When I reviewed the original Palm Pre last year, I noted that it had plenty of potential, but it didn't feel quite finished. The new Palm Pre Plus, however, has the polish that the original Pre lacked. The Pre Plus isn't all that different from the original Pre, but its updates -- including more memory, an improved keyboard, and an updated version of the webOS software -- make a lot of difference.
Price and Availability
The Palm Pre Plus is available from Verizon Wireless for $149.99 when you sign a two-year service contract. That's the same as Sprint charges for the original Palm Pre.
The Pre Plus is almost identical to the original Pre: both are attractive, well-designed phones. The only noticeable difference between the two is that the Pre Plus lacks the center navigation button that the original Pre sported below its screen. The button isn't missed -- you get the same functionality out of the gesture area -- and its absence makes the phone look more elegant.
When the Pre Plus is closed, you see the 3.1-inch display. The 320-by-480 resolution is the same as the original Pre, and a little low compared to some of the high-res screens on recent phones, like the Nexus One. But the screen on the Pre Plus is crisp, clear, and very bright.
The display slides up to reveal a small but very usable keyboard. The keys are rubbery, but not as squishy as those on the original Pre, making them easier to press. The keyboard is a pleasure to use.
The only other change made to the design of the Pre Plus is that the phone ships with an inductive back cover, which can be used to charge the device when it's laid on Palm's Touchstone charger. To charge the original Pre on the Touchstone, you had to purchase the inductive back cover separately.
The Pre Plus is very comfortable to hold during calls, and the phone offered very good call quality. My callers heard me loud and clear, and vice versa. I did not notice any significant differences between the Pre Plus on Verizon's network and the Pre on Sprint's network when it came to call quality. Both networks offer very good coverage where I live, outside of Boston.
Surfing the Web on the Palm Pre Plus is a joy. The screen looks great, though, at only 3.1 inches, it can feel cramped at times. But I love that you can pinch and spread the multi-touch screen to zoom in and out, and that you can have multiple Web pages open at once.
Like the original Pre, the Pre Plus offers support for both high-speed 3G (Verizon's EvDO network) and Wi-Fi wireless networks for high-speed browsing. Unlike the Pre, however, the Pre Plus can be used as a mobile hotspot, to which you can connect up to five additional devices for Internet access.
The process is simple; it's all done through the Palm Mobile Hotspot app. You launch the app, select your encryption, and you're good to go. I created a network, and was able to connect two smartphones and a laptop without problem. Download speeds did seem a bit slow over the network, though. Keep in mind, too, that using the Pre Plus as a mobile hotspot requires that you subscribe to Verizon hot spot plan, which costs $40 per month.
The Pixi Plus includes built-in GPS, and comes with access to Verizon's VZ Navigator for turn-by-turn spoken driving directions. It also includes Google Maps, which offers text-based driving directions.
The Pre Plus runs the latest version of Palm's webOS, and the software itself still shines; its ease of use and slick interface are stunning. I love the "deck of cards" model that webOS uses to allow you to shuffle through open apps. I also love how you can sling an app up and off the screen to close it.
In my review of the original Pre, I noted that while webOS was slick and fun to use, it still felt incomplete, mainly because there weren't that many third-party apps available for it. Now that several months have passed, Palm's software seems a lot more grown up. And, while Palm's App Catalog can't rival the selection of apps found in Apple's App Store, its selection has grown. Still, you won't find a ton of productivity or office apps available, so your office tasks may be limited to using the document viewer and PDF viewer that ship with the Pre Plus.
The Palm Pre Plus has the same processor as the original Palm Pre, but has double the memory -- instead of 8GB, you get 16GB. That means you have more storage for your apps (as well as your music and photos). It also made the phone feel a bit faster than the original Palm Pre, especially when taking advantage of the multi-tasking in webOS that allows you to have multiple apps open at once.
The multi-tasking ability of the webOS really shines when you're using the Pre Plus as a mobile e-mail device. You'll get notifications of incoming messages, which allow you to view the sender and subject of new e-mails without closing out of other applications. This lets you decide if a message is important enough to warrant reading now, or if it can wait.
The Pre Plus includes Palm's Synergy feature, which collects calendar and contact information from various sources and brings it together. If you have contacts in Facebook and a Google Calendar, you can access all of them from within Synergy.
The Pre Plus features the same 3-megapixel camera found on the Palm Pre. It includes a flash but no zoom. Picture quality was good, but not great, and the phone lacks editing features. At this time, the Pre Plus does not support video recording, but Palm is preparing an over-the-air update to the webOS that will add video recording to all of its webOS phones.
Music and More
Like the Palm Pre (and any Android-based smartphone), the Pre Plus offers one-touch access to Amazon's MP3 store, where you can download songs directly to your phone. This is another instance where the extra 8GB of memory comes in handy, as it greatly increases how many songs you can store on the device.
The Pre Plus comes with a USB cord, and when connected to your computer, you can use Palm's Media Sync feature. As of this writing, the Pre Plus will NOT sync with Apple's iTunes software; Apple and Palm have been battling back and forth about this feature, and it may yet be added in the future.
The Pre Plus offers a basic music player on the phone, which is easy enough to use. You also get a standard headphone jack, and sound quality was very good. You don't get access to any of Verizon's V Cast services, though.
Overall, the Palm Pre Plus is a great smartphone. It's pretty to look at, easy to use, and almost slick enough to rival today's best smartphones, like the iPhone 3GS and the Nexus One. Until the App Catalog fills up a bit more, though, this phone's potential still hasn't been met.