Palm Pre: Good Interface, Few Apps: Page 2

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All the bells and whistles

The product has built-in GPS, as well. It works out of the box with Google Maps to generate turn-by-turn directions.

The 3-megapixel camera with LED flash is a bit of a disappointment. Despite the superior specs, it works about as well as other smartphone cameras—which is to say not very. It’s the usual problem: poor quality, fixed focus, fixed focal length (wide angle) lens.

Connectivity includes a 3.5mm headphone jack, USB port (microUSB jack), built-in Bluetooth 2.1 + EDR with A2DP stereo Bluetooth support, and Wi-Fi 802.11b/g —note: no 11n—with support for all the security protocols.

Wi-Fi: good and bad

As of this writing, Wi-Fi can only be used to access the Internet, with the Pre automatically switching to Wi-Fi for this when it’s in range. You cannot use it to sync with or move documents to and from a local PC. This is unfortunate because it would simplify file transfers. It also limits the testing that can be done of the Wi-Fi function.

Palm tech support told us there might be third-party applications that enable wireless local network connection, but we could find none.

We tested Wi-Fi performance the best way we could, by measuring Internet connection speeds on the Pre over our wireless LAN connected to a Rogers high-speed cable modem. We used the speed test tools at Mobilespeedtest.com, and compared results against performance using Bell’s EVDO 3G cellular network—and a PC on the same Rogers connection.

When testing in the room where our access point is located, the Pre recorded quite respectable download speeds of between 2.83 and 6.8 megabits per second (Mbps) using Wi-Fi. Results on a PC hard-wired to the router: in the 7.5-Mbps range.

When we switched to the Bell 3G network (three to four bars of connectivity), reported speeds dropped to between 128 kilobits per second (Kbps) and 1.18 Mbps.

Results in both cases varied by the size of download file used in the test (the site lets you choose). Since this should not be a factor, it suggests the test procedure may be flawed.

Somewhat surprisingly, Wi-Fi results were similar in a room 20 feet away where reception is usually relatively poor and in another location 35 feet away and one level down through floors and ceilings. This suggests that the Wi-Fi radio is reasonably powerful.

Bottom line

The Pre has a ways to go before it earns its spurs in the highly competitive smartphone derby, but it’s definitely off to the races. The dual interface—touch and QWERTY—is a big benefit. The touch screen interface manages to improve slightly on iPhone. The product has lots of horsepower for running apps. Multimedia features work well.

Wi-Fi performance—to the extent it’s possible to test it—is good. The current inability to use Wi-Fi for anything but Internet access is unfortunate, but we can hope that Palm or some third-party developer will deliver an app in the future that adds that capability.

Article courtesy of Wi-Fi Planet.

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Tags: Google, wireless, iPhone, iphone apps, Palm Pre

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