For the past six months, all eyes have been on the Palm Pre. Indeed, there hasn't been so much buzz over a phone since the advent of the iPhone. Introduced at CES 2009, the Pre quickly became the most anticipated phone of the year, not only because of what it means for the struggling Palm but also because of what the device itself promises. The multitasking features, notification system, physical keyboard and multitouch screen combined to make it seem, in many people's opinion, the most legitimate rival to the iPhone yet.
Six months later and the Palm Pre is finally ready for release in the US. We've spent the past few days poring over every detail of the device so that we can answer the all-important question: is it better than the iPhone? Like the T-Mobile G1, there are some hardware and performance issues, and we're concerned about a few missing features, but we walked away impressed with the Palm webOS.
The UK version of the Palm Pre is expected to become available in time for Christmas on O2, with pricing yet to be announced. It will go on sale in the US on 6 June for $200 (£130) with a two-year contract and after a $100 (£65) mail-in rebate.
The Pre's design is unlike that of any smart phone we've seen to date, but, if we had to give a point of comparison, we'd say it resembles the HTC Touch. With its smooth, black, lacquered finish and rounded edges, it looks rather like a pebble. Like Apple with the iPhone, Palm has opted to keep it simple, keeping external controls to a minimum.
The face of the device only has one control: a centre button that takes you back to the 'deck of cards' view. The centre key is slightly deceiving in that it looks similar to a trackball navigator, so there were times when, out of habit, we would try to navigate a page by trying to scroll up and down using the button, but you can only press it like a key.
On top of the unit, there's a power button, a silent ringer switch, and a 3.5mm headphone jack, which we're always happy to see. The left side features a volume rocker, while the micro-USB port is on the right. Finally, on the back, you'll find the camera, flash, speaker and removable battery.
In its closed state, the Pre measures 58 by 99 by 15mm, and weighs 135g. It fits well in the palm of the hand and is certainly more pocket-friendly than the iPhone. Some have worried about the durability of the phone, since it's made of plastic. We didn't throw it off a building to test it, but it feels quite solid. The phone is a smudge and fingerprint magnet, though, and the slider design can feel slightly rickety at times.