First Look at the HP TouchPad

Because of the decision by HP to discontinue development on any WebOS hardware, I was able to get an HP TouchPad tablet for $99.  Because I went to Best Buy, I managed to use Reward Zone points to get the tablet and a sleeve for about $32.

Why buy a discontinued tablet?

I was a Pre user when Palm first released it, by this I mean I was in line super early at the Sprint store to get it right away.  The Pre was a great device and made WebOS something new.  The new method of use in WebOS was interesting for sure.  However when Palm would fix one feature or speed up the device, something else would be left performing worse.

I was excited overall when HP purchased Palm even though I had given up on the Pre by then for an Android device.

On to the TouchPad.  I thought WebOS was perfect for a tablet with true multitasking and other features and that so far seems to be the case in the first day or so of use.

The fire sale price was just the motivation needed to take a crack at it.

What’s the Good?

There are many things I found on the TouchPad that I like a lot and surely there will be more as I dig further into the device.

Multitasking – WebOS allows the TouchPad to truly multitask and run multiple apps together.  The iPad pauses applications when switched to give the appearance of multi-tasking.

Mail – This is one of the apps I found on the Pre to be really easy to use, and the TouchPad continues this.  Combining accounts and simple folder selection with the ability to select favorite folders for even faster access

Search – the “Just Type” feature built in to WebOS where I could type and search across applications, the web, and other web services.  In addition, when visiting a site with a search capability, the tablet prompts you to add the site to the on board search.

Dictionary – being able to edit and customize a dictionary to add commonly used words wasn’t something I expected or thought I would use, but it is really handy.

What’s not so good?

The first thing is a lack of apps.  Sure the support for WebOS and its community will continue, but Im not sure if developers will stick with the OS with no hardware support at present.  Maybe a hardware manufacturer will get behind WebOS and create some future devices, because of the possibilities by both submitted apps and the homebrew community, it would be a shame to see that get abandoned.

Netflix needs a WebOS app.  Being a streaming customer of Netflix I like watching TV shows and movies and have been a bit spoiled by the Netflix app on the iPad.  With the support for flash and the solid video/audio quality on the TouchPad, this would be a very wise move.

Pleasant Surprises

Skype integration out of the box is a great feature.  I also found the fact that I was able to restore settings and features from prior backups of my Palm Pre.  This pulled my email and some other settings in without any work for me.

Add a search was an interesting find.  When you visit a site with a search, it prompts to be added to the search on the device.  For sites used a lot, this is awesome.

Overall I think the TouchPad is a solid device.  Sure the iPad has more apps, but the mail application and true multi-tasking are things the iPad at present does not offer.  Sure I can get mail on both, but the application on the touch pad is just better in my opinion.

There has also been rumor floating around the Internet about Android coming to the TouchPad as a port.  I am not sure I would do it, but the option might be nice.

I feel that HP made a bad decision after just a few months to kill the hardware behind WebOS.  They spent a lot of money on Palm last year and the Pre was a solid phone that just needed some support.  Killing off the hardware and keeping the IP of the OS to support or sell to the highest bidder just seems like a waste of time/money.  Having control of the hardware could have been the best thing going, look at Apple and the iPad, those are selling like hotcakes and have set the bar for tablets.  I wonder what the recent fire sale will do to the cost of tablets by other manufacturers.

As I find other features I like or dislike I will point them out here.  I am curious to see where HP and the community at large take WebOS and hopefully there will be good things yet to come for the operating system, I choose to remain positive at this point.

So I got a Palm Pre

So Saturday I was one of the people who got up earlier than desired to visit my local Sprint store in the hopes of getting a Palm Pre.

I got the Pre and so far it is awesome.  This post is a review of sorts, not every feature is covered here, but the ones I use and have found thus far.

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Note: The Pre speaks Exchange Active Sync, but I haven’t got the Exchange technology to get that working out of the box.  If we ever move that forward so I can add my work account, I will update this post.

First things first, the welcome video and screens the Pre has for waiting out the activation process are nice.  Because the product was launched on Saturday, activations likely took longer than they would take on your average Tuesday afternoon.

I also like the keyboard.  I know it is small, but the idea of a full size fold-out/roll up/etc keyboard is ridiculous.  It isn’t that much smaller than the Treo keyboard although it is recessed a bit, see below.

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I have also seen some reports of sharp edges when the keyboard is open, but haven’t noticed it so much when using the phone.  Sure it isn’t polished and shiny, but the Pre does not need to be that similar to the competition.

Phone calls

Even though the OS has web in its name, the idea is to make calls on the Pre.  I have made a few calls and noticed that the quality is better than my last phone.  The bluetooth supported by the Pre is outstanding with my Jawbone headset.  No dropped calls or choppy calls while using the jawbone.

Multi-touch Multi-tasking

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The touch screen is nice.  No stylus required, just slide your fingers around on the screen to get where you need to go.  Zooming in and out employs a two finger pinch, multi-touch which is a great feature as not all sites on the web are optimized for the screen size, zooming helps with that quite a bit.

Apps

The app catalog is not as impressive as the app store in iTunes, but the device has only been on sale for 5 days or so.  I think the dozen or so apps available today are very well done and the integration of GPS is just plain cool.  There are tons of apps coming when the SDK hits the streets (hopefully soon).  Once the calling card style app or Google Voice app is out for the Pre (assuming they make one) I will be all set. *Hint Hint*

Integration

I am a Google Apps user, for mail and calendar and things like that.  All of these applications pull right into the Pre.  Simply enter the mail information and calendar login and give it a minute to sync and all your calendars and IMAP mail will be there waiting.  Oh and speaking of IMAP, the Pre uses background push which will allow you to go do other things (multitasking remember) and when mail arrives (or on a schedule of your choosing) it is on your Pre.

Update – 6-12-2009

I discovered that the Pre can take screenshots of whatever I happen to be looking at with a simple key press rather ambitious key press.  The grabs are stored in an album in the photo viewer app and the user is not told warned about the screenshot being taken.  I am not sure how useful this will be, but the idea is pretty cool.  Check it out…

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There are also new apps coming just about every other day… it seems this phone is more to my liking the longer I have it.

Consensus

I know that I haven’t looked at every nook cranny and code nugget on the Pre, but other sites have done that and then some.  Over all I like this phone a lot and am looking forward to the things coming in software and surely other things from Palm.  WebOS is excellent so far and will only get better.

Go play with the phone at a Sprint store as they should now have demo units and give it a test.  Although I recommend it highly as my first week with the phone has been stellar, try it and see if it is the phone for you. 

For those of you who remember the 8 bit NES, the Pre even allows use of the Konami code.  Look it up on Bing (or as my wife said this morning, Just Bing It!).

I am glad I got in line to get a Pre and cannot imagine what Mr. Rubinstein and Palm have coming in WebOS.  Keep up the good and excitingly innovative work.