Phones | Technopolis

Palm Pre

At last, Apple and BlackBerry have a worthy rival whose new device deserves a slice of the pie

Palm Pre

November 13 2009
Jonathan Margolis

It’s the convention in politics when a party forms a strong government that at some point in its victory roll, it exhorts the opposition parties to be robust and effective, explaining how democracy demands it, blah blah blah. I don’t know whether BlackBerry and Apple, the pie-ous (and, yes, that is this column’s first pudding joke) makers of the mobile phone equivalents of the two main British parties, greatly desire an effective third party, but with this new phone from the pioneering but forgotten Palm, they’ve got their telephonic LibDems.

In fact, the Palm-ite faction seems to have been bringing out the Palm Pre for as long as the LibDems have been preparing for government – I saw it back in April. According to the notes I made it is a brilliant device, more BlackBerry- than Apple-flavoured, so less businessy than the former and less playful than the latter – but with advantages over both.

One interesting thing I discovered was that the father of the Palm Pre, Jon Rubinstein, was previously at Apple, where he was one of the dominant influences in the development of the iMac and the iPod. Rubinstein has since become CEO of Palm, so it is unlikely that the Pre will be a one-off significant product for the revitalised company.

Physically, the Pre is like a seamless and intensely tactile black blob. It’s a slider design, but with a slight banana shape, which makes it fit the face better than the iPhone or any BlackBerry. You control the Pre with a combination of satisfying and intuitive finger gestures on-screen, and it charges via an interesting unit called the Touchstone (purchased separately), to which it sticks almost magically with a form of inductive technology. When you put the Pre onto the Touchstone, it automatically switches the Pre to speakerphone.

The Pre rocks, frankly. Its best feature when you use it, apart from the silky feel in the hand, is that it is capable of running several applications at the same time. One of the (few, admittedly) frustrations of the iPhone – which I still regard as the greatest phone and overall gadget ever – is that, like men, it can normally do only one cool thing at a time.

I have to tell you, up and down the country, people will soon be saying the multi-tasking, smooth operator Palm Pre is the new LibDems. And given the Rubinstein connection, I would take a punt on it and the Palm brand now having a good crack at overtaking the BlackBerry and, yes, even becoming the loyal opposition to Her Majesty’s iPhone.

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