Below the screen, there's a gesture area where you can perform a number of tasks, which we outline in the section below. Two small LEDs and the centre button will illuminate in white to indicate that it has registered your command.
User interface and navigation
The Pre isn't the most intuitive device to use, at least at first. When you fire up the smart phone for the first time, there's a brief animated tutorial to familiarise you with the various gestures, such as swiping right to left in the gesture area to return to the previous page. The gestures are also illustrated in the quick-start guide, but, even so, it takes some time to learn all the various commands.
The homescreen looks easy enough to understand, with a simple tray along the bottom that includes shortcuts to the on-screen dialler, contacts, email, calendar and the main menu (or 'launcher'). Pressing the launcher icon will bring you to all your applications and settings. It consists of three panels that you can swipe from left to right (and vice versa), and each panel is dedicated to a more general category.
For example, the first panel includes all the core functions, such as messaging, Web, multimedia, Google Maps, a task list and so forth. The second panel is focused on applications, and the third panel features the phone's various settings and options. The user interface, in general, is very sleek and fresh, and provides smooth transitions. It's also more inviting and engaging than Google Android.
To launch a program, you simply tap an icon, and, once you're in an application, you can tap the upper-left corner of the screen to open any relevant menus for that particular app. The beauty of the Pre is its multitasking capabilities -- you can simply launch another program without having to exit the one you're currently in. To do this, drag your finger from the gesture area up to the screen and you'll see the homescreen tray appear in a cool little wave. From there, you can move your finger to one of the dedicated shortcuts or open the launcher for a full list.
If you want to return to any running apps, a press of the centre button will bring you to your deck of cards view, where you can simply select the card you want. If you're wondering why the feature is called 'deck of cards', it's because each application is presented in a card window and you can shuffle through the open cards. You can drag and drop cards (or rearrange the order of apps in the launcher) by pressing and holding the item until you see a halo around it. Then you're free to move it, but it's not like with the G1, where you can drag and drop icons onto the main homescreen. When you're done, you can flick the card upwards and that will close the program.
Although there's much to learn, we felt more comfortable and familiar with the gestures after a couple of hours. Naturally, with more use, these commands will become even easier, and soon you won't even have to think about it. Nevertheless, when comparing the out-of-the-box experience of the Pre with that of the iPhone, the iPhone definitely wins in terms of ease of use.