The early reviews are in for the Palm (PALM) Pre, and the news for the bulls is mostly good.
In general, the phone is seen as a worthy rival for the Apple (AAPL) iPhone, with additional features like a removable battery a a physical keyboard. Both the Web OS software and the industrial design of the Pre are getting raves. There certainly are some nits, though. Some reviewers were disappointed with the battery life; almost all noted the relatively primitive state of Palm’s answer to the Apple App Store, which features very few applications so far - not surprising since the company has yet to make an SDK widely available. There were even generally positive comments about the Sprint (S) network, which some reviewers noted to be faster than the AT&T network used by domestic Apple iPhone customers. (Although there was also some discussion of whether you might want to wait until Verizon (VZ) ships a version of the phone, which it is in theory expected to do early next year.) A couple of other quick things to keep in mind: you can’t use the phone in other countries at this point - at least until they get around to shipping a GSM version - and the service plans really are somewhat less expensive than what iPhone customers pay AT&T.
Here are some brief excerpts of some of the early reviews:
- Walt Mossberg, The Wall Street Journal: “I consider the Pre to be potentially the strongest rival to the iPhone to date, provided it attracts lots of third-party apps, which it sorely lacks at launch,” he writes. “Its design is much better than that of the two other main iPhone-class competitors: the T-Mobile G1, which uses Android, and RIM’s touch-screen BlackBerry Storm. Whether the Pre is better than the iPhone depends on your personal preferences, though I’d note that the new iPhone to be unveiled next week will have lots of added features that could alter those calculations….All in all, I believe the Pre is a smart, sophisticated product that will have particular appeal for those who want a physical keyboard. It is thoughtfully designed, works well and could give the iPhone and BlackBerry strong competition - but only if it fixes its app store and can attract third-party developers.”
- David Pogue, The New York Times: “The Pre…is an elegant, joyous, multitouch smartphone; it’s the iPhone remixed…So do the Pre’s perks (beautiful hardware and software, compact size, keyboard, swappable battery, flash, multitasking, calendar consolidation) outweigh its weak spots (battery life, occasional sluggishness, ringer volume)? Oh, yes indeedy. Especially when you consider that Verizon Wireless has announced that it will carry the Pre “in the next six months or so. Can you imagine how great that will be? One of the world’s best phones on the nation’s best cell network? If the story of Palm’s rise from the ashes really is like a movie plot, then that twist will give it one heck of a happy ending.”
- Joshua Topolsky, Engadget “To put it simply, the Pre is a great phone, and we don’t feel any hesitation saying that. Is it a perfect phone? Hell no. Does its OS need work? Definitely. But are any of the detracting factors here big enough to not recommend it? Absolutely not. There’s no doubt that there’s room for improvement in webOS and its devices, but there’s also an astounding amount of things that Palm nails out of the gate…the Pre moves the game forward in a very real way.”
- Jason Chen, Gizmodo “Think of it like this. The software is agile, smart and capable. The hardware, on the other hand, is a liability. If Palm can get someone else to design and build their hardware—someone who has hands and can feel what a phone is like when physically used, that phone might just be one of the best phones on the market… I’m bored of the iPhone. The core functionality and design have remained the same for the last two years, and since 3.0 is just more of the same, and—barring some kind of June surprise—that’s another year of the same old icons and swiping and pinching. It’s time for something different. The Pre may have hardware that’s worse than the G1/G2, but the whole package—the software and the hardware—isn’t bad. It’s good. It’s different. That’s something we can get behind. I can’t wait to see what Palm gets dealt in their next hand.”
On Wednesday, PALM shares slipped 47 cents, or 3.6%, to $12.49.