Overall, we were happy with the Pre's browser in terms of navigation and functionality, but there are a couple of issues. One is the lack of an on-screen keyboard. Without it, you can't type URLs or enter any text into relevant fields when you're viewing sites in landscape mode, so you'll need to switch back to portrait mode, which is annoying. Also, there's no Flash support at this time, so you can't view Flash videos within the browser. Palm, however, announced its commitment to Adobe's Open Screen Project back in February and promised to bring the Flash Player 10 to its webOS devices by the end of the year.
The Pre has a solid set of multimedia features. The built-in media player supports a number of formats: MP3, AAC, AAC+, WAV and AMR music files, and the MPEG-4, H.263 and H.264 video formats. The music player offers basic functions: play/pause, track forward/back, and shuffle and repeat modes. In addition to the standard forward/back buttons, you can swipe the album covers to proceed through songs. It's not quite as slick as the iPhone's Cover Flow feature, but it works.
There are several methods for getting media onto the smart phone. Firstly, the Pre has the capability to act as a storage device, so you can load music and video by connecting the Pre to your computer via a USB cable and selecting the 'USB drive' option. Then you'll be able to drag and drop files.
The Pre also works with iTunes, so you can sync any non-DRM tracks (no videos) to the smart phone. There's some question about whether Apple will eventually put the kibosh on this, but, for now, we're happy to report the iTunes synchronisation worked and it was as easy as pie. We got it to work with the most recent iTunes 8.2.
We synced the Pre with both Mac and PC iTunes versions by simply connecting the Pre to our laptop via a USB cable and selecting the 'media sync' option on the Pre, which then automatically launched iTunes on our computer. The Pre is essentially identified as an iPod. Once it's been identified, you can automatically synchronise your music library or manually drag and drop tunes.
The 8GB memory cap really became an issue when we were transferring our music library. People with large libraries are probably going to have to cull their selections. As with the iPhone, a microSD expansion slot could have alleviated the problem, but Palm said it didn't fit with the design they were going for. The company has not, however, ruled out such a slot for future devices.
While you can't purchase tracks from iTunes, the Pre works with the Amazon MP3 Store, from which you can download songs over the air using your Amazon account. The iPhone 3G allows you download songs wirelessly over Wi-Fi and 3G, but you can only download songs with the US version of the Pre via Wi-Fi. We bought a couple of tracks off the Amazon MP3 Store from the Pre and each song was downloaded within a couple of seconds over Wi-Fi. Once connected to our PC, we selected the USB drive option and found our downloaded tracks in the 'Amazon MP3' folder.