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In just a few days, rumors are that Apple will be showing off the latest Apple iPhone at WWDC 2009, but Palm has stolen away some of their thunder by releasing what some are hailing as the phone that will save Palm from bankruptcy; the Palm Pre.

Not many people may know this but the Palm Pre has been rumored to be under development since back in 2004… but then, Palm was still mucking about with their handheld PDA phones being complacent as they have dominated the arena, being the inventor of the popular Palm PDAs. It took some rough times before the company bucked up and introduced two things: the Palm Pre phone and also the company’s next gen OS, webOS.

Palm Pre

At first glance, the Pre looks like a polished stone, and is quite think too at almost 0.7 inches at the thickest point. However the curvy exterior makes it a comfortable fit for your hands and easy to slip in and out of even the tightest jeans pockets. The phone has 8GB of storage and runs on a Texas Instruments processor and an undisclosed amount of RAM. More importantly, it has capacitive touchscreen, the same technology used in the iPod Touch and iPhone which means it is very responsive to fingers. It is 3.1 inches wide, which means it is a wee bit smaller compared to rival iPhone’s specs. However the resolution is the same and the screen quality is no doubt top notch.

The Pre also comes with 3.2 megapixels of camera goodness equipped with proper flash for taking pictures in low light situations.

WebOS works on a cards system

WebOS

The phone runs on webOS, the new operating system developed by Palm which will conceivably be put on all the future phones and is an important cornerstone for the Pre experience. Early reviews have found it to be robust and refreshing. First off, it works on a ‘cards’ system similar to the Sony Ericsson Xperia X1’s home screens. Each card represents a specific application and you can switch around them simultaneously, meaning the phone is designed from the ground up to be multitask friendly. Palm recommends not opening more than 8 cards at once, as the phone will slowly run out of memory the more cards you open up. However, the experience is smooth and you may feel some lag if you start piling on the apps, similar to what would happen on your desktop computer I suppose.

The touchscreen runs down into the black plastic area, which Palm has dubbed the gesture pad. This area will be used solely as gesture control, meaning you have to memorize some simple one-finger swipes that can accomplish such tasks as switching around cards, closing them, navigating backwards or forwards while viewing webpages, etc. The user interface is smooth and slick, clearly polished for many nights as Palm readies it to compete with the crowded smartphone market dominated by iPhones and Blackberries.

Synergy pulls information from Gmail, Facebook and Google Calendar

One nice thing about Pre is something called Synergy. It is an app that can pull in information from Gmail, Facebook and Google Calendar and integrate all the information into one platform to make it easy for your to manage the information. Unfortunately, you cannot control what type of information gets dumped into your phone or set up filters, as not everybody on Facebook should be imported into your phone just for the sake of it. Unfortunately Synergy in its current iteration does just that and you end up with a lot of superfluous information. The idea is great, but needs some improvements and polish due to these glaring problems.

Palm Pre GUI

The SMS and IM function of the phone has also been integrated together into a cohesive whole. It doesn’t matter whether you are SMSing your friend or IM-ing him on your phone, all the conversations and sent messages are kept as one continuous flow even while you are jumping around from SMS to IM. The result is a nice way to track everything being said. It also syncs with iTunes just fine, although I don’t think Apple will be very pleased with that.

The phone will probably be hitting Malaysian stores unofficially soon, although the quoted price unlocked is near the US$600 mark, meaning it will probably cost upwards of RM3000 when it does arrive. This puts it in a pricing position above that of iPhone, at a time where official contracts with Maxis have been available for months now. For all the revolutionary things Palm put into the Pre, basic economics may be the final hurdle it faces.