I’ve had my Palm Pre Plus for a little over a month now. I wrote up my initial impressions after having it for a week. Overall, I love it except for Outlook sync.
My major problem with the Pre is due to its lack of a built-in sync with a standalone/desktop copy of Outlook. If you don’t use Outlook, or use it on an Exchange server, you might not have these problems. I tested PocketMirror, CompanionLink, Go Contacts Sync, gSyncIt, Google Calendar Sync, and Evernote. Here’s what I’ve ended up with:
Contacts: gSyncIt, via Google (my contacts sync to Gmail, then to the Pre).
Tasks: gSyncIt, via Google.
Calendar: Google Calendar Sync. gSyncIt would probably be fine, but I already had Google Calendar Sync working before I found gSyncIt.
Notes: Evernote. gSyncIt can get my notes into Google Docs, but those don’t sync with the Pre and I don’t want to have to get Internet access just to read or write a note. Also, gSyncIt also brought my Google Docs into my Outlook Notes, which wasn’t good. Most were too big the spreadsheets, were useless.
I initially had trouble getting a bi-directional sync to work. If I added a new contact in Gmail, it sync’d to the Pre, but if I added or deleted a contact on the Pre the change didn’t show up in Gmail. The trick (provided by Palm tech support) was to set up Google as an exchange server (yes, the Pre needs to treat Gmail as a Microsoft Exchange server) using server = m.google.com and domain = google. That’s not ideal — it doesn’t respect the manual mail sync frequency I had set up. It’s also not reliable. For some reason it stopped syncing again after a month and I had to start over.
The Palm tech told me bidirectional sync problems are at the top of their list of things to fix and an upcoming release should make it work through IMAP.
I am not happy to have to rely on the cloud for syncing, but that seems like the best solution — at least for now. I was optimistic about CompanionLink, but it would not sync reliably. I finally got sick of calling their tech support. Plus, it was the most expensive option. I’ve also had some odd experiences with the sync — some events have looked fine in Outlook but have refused to show up in my Google calendar, which means they don’t show up on the Pre, either. I had to delete those events and recreate them. I haven’t figured out why this happened. Fortunately, it hasn’t happened often. But I’m concerned that this could really mess me up some day.
I’m told that syncing wouldn’t be a problem if I was using MS Exchange instead of a desktop installation of Outlook. But I don’t see the need to pay $10/month for Exchange hosting. I’m going to give Chapura and CompanionLink another try when I have time.
I really like the Pre’s user interface. Sometimes it’s slow to respond, but overall it’s easy to use and intuitive once you learn the basic gestures.
I found that MediaMonkey, a free music organizer/player, sync tool that I had used with an older MP3 player, will sync my tunes with the Pre. The trick is to put the Pre in Media Sync mode. You also need to decide whether to use iPod-style folders, which some people seem to hate (I’m not using them). Otherwise, it was pretty straightforward.
I also installed the Music Player (Remix). It has more features and I prefer the interface.
My main complaint at this point is the lack of Flash. The current version of Palm’s WebOS supports Flash and I watched a YouTube video of an Adobe tech demonstrating Flash on a Palm, but it hasn’t been released yet.
Apps & Tweaks
Like other app phones, there’s a growing supply of apps for the Pre, both free and paid. This includes a long list of homebrew apps available outside the app catalog. But even better is that Palm left the system open for developers to tweak. This has proved to be one of my favorite things about the Pre. Tweaks and homebrew apps aren’t for novice users, but if you’re computer savvy and don’t mind some work there’s lots of great stuff out there. So far I’ve installed tweaks to:
- Add new card to the Launcher
- Change the Launcher from 3 icons per row to 4 (a much better use of the screen real estate)
- Keep the screen turned on while charging — very handy when listening to music in the car.
- Allow messaging and email in landscape mode
- Add percent charge remaining to the battery icon
- Charge by default when connected to my computer via USB
- Add additional alarm options
- Turn off alerts during calls
- Add a Delete All option for emails
- Display an icon to show when the ringer switch is turned off
- Add an on-screen keyboard (in addition to the physical keyboard). Handy when working in landscape mode.
The apps I’ve installed include:
- Google Calendar Search
- Pandora (great to have Pandora in the car)
Palm added a video camera feature with the last software upgrade. It can be used to record audio as well, although it doesn’t seem to respond to an external mic. I still wish they’d add voice memos.
Removable/replaceable battery. How do people get by without this? The battery life is better than I’d expected, but I like having the spare just in case.
Multitasking. I can listen to music while syncing data, browsing the web, or downloading an app.