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What I like and hate about the Palm Pre

Posted at age 21.
Created . Edited .

I replaced my Samsung Instinct yesterday with the Palm Pre, and what a frustrating day it’s been!

The first thing I did when I got the Pre was enter my login information for Gmail, Facebook and AIM. I had no idea what that would do… but I soon found out when I checked my contacts list.

My last two phones, the Sanyo Katana and the Samsung Instinct, supported Sprint’s “Wireless Backup” or “Mobile Sync,” which basically stored the phonebook on Sprint’s website and synced it to the phone intermittently. I assumed the Pre supported the same service, but it does not. So, when I checked my contacts, I was shocked to see about 3,000 entries, mostly people I don’t know! And furthermore, none of my phone numbers from the Instinct were automatically transferred since the Pre doesn’t do Mobile Sync the same way… That was a problem!

The Pre pulled all of my “contacts” from Gmail, which, since Gmail adds anyone to whom you reply to any e-mail, amounted to more than 1,500 people. Many of those “people” were unnamed in my Gmail contacts, so they just showed up as an e-mail address.

Facebook and AIM were also queried for contacts, so all of my AIM “buddies,” including dozens of screen names I had in a folder called “Forgot who these people are,” and all of my Facebook friends were also in the contact book. It was kind of cool that most people had thumbnails from Facebook, but I still only had phone numbers for the people whose Facebook profiles made the numbers available.

So, I reset the phone to clear out everything and build a strategy.

In Gmail, you can categorize your contacts into groups. I thought I could make a “Palm Pre” group and just sync that, but nope, the Pre can’t sync a single group, but rather is a greedy little device and takes everyone, no matter what. Same with Facebook. You can categorize your friends on, but apparently the Facebook API doesn’t support doing anything with those categories. So again, the Pre can either take nothing or everything. Same for AIM, and it was made worse because then I was dealing with screen names, not people’s names, so the Pre’s Synergy feature couldn’t even automatically combine the contact entries.

My solution:

  • Deal with having all my Facebook friends in there. At least they have pretty pictures and I can just search for whom I want by typing a few characters of the name.
  • Create a second Gmail account to which I will periodically port a subgroup of my contacts from my main Gmail account. Then have the Pre sync with the consolidated contact list on the secondary Gmail account. Roundabout, but better than having all those Craigslist post replies showing up as contacts.
  • Finally, go through the AIM contacts and manually link them to their corresponding people. A problem with this was I cannot give names to the screen names that don’t have a corresponding Gmail or Facebook contact. So I have a few hot69boys in my contacts list still, but overall it’s a lot better now.

So, here’s what the Palm Pre needs to improve (hardware issues in italics):

  • Battery life. If you use WiFi, have it check your e-mail and leave it connected to AIM, the battery drains within hours.
  • Louder volume, and have the speakerphone on the front like the Instinct. Not only is the speakerphone (and ring) pathetically quiet, the speaker is on the back, so it’s even harder to hear than necessary.
  • Application loading time and startup time. The pause after clicking on my contacts or anything else often makes me think it froze, my Pre takes just under two minutes to turn on, which is twice as long as the iPhone 3GS.
  • Have the option to sync to a subgroup of Gmail, Facebook and AIM contacts. While you’re at it, Palm, let me also sync to Yahoo! and MSN, and maybe interface with Facebook chat as well.
  • Faster contact scrolling, such as by letter. Since the Pre wants me to have thousands of people in the contact list, it’d be nice to be able to scroll to the bottom quickly. All you can do is search, but since it searches first and last names, even if I want to see all the last names under R, I still have to scroll past all the people named Rachel A, Ricky B, Randy C, etc.
  • Constantly save messages as I type them, like the Instinct does. If I inadvertently click on an incoming message, I’ll lose what I was typing.
  • Allow me to group contacts so I can easily send a text to a subgroup of my contacts.
  • Let me add additional contacts to a text if I am replying to someone, like the Instinct. Apparently the only way to text multiple people is to start a new text and (tediously) add the contacts first.
  • Let me delete menu items I will never use, like NASCAR, NFL and Amazon MP3.
  • My fingers aren’t that big, but I definitely have a tough time typing. I often have to use my fingernails.
  • Why did you have to make me hit the red shift button first in order to type an apostrophe or question mark? Are you trying to disallow my correct grammar and punctuation?
  • Even though the “back” stroke feature is nice, a back button would be so much faster. Especially when I was linking all my AIM screen names, it was very tedious to swish my finger across the bottom of the display to go back three times for each screen name after linking it.
  • I need my voice announcements of who is calling and messaging, and my voice dialing! Well, I suppose I wouldn’t even be able to hear it if that feature existed… makes me miss my Instinct.

Favorite features so far:

  • I love that I can connect to my computer easily via USB and copy MP3s to the ringer folder. Any MP3, any length. Nice.
  • The screen resolution (which matches the iPhone) is fabulous compared to the Instinct’s lower resolution display. Palm did a nice job with the typefaces and layout, too. Everything is very visually stimulating.

Note added 2 Aug. 2009 at 14:44:

I just noticed the Pre doesn’t connect a phone number to the contact’s name if you entered the contact after calling the number. I had some phone numbers in my call log, and when I called them, I realized they were already in my phone book (with an associated name). Odd.

I also can’t figure out how to temporarily log out of AIM/Google Talk without deleting my login information. It’d be nice to be able to sign out to conserve charge and sign back in for a while just to check who is online!