The Pre’s 3.1-inch display might be a bit smaller than some of the other touchscreen smartphones on the market today, but what the display lacks in size, it makes up for in quality. The 24-bit color HVGA display supports a resolution of 320x480. This display is vibrant and sharp and was easy to read even in direct sunlight. During our tests, Web pages, images, and text all looked excellent.
The Pre’s capacitive touchscreen responds to touches from the pad of your finger, not from a fingernail or stylus. The Pre doesn’t offer haptic feedback to let you know when you’ve pressed a button on screen. Instead, white rings will appear around an icon or menu item to let you know the screen has registered your touch.
Because the Pre has a built-in accelerometer, it will automatically rotate the screen orientation as you rotate the handset when viewing photos, videos, and Web pages. The phone also offers a proximity sensor that will turn off the display whenever you put the smartphone close to your ear for a phone call. Both the proximity sensor and the accelerometer respond quickly during our tests.
You can scroll through lists and Web pages by simply dragging your finger across the screen. If you want to zoom in or out of a Web page or photo, the Pre’s multi-touch screen lets you use the same pinch-like gestures as you’ve seen on the iPhone commercials. To give you an even better feel for how the Pre responds to some of these tasks, we’ve included a short video below.
The Pre’s phone interface is easy to use and call quality during our tests was excellent. The Pre’s speakerphone was adequate, and the people we spoke with said the quality was acceptable as well.
Palm Synergy is a new feature found on the Palm Pre that can combine information from Microsoft Outlook, Google, and Facebook. With Synergy, you can view layered calendars and linked contacts, making it easy to find the information you need in a single location. The Synergy feature also links IM and text conversations with the same person in a chat-style view.
The Pre supports multiple e-mail accounts, including POP/IMAP and Microsoft Exchange. All of the accounts can be found using the E-mail card. From this card, you can view all email in a single view or in separate views by account. Whenever you receive a new email, miss a call, or another notification appears, you’ll see it at the bottom of the screen. If you receive a call while working in an application, an alert will appear in the lower portion of the screen. You can choose to answer or ignore the call without leaving the application you are working in. This alert system provides a nice, unobtrusive way to let you know a call is coming in without being too distracting.
The Pre’s multitasking capabilities will be a big attraction to many people. We were able to open over 15 cards without any complaints from the handset. With this many apps running at the same time, there was a slight lag when launching new applications, but overall the smartphone was still very responsive.
The Pre’s Web browser renders pages just as you would see them on your desktop. When you bookmark a favorite site, it will show up as a card on the main page of the browser window. You’re most likely to notice the Pre’s lack of an on-screen keyboard when browsing the Web: Anytime you want to enter a new URL or other text in a relevant field, you’ll need to switch to portrait mode and type using the hardware keyboard.
Palm claims you should expect up to five hours of continuous talk time on the Pre’s user replaceable battery. Overall, we were satisfied with the Pre’s battery life and were generally able to get a day’s worth of use from the phone while performing a variety of tasks including making calls, surfing the Web, etc. Of course, your experience may vary depending on how aggressively you use the phone’s capabilities.