man, and the Pre 2 feels like its fallen slightly behind the iPhone and the likes of the HTC Desire HD.

The browser isn't slow, but it's not as fast as the market leaders. It's generally on a par with Windows Phone 7 handsets such as the HTC 7 Trophy.

Palm pre 2

Pinch to zoom works smoothly and quickly most of the time, though it doesn't feel as precise as on Android devices or the iPhone.

Palm pre 2

You can also double-tap to zoom on part of a page or a column, which will reflow the text. Here's where things start to seriously wobble, though.

The WebKit-based browser's behaviour when zoomed in using the double-tap is erratic. On one site, trying to move the browser up or down on the page resulted in it zooming in more, and moving the text around.

We definitely didn't have another finger touching the screen (so we weren't accidentally pinching) – it just totally flaked out.

Another day, we wanted to follow the BBC's live football text commmentary, so zoomed in on the column of text. Every time we did, we were greeted with a an unresponsive phone for a few seconds, followed by an odd beige screen of... nothing.

After another few seconds of confused tapping, the browser suddenly zoomed itself out and showed the bottom of the page. Every time we tried to zoom in and read, we got the same issue. It was basically useless.

Speaking of awkward and inconsistent, let's talk about Flash. We're still not convinced by its presence on mobiles, particarly in this case.

We started off by visiting the 4oD website, and trying to watch something. The videos simply never loaded (though the Flash-based menu system worked well).

Palm pre 2

Next we tried iPlayer, only to be rejected because the phone isn't supported. Not to be defeated when it comes to watching TV, we visited TVCatchup. Like 4oD, the videos just never loaded.

Palm pre 2

What about other Flash videos? We visited GamesRadar to have a look at the Flash videos in their reviews. One of them just came out a distorted, unwatchable mess. We reloaded the page, and it worked much better the second time.

In fact, we thought we were onto something good when the (very low-quality) advert before the video played quite smoothly. So did the first few seconds of the actual video. Then the frame rate dropped, and it became pointless.

We tried another video on the page. The result was more or less the same.

We naturally went around trying some other sites' videos. All were pretty much the same; many would play at low resolution at two frames per second. Seriously.

One odd foible of Flash-enabled sites is that many of them would just be loading in the browser forever (well, probably, we got impatient eventually). All the content will have appeared, but the page will be unresponsive. If you hit the stop button in the bottom-right corner, the site will then work fine.

As you might expect, Flash browsing causes overall performance to take a dip. Quite a steep one, in terms of RAM. We'd only loaded two videos before getting an error message telling us we had too many cards open. We only had about six open, including the browser, and they were very low-resource apps. Clearly, this message is a euphemism for running out of RAM.

Similarly, just moving around sites with loaded Flash content can be very slow and bitty. Sometimes it's fine, to be fair, but often it slows things down a lot.

We've done a lot of criticising here, so let's say that the browser works perfectly well 90 per cent of the time. It's snappy to respond and nice to use.

But that 10 per cent, when you're watching a Flash video or it's bugging out on zoomed-in text, it's frustrating and simply doesn't do its job.

Palm Pre 2 review: Camera

Palm Pre 2 review: Camera

Palm pre 2

Describing the camera options of the Palm Pre 2 can be achieved in a mere three words: There are none.

Okay, that's not quite true. There's geotagging of photos and you can have the flash set to Auto, On or Off.

The Extended Depth of Field technology is used in the Pre 2, as it was in the Pre Plus. This alternative to the occasionally clumsy autofocus you get in other camera phones analyses the detail in the captured image to produce a picture where nearly everything is detailed and in focus.

You might think a good amount of processing power would be needed to do all this, and you'd be right. Well isn't it handy that the Pre 2 boasts a shiny 1GHz processor, then?

As a result, it's capable of doing it all very quickly. The whole thing feels fairly snappy to use compared the shutter lag combined with slow processing you get on some camera phones.

We're used to seeing phones full of ways to change the white balance, exposure, scene settings, but is this simple system the way to go?

Palm pre 2

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EDOF:You can see the effects of EDoF well here, where no particular part of this plant is in focus compared to the rest. It's all reasonably well-defined, though there are parts that lack detail, and even look a little processed

Palm pre 2

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GREY:While this was taken on a grey, cloudy morning, there was more light than this! The camera really doesn't seem to be getting enough light onto the sensor, and there's almost no detail in any of the shadowy trees as a result

Palm pre 2

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INDOORS:With plenty of even light, this lion looks absolutely superb. The EDoF processor has given him perfect edges – to the point that he actually almost looks composited on, because the rest of the picture is a little blurry (those people make it look like it must have been quite a long exposure) and very noisy, especially in the background

Palm pre 2

Click here for full-res version

QUICK SNAP:We took this one in an intentional hurry, to see how EDoF coped with us having little time to steady the camera. The answer is: not so well. The colours are quite heavy, and don't really pop out brightly in the way they should. Everything on the carousel is a little hazy too, though the barriers at the front are nice and crisp (shame they aren't the subject)

Palm Pre 2 review: Video

The video recording specs on the Palm Pre 2 are modest at best, with 640 x 480 VGA recording in MP4 your only option. So how does it look?

It's very good! Notwithstanding the lower resolution, we're quite impressed with what the Pre 2 has captured here, with one major caveat.

What's up with the drastic change in colour temperature five seconds in? It totally changes how everything in the shot looks, and it's quite disconcerting. We know we went closer to orange artificial light from blue sunlight, but the phone didn't need to make the shift quite so severe.

The 30 frames per second recording speed and 3.7Mbps bit rate combine to produce video that's actually quite detailed and smooth (don't let our jumpy movement holding the camera fool you, breaking it down frame by frame reveals a massively impressive lack of motion blur).

Not only that, but the music playing from the roundabout is captured clearly, and with barely any distortion. There's wind howling over it, yes, but the audio capture is generally just as impressive as the video.

It's just a shame it's only VGA then. Let's see HD next time, Palm/HP!

Palm Pre 2 review: Media

Palm Pre 2 review: Media

The Palm Pre 2 handles a lot of media playback with aplomb, though it does have a couple of oddities.

There's still no official syncing client for webOS – which does seem a shame after how easy it is to use the dedicated software for phones such as the HTC HD7, Samsung Omnia 7, BlackBerry Bold 9780 and, of course, the iPhone – but Palm suggests a few options, including DoubleTwist and GoGadget if you want to be able to import playlists.

We actually went for the good ol' fashioned drag-and-drop technique. We dumped a few albums and some videos onto the drive that appears when you plug the Pre 2 into your computer via the micro-USB port.

When we unplugged the Pre 2, they had all appeared in their appropriate areas. Album covers and song information generally made it over unscathed, and everything played without a hitch.

There's no catch-all 'Media' app, but Music, Photos and Videos are all available from the main Applications menu.

Music

Open the music player and you'll be taken to an overview of your library, including options for Artists, Albums, Songs, Genres, Playlists and Shuffle All at the top, complete with some covers from your albums.

Palm pre 2

As we said, we just chucked a load of songs on, some in AAC and some in MP3, all of which played perfectly. AMR, QCELP and WAV formats are also supported.

Going to each of Artists, Albums or Songs on the Music menu will list what they contain in alphabetical order (again, complete with artwork).

Palm pre 2

In the Now Playing screen, you have the choice of an album artwork view that shows the cover of the song you're currently listening to, as well a visual sliver of the previous and next songs to come.

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You can skip songs here either using the play/pause, forward and backward controls at the bottom of this screen, along with the shuffle and repeat options.

To access the scrubbing option, tap the name of the song just beneath the artwork, which will bring up the time counter for a while (it will fade back to the name after a few seconds if you don't touch it).

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The other Now Playing view is a list of the songs in the album or playlist, or it can show you the order of songs if you choose to shuffle. A blue bar scrolls across the currently playing track, indicating how far along the song is.

Palm pre 2

Handily, you can press and hold on a song to enable you to shift it around in the order, or slide to the right to delete it from the playlist.

Palm pre 2

In terms of quality, the music feels decent, but flat, even through a nice set of headphones to replace the standard ones in the box. The low- and high-end parts of songs lack drama, and this can't be helped by the equaliser, since there isn't one.

However, the quality is perfectly servicable – its detailed enough, just not spectacular – and its easy and slick to use, so we're giving it good marks.

Video

The Video app enables you to choose from folders such as your Video roll and Loaded Videos. You get an information screen when you select a video that enables you to play the file or choose to do a simple trim-edit and upload it to various services, such as Facebook and YouTube (you can also do these from the playback screen).

Palm pre 2

Palm pre 2

Video quality from the H.264 videos we added were good, though obviously didn't look as nice on the Pre 2's 320 x 480 screen as the the high-resolution screens on the iPhone 4 or HTC Desire HD, or an AMOLED screen such as the Samsung Galaxy S.

Still, the screen is clear and colours are appealing. There's some ghosting during very fast motions, but it's not that noticeable unless the thing moving is white. Yes, like a ghost.

Other than H.264, MPEG-4 and H.263 are also supported. The video player is easy to use, with decent quality. While we don't tend to recommend watching watching Titanic on these small screens (for any number of reasons), it should service you well enough through a train journey.

There's a YouTube app that contains pretty much all the usual options, such as Most Popular and Most Viewed categories, or the ability to search. Footage loaded pretty quickly, and looks bright and smooth on the screen.

Palm pre 2

From the information screen, you can access the ability to check out Related Videos or more from the author, as well as share via text or email. We were a disappointed that you can't share a link to the video over other integrated services, such as Facebook. Surely sharing funny videos is one of the main points of both Facebook and YouTube?

The Photos app is a nice collection of thumbnails that loads fairly quickly. You can play your images in a slideshow, or just browse through at your leisure. From here, you can forward messages over email or MMS, set them as wallpaper or assign to a contact, or upload to Facebook.

Palm Pre 2 review: Maps and apps

Palm Pre 2 review: Maps and apps

The Palm Pre 2 doesn't come with much in the way of extra apps, and there's nothing like the sometimes quirky little extras we got on Windows Phone 7 handsets such as the LG Optimus 7 and HTC 7 Mozart.

However, there are some standard, useful additions – and there's the App Catalog, of course.

The usual productivity apps are included, such as Calendar, Memos, Tasks, Calculator and Clock.

The Memos app uses the corkboard design we're used to seeing on lots of phones now, while the Calculator makes good use of the symbols on the keyboard (though the fact that the numbers on the touchscreen have '1' on the bottom while the ones on the keyboard have it at the top is a bit foolish).

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The tasks app has a nice leather notebook style choice going on that we like.

Palm pre 2

Clock offers a nice flip clock-style display by default (though you can switch to an analogue display instead), as well as alarm settings.

Of course, no modern smartphone is complete without Google Maps these days (we'll let Windows Phone 7 off for including Bing Maps instead).

Palm pre 2

Alas, there's no turn-by-turn directions as there is on Android phones such as the HTC Desire and Motorola Defy (and, well, all the rest), making this app closer the iPhone's version in terms of functionality.

However, that's hardly a bad thing. Directions are still there, even if they won't guide you live. The app is responsive to the touch, with pinch to zoom working brilliantly to get you into map detail quickly. See the Connectivity section for more about the GPS quality.

We mentioned the YouTube app in the Media section, but rounding out the preloaded apps are PDF View and Quickoffice.

We don't imagine it will surprise you that PDF View enables you to read PDF files, while Quickoffice is a rather handy document viewer that epitomises the cloud-based thinking behind HP webOS.

It opens by offering you the choice of looking at files stored on your device or tying into an online service. The options include Google Docs, Dropbox, Box and MobileMe.

Generally, viewing documents is fine, and using a Dropbox account heavily proved fast and easy.

However, there are a few niggles. Maybe we shouldn't pick on it for this, but the ability to edit really would be a major plus point for the Pre 2 when it comes to out-of-the-box convenience. Also, we couldn't view RTF files, which is a real shame (though is a continuing deficiency of Quickoffice).

The App Catalog has had a redesign for version 2.0 of webOS, but it's still far behind Apple's App Store (the golden standard at the moment).

The fact that the first 'What's Hot' tab that's open when you start the App Catalog is totally and completely empty is a pretty demoralising start.

Switch to looking at the top paid or free apps will bring more success, and it won't be long before you find the good games and tools. You also have the options of looking at the most recently released apps, and you can browse by category.

Palm pre 2

Some of the marquee apps associated with the iPhone have made it over, including NOVA and (predictably) Angry Birds.

We downloaded the free Facebook app, which then enabled integration between Facebook and the contacts we'd imported from our Google account. It was as fast and easy as the integration on Windows Phone 7, and impressed us greatly.

The app itself isn't as simple as most mobile Facebook apps, which tend to just open on your news feed and have several tabs along the top for different functions. While this one does offer News Feed as the default, you choose a dropdown menu in the middle to switch that feed to Status Updates, Photos, Links, Video, Notes or Groups.

Palm pre 2

Tap the tile icon in the top right to change from the News options to Photos (now meaning your photos rather than others' photos), Inbox, Profile, Events and Search (which is the only way to view your friends list).

Palm pre 2

Notifications are accessed in the top-left corner of the feed page by pressing the globe icon. Everything works, and it makes sense once you spend some time using it, but it's a bit different to most Facebook apps.

There's still a lack of a preloaded Twitter app, or an official Twitter client for webOS. Most of the best ways to tweet will cost you money, but there are some free options – we went for the open source, ad-free (and oh-so-charmingly named) Spaz. It wasn't a particlarly smooth client, but it was actually fairly well thought out.

Palm pre 2

Palm Pre 2 review: Battery life and connectivity

Palm Pre 2 review: Battery life

The battery on the Palm Pre 2 is rated for five hours of talk time or 350 hours of standby.

Of course, with this type of phone, these two activities are probably what you're least likely to do, so how does it fare when you're constantly browsing the web, checking email and generally fiddling with it?

Palm pre 2

The answer is: not very well. From it being at 100% in the morning, we used it a fairly standard amount, sending a couple of emails, reading a few, checking Twitter every so often and some web browsing.

By mid-evening, it was down to 20 per cent of battery. Now there's lots you can do to try to mitigate this, such as turning down the brightness, having it check for email less often and various other tricks, but against comparable smartphones using similar settings, the Pre 2 simply doesn't make a good account of itself.

In fact, during some of the more intense testing we did, we had to be charging it constantly more or less.

Connectivity

Connection options on the Palm Pre 2 haven't changed much from previous iterations. Wi-Fi 802.11b/g complements 3G data connectivity for wireless internet access, and there's also Bluetooth 2.1 with A2DP audio streaming support.

Palm pre 2

We found signal to be a bit up and down on the Pre 2. In some areas, 3G appeared to be fine and strong, but it was slow in practice (and wouldn't access some services at all). It wasn't bad, but certainly wasn't the strongest we've seen.

The micro-USB port enables you to charge from the mains (UK and European plugs are both included in the box), or connect to a PC. As we mentioned in the Media section, there's no official PC client for loading media, so you can either drag and drop files or use a third-party solution, such as DoubleTwist.

The 3.5mm headphone jack means you can connect your own headphones or a set of speakers.

There's no microSD card slot for expanding the 16GB of built-in storage, but this will be enough space for most people anyway.

The Pre 2's battery cover is ready to work with the optional Touchstone charger, which enables you to charge the phone wirelessly. New software features mean that the phone now knows when it's on the Touchstone, so apps can adapt what they display when the Pre is in charge mode.

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Palm Pre 2 review: Hands-on gallery

Palm Pre 2 review: Hands-on gallery

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Palm Pre 2 review: Official gallery

Palm Pre 2 review: Official gallery

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Palm Pre 2 review: Verdict

Palm Pre 2 review: Verdict

Palm pre 2

It was hard to know exactly what to expect from the Palm Pre 2. The name inherently implies something more than the upgrade to the Pre Plus, and yet having nearly the same handset design with just a modest spec boost seemed to suggest otherwise.

We're left to look at the HP webOS software for the changes, then. Certainly, it looks similar to what came before, but iOS has barely changed in appearance since its inception, and it has many more features now than in 2007.

Sadly, the new webOS just isn't that much a boost. The 2.0 moniker feels undeserved, to be honest. It's an improvement over what came before, but only a mild one, while Android and iOS have been upgrading fervently.

We liked

Okay, we've just gone and called the new webOS not that much of an improvement, but it still goes in the 'Liked' column because it was so phenomenally good in concept to begin with.

Even if some its cooler features have been picked up by other OSes, the card system is still just an incredible piece of UI design, and Stacks is brilliant addition to it.

The Just Type features, even though it's technically very similar to what was already available, is a well thought-out addition.

The phone is still easy to set up and use. We don't think it's the most intuitive around for beginners, but after a little time with it, it ends up providing powerful features in a way that's easier and simpler in the long run.

The cloud integration is as good as ever, making this ideal for messaging enthusiasts and social networkers (lack of official Twitter app notwithstanding). We even think the keyboard isn't bad, despite how tiny it looks.

The camera is also capable of producing some very nice shots and video, under the right circumstances.

We disliked

We mentioned encountering some bugs and slowness in various sections, and this was really disappointing. Fortunately, Palm has been quick off the mark with a 2.0.1 update that's touted to fix lots of bugs generally. Even with that, though, webOS 2.0 feels surprisingly raw technically in places – more like a 1.0 release.

We're not convinced by the Pre 2's form factor, either. While the materials are actually nice, and we think it should last well, it's thick and heavy.

Palm hasn't really moved past where it was back in 2008, which is shocking when you look at the incredible industrial design in the iPhone 4, or beautifully solid and reassuring build quality of the HTC Desire.

And not having an updated screen is a huge disappointment. 320 x 480 may only be six months out of date, but we've simply moved on since then to bigger and better.

The battery life is pretty poor, too. Again, every other smartphone has improved in this area, but the Pre 2 hasn't.

It's also a real shame that no networks are offering the Pre 2 subsidised. While it's hard to blame Palm for it, it's fair to say having the only price for this phone being £399.99 is definitely something we dislike.

Verdict

At this point, the Palm Pre feels like an old friend you'd lost touch with. You're a bit surprised he dresses the same as when you last knew him, but when you get talking you remember what an awesome time you had together.

But he has a few oddities about him, and the more time you spend together, the more you realise you've grown up and he hasn't – at least not enough.

There's an absolutely world-beating phone sitting somewhere in the Pre 2's DNA, but it hasn't revealed itself here. It simply doesn't stand up to the iPhone 4 or modern Android phones such as the HTC Desire Z. Even webOS's status as the design-conscious UI is under threat from Windows Phone 7.

We like it, but it just isn't top of the pile.

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