The Palm Pre goes on sale to the general public Saturday, but premier Sprint customers in South Florida get to buy one as early as 6 p.m. tonight at the Pembroke Pines store. [Read more about that here.]
The folks at Sprint invited me for a private hands-on demo of the phone this morning. I sat with Thalas Louissant, a Sprint product ambassador who walked me through how to use it.
I'm usually great with a phone within a minute of holding it. But some of the touch-screen controls are unique and took some getting used to... about 20 minutes of getting used to. I felt like such a clumsy touch-screen newbie! Swipe it this way to close that and swipe it this way to open that menu but wait you can't hold down the icon and swipe or that will just move the window AAAAHHHH.
Thank Heaven for Thalas sitting next to me. I never read instruction books, but this time it really helped to have an in-person guide.
The Palm Pre gives you a short tutorial and 'practice session' of it's unique back feature -- it's not a back button, but rather a special place on the bottom of the phone to slide your finger to go backward.
It takes getting used to, but within 20 minutes I was whizzing through the controls... still making a few mistakes in how I didn't press the screen just right, but I walked away feeling pretty comfortable with it.
And I strongly suggest spending time with someone like Thalas if you decide to buy a Palm Pre. Sprint offers a free lesson in how to use the phone, and earning a Palm Pre degree from her probably saved me an extra hour of getting cranky learning the controls on my own.
Oh, and one more thing that the male tech reviewers probably won't go into: You ladies with long nails, have no fear! Thalas used it without any problems and she has some serious nails. You have to use your actual fingertip to use the touch screen -- you can't use your nail tip or a stylus -- but she was flying through it without hesitation, using the side of her finger.
It's hard to give you a full review of the experience when I only got to play with it for a little while. The keyboard was a little cramped but not too shabby. I'll just have to give you a more in-depth review when I do finally get a Palm Pre to take home and test out. Although Sprint was nice to show me the phone, it seems Palm felt it didn't need the extra publicity to send me an early review sample.
I realize that sounds bitter, but I only say that because, well, I can't help but wonder if Palm needs to step up its marketing game. When I was chatting with my roommate last night about covering the Palm Pre launch, she said to me: "Palm Pre? What's that?"
I replied, "It's the new smartphone from Palm."
"Palm, as in Palm Pilot," I said.
"Oh wow. Didn't know they were still around," she said.
What do you think? Are the only folks who know about the Pre launch are the ones who keep up-to-date with tech news? As of this afternoon there was no line forming outside the Pembroke Pines Sprint store. And I haven't heard reports of any lines at any other stores in this area. Of course it is still early, and I'm sure there will be lines forming tonight. Sprint tells me they got a few calls from customers asking if they can camp outside the store overnight.
Only time will tell if the Pre will put Palm back in the spotlight.