The Palm Pre has a smooth, polished body that might remind you of a polished river rock. This handset is attractive to look at and is also very comfortable to hold. The outer casing has a smooth, black, lacquered finish that tends to attract fingerprints. Thankfully, we didn’t notice a change in performance, even when the screen had lots of fingerprints. All of the edges of the phone are rounded.
Like the iPhone, the front of the Pre has a single button, located at the bottom of the display. This button, called the Center button, will take you back to the Deck of Card view (more on this later.) Just above this Center button, you’ll find a Gesture area where you can perform a few functions using a swipe of your finger. Above the display, you’ll find an earpiece that is slightly raised.
The Pre’s screen slides up to reveal a full QWERTY keyboard. During my tests, the keyboard felt slightly flat and cramped. Especially since the Pre doesn’t offer an on-screen keyboard in addition to the hardware QWERTY keyboard, we would have liked to have seen Palm put a little more effort into making this keyboard more comfortable to use. That said, the keyboard is usable, and you’ll adjust after using the phone for a little while.
On the left side of the Pre, you’ll find the volume rocker which is slightly raised from the casing of the Pre. You’ll find a 3.5mm headset jack as well as the ringer switch and the slightly raised power button on the top edge of the Pre. The right side of the Pre houses the Charger/microUSB connector port behind a door that, when closed, sits flush with the side of the phone.
Finally, on the back of the device, you’ll find the camera, flash, speaker, and removable battery cover. Rather than a tiny self portrait mirror like you’ll see on some smartphones, the Pre offers a large mirror that’s visible whenever the screen has been slid up to reveal the keyboard. The entire upper back portion of the screen is a mirror.
When it’s closed, the Pre measures approximately 3.9 inches tall by 2.3 inches wide by 0.6 inches thick. It weighs about 4.76 ounces. Although the phone’s outer casing is made of plastic, it felt solid, not cheap or toy like.
The Pre’s sliding mechanism is pretty smooth, and the screen clicks securely into place once it’s pushed up. When open, you’ll notice a bit of curve to the phone. You’ll also notice that the Pre loses some of the smooth feel of the phone when it’s open because the edges of the keyboard and top back of the display are straight (not rounded).