Roundup: 5 Smart Phones for Summer

Palm Pre

There are currently three major players in the touchscreen operating system business for cell phones: Apple with the iPhone OS, Google with Android, and Palm with webOS. Palm’s is the newest and is only available on their Palm Pre, so like the iPhone, it is a closed operating system. The small phone looks modest enough, but what makes it unique is the software and the touchscreen.

A 3.1" screen covers most of the front panel, with only a small space beneath it and a single white button. On the top is a 3.5 mm audio jack, and beside it on the top right corner is the lock/unlock key, which we found to be bothersome in comparison to other devices. The right side has a USB-Micro port, and the left side houses only the volume control. It’s a simple and elegant design, though the phone does feel small in the hand.

Sliding out the bottom reveals the full QWERTY keyboard. What is surprising about the sliding function is that the edges are sharp enough to cleanly cut cheese, bread, and who knows what else. It’s not sharp enough to hurt you during use, but it seems to be a surprising and odd design choice.

When first activating the phone with a Google e-mail account for our tests, it automatically synced over the air Gmail contacts and the Google calendar. While every other phone in this roundup required several steps either directly through the phone or when plugged into a PC, the Pre only required an email and password and went straight to syncing mode. Within minutes we had full access to all of our information saved on that Google account. We should note that a Google-supported Android phone was not included in this roundup—though Android phones might have just as seamless integration with Google accounts.

Next are the gesture controls. While recently we’ve seen a few gesture controls on PC applications, the Pre uses several powerful and easy gestures without sacrificing power or space. Underneath the screen and above the single white button, the glass is touch-sensitive. Sliding a finger up from that area slides the main menu bar up and releasing the finger over the selected application or menu will open it.

The Pre also supports running multiple applications simultaneously like the N97, but instead of opening the menu and selecting the desired application, users just push the white button and select from all open applications, which appear in smaller windows. Sliding your finger across the screen moves you between applications. Or, when in a given app, sliding a finger across the touch-sensitive area will immediately switch to the next or previous application, depending on which direction you slide your finger.

The phone’s lack of a menu system is disappointing. Similar to the iPhone, there are multiple pages of apps to scroll through, with the last containing settings. One app is for brightness and screen settings, another is for volume, and several others do entirely different things. It’s simple, but spread out and annoying compared to the simplicity of the every other tested device.

One significant downside of this phone is the poor battery life. The Pre barely makes it through a full day of moderate use, and unlike the other phones, the Pre needed to be recharged nightly or it wouldn’t survive the next day. It’s a shame that the battery life is so poor.

However, the Pre is a new phone from a company that used to own the smart phone operating system market. There are plenty of kinks to work out before it’s a perfect product. For now, the Pre remains a very pleasing handset to use.

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  • SlyMaelstrom
    Where's the HTC Touch Pro 2? It's superior to all of these phones and will be available on all major US carriers by the end of September. It's already out on T-Mobile.
  • jamezrp
    HTC Touch Pro 2? Keep your eyes peeled on this site...
  • jamezrp
    HTC Touch Pro 2? Keep your eyes peeled on this site...
  • georgeb45
    HTC Touch Diamond 2 rulez them all. HTC Touch Pro 2 is the most advanced smartphone but is too large. Diamond 2 has the perfect size and works great. I'm using it for 3 months now and i'm very satisfied with it.
  • nerdherd
    This is a strange review...comparing a Palm Pre to a Samsung Instinct? Why don't we compare apples to apples, like mentioned above where are some HTC phones like the Diamond 2 and the Touch Pro 2? Not to mention some kind of Android or Symbian based phone...
  • Where's the G1? By far the best phone out... Better than all the phones reviewed in this. I would've liked to see it compare against these phones...
  • moullas
    "There are currently three major players in the touchscreen operating system business for cell phones: Apple with the iPhone OS, Google with Android, and Palm with webOS."

    ?? Is this supposed to be an unbiased review? Forgetting Windows Mobile with the largest userbase seems a bit suspicious
  • Noobster15
    Why wouldnt a Iphone be considered a Smart phone?
    It could own all of those Phones
  • Boxa786
    your name says it all, iphone is not classed as a smart phone when compared to true smartphones due to its crippling features, such as;
    No MMS
    No Video recording

    the latest iphone 3gs has many improvements over its predessors, but it still lacks some features compared to the rest.

    Although all these phones mentioned are great, there are other handsets available which should have been included in this review, such as the latest HTC and not forgetting the world number 1 for business users, RIM handsets!
  • kyeana
    If im not mistaken, the pre's app are done entirely in html/javascript, meaning that if they open the app store up to everyone, we should see apps flowing into it in no time.
  • kyeana
    Also im not sure if this has been addressed yet, but the pre did have a bug in is messaging app that caused the battery to drain faster then it should. Perhaps that could account for some of the battery life issues (but of course not all of it, i still would have loved to see a bigger battery in there)
  • Tomsguiderachel
    nerdherdThis is a strange review...comparing a Palm Pre to a Samsung Instinct? Why don't we compare apples to apples, like mentioned above where are some HTC phones like the Diamond 2 and the Touch Pro 2? Not to mention some kind of Android or Symbian based phone...

    There is a Symbian unit in this roundup.
  • Tomsguiderachel
    Thanks to everyone who commented on this article. Here's some insight into our editorial process: we can only include articles for which we have review units in any given roundup. We did not have the HTC Touch Pro 2 when this roundup came out, but we had those 5 phones so we reviewed those. But now, we finally have the HTC Touch Pro 2, so check out: http://www.tomsguide.com/us/Toshiba-TG01-HTC-TouchPro2,review-1386.html

    Please keep this in mind when you make comments about missing products in roundups. Not every product is available to every review at every moment in time. We do try our best!