Palm’s make-or-break iPhone challenger gets rave reviews

Palm Pre Smartphone

The Consumer Electronics Show held in Las Vegas last week saw a host of exciting new products launched, but none were bigger than the new smart phone from Palm, called the Palm Pre.

Not only did the Pre win the award for the best new smartphone at the show, but it also captured the “best in show” award for the entire convention, and the “people’s choice” award from technology website CNet.

While most journalists had only limited opportunity to test the device, the early reviews of the Pre, which is set to go on sale in the United States in the first half of the year, have been very positive. TechRadar even described some parts of the Pre as being better than the iPhone.

“The touchscreen is as good, if not better, than the iPhone’s, and also adds in the gesture recognition via a small bar at the bottom, with LEDs that light up and fade away to your touch.

“This not only allows you to navigate through web pages and applications by swiping, but also a firm press, hold and drag brings up a customisable applications bar on to the screen. Nice.”

Palm’s new web-based operating system that will run the Pre (which was also unveiled at CES) also drew rave review. PC World called it “one of the silkiest and best-designed smartphone platforms we’ve seen in a while”.

The biggest breakthrough offered by the operating system is the ability to switch from one application to another, just as a computer user can run multiple applications on their desktop.

“All of the menus and switching are done with a grace and simplicity that we rarely see on any device,” writes Engadget. “The user interface outclasses most of its competition on a number of levels, and actually may be quite a bit more revolutionary than the iPhone.”

Palm needs the Pre to be successful. After becoming one of the giants of the technology world in the 1990s with its Palm Pilot organiser, Palm has struggled to keep up with hot products such as Apple’s iPhone and Research in Motion’s BlackBerry range.

The Pre announcement and the enthusiastic reception it received has sparked hopes that Palm can return to its former glories. The company’s shares surged 51.5% on Friday from $US3.30 to $US5 – it’s an over-reaction no doubt, but a signal that investors are starting to believe again.

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