NOTE: This was from my old A&L Enterprises blog – but I thought it was interesting…
This is my farewell post to Palm – as I finally have entered the Android world with my purchase of an Evo 4G. My latest palm phone was a Palm Pre – using Palm’s new WebOS. Frankly the WebOS was a fascinating OS with some features that I still miss (the notifications and the card motif are wonderful). The poor hardware and the lack of apps was what pushed me over the edge into the Android world – from a very long history with Palm based products. I was on Sprint -with the original Palm Pre – that was very slow and the screen was behind the times. I had the phone repaired once and on the day I bought my EVO the speaker broke again (tried to call someone and I couldn’t hear anything). The final nail in the coffin was that the promised os upgrade (with flash support) wasn’t coming and Sprint wasn’t offering the new devices.
My history with Palm devices goes way back – well before they had anything to do with a phone – when they were just a PDA. I remember watching the Palm devices with envy – desiring the concept of getting organized. I believe my first Palm device was actually a Handspring Visor Deluxe (in my favorite color of blue). Handspring was a competitor to the original Palm company – at the time owned by 3com (anyone remember U.S. Robotics – a modem company who bought the original Palm?). The Handspring devices had an expansion slot at the top of their devices where you could add items like cameras, gps – even a phone. I remember getting this device with joy – as it provided you the ability to have a digital calendar (the Handspring Calendar is still one of the best I’ve had – Google Calendar is still lacking things), notes, etc. What was innovative in general about the Palm devices was the Graffiti entry system. You used a stylus (as I write this it sounds so last century) to write characters in an area at the bottom of the screen. I remember liking it as it would turn my scribbles into actual words (which the pen doesn’t do as well). Therefore you could “write” out your calendar entries, enter to-dos, take notes, etc. without a keyboard.
That was my first “Palm” device – which I paid about $200 for back in 2001 (about 10 years ago which tells you how fast technology moves). I actually tried to use it as a phone back then – using a phone module and a“Voicestream” wireless plan (the plan allowed only 60 minutes a month). In July of 2002 I upgraded to a Visor Edge (for about $150). This was a thin, metallic PDA with a later version of the operating system. I managed to make it just over a year before upgrading which I now realize mirrors how often I upgrade technology (and empty my bank account). This model also had an internal battery instead of using a bunch of AAA batteries. Of course back then the black and white screen and no connectivity meant that the battery lasted for days – instead of hours. I also remember that one of the best features of the Palm was the backup and restore feature – so transferring from the Visor Deluxe to the Visor Edge was easy. The default desktop software would backup your data, apps, etc. every time you synced it. So if you upgraded devices or lost your data it was very easy to get everything back.
At some point I abandoned using the Visor as a phone and my family started using a sprint phone (yes – one phone for both my wife and I). I remember that thing being this big, black brick – that even worked on “analog” networks (which practically nobody remembers anymore). I think after that thing got run over both my wife and I got Sprint phones of our own (we we’re big spenders then – 2 phones). But then my pent-up need to upgrade took over and I bought a Treo 180g and switched to T-mobile. This was my first “smartphone” (actually one of the first smartphones ever). It was an interesting phone – in that it had this flip-up “cover” that contained the speaker. It was like most “Palms” – in that it had the Grafitti area, the buttons and especially the software. One of the early compelling features of the original Palm OS was the apps – long before Apple’s app store I was buying/downloading apps for my Palm devices. As I upgraded I was able to keep these apps, my calendar entries, etc. I made it a total of 8 months between buying the Visor Edge and the Treo 180g.
The problem with that phone was that it wasn’t well built – the flip-up concept had an issue where the wires running to the speaker (the one you hear people on) would wear out. Therefore I think (from looking at my e-mail history) that I ended up buying a few of these phones. I also remember the Grafitti area ended also wearing out – from so much use. I think therefore I ended up buying another version that had the keyboard – which in a way was the end of an era – as the “Grafitti” concept was one of the key features of the Palm OS. The good thing was that along this journey I was able to upgrade/replace devices while keeping my data (Calendar, notes, etc.) and my applications.
I liked my phones but the T-mobile service wasn’t the best and my wife really wanted to go back to Sprint. So my next device was a Palm Centro – a Palm branded phone for the Sprint network. So in 2007 I again switched to another Palm Phone – this time with a color screen! At that time the Palm Centro was not my first choice – as it was a lower end phone – vs. the higher end Treo lines. It was truly a Palm – so my apps and data were again transferred to the new device. The Centro actually had a pretty good keyboard on it for it’s size – very usable (using your thumbs). The screen, while color, wasn’t too spectacular -as it was basically the same lower resolution screen – but in color. This was when the Palm OS was really starting to show it’s age – not as advanced as some of the alternative phones. Despite the fact it had a web browser and e-mail it did have good battery life – something I’ve missed. It also had a great signal – so it worked very well as a phone (something that doesn’t seem as important now). Overall it wasn’t a bad phone – just a bit behind the times.
So now we get to my last Palm Device – the Palm Pre. In some ways this wasn’t a Palm Phone – as it wasn’t based on the Palm OS – but on Web OS. Originally I thought I could run my old apps on the phone – but found out later it required an emulator for more money (so I never moved them over). At this point I switched to Gmail for my e-mail, contact, calendar, etc. (see this post on that journey) – one of the best choices I ever made – and worked wonderfully on the Pre. I remember how much time I spend deleting e-mails from the Centro – on top of deleting them from the e-mail account itself. The Palm Pre also had a good web browser (based on Webkit) that was a world of difference from the rudimentary one on the Centro.
In many ways the Palm Pre was a wonderful device – one I had a lot of hope in. I think one of the best features was the “card” interaction. You could every easily and intuitively switch from one app to another by flipping through the apps like a deck of cards. If you wanted to close an app you flipped it away – just like a deck of cards. The notifications in WebOS were also great – showing up at the bottom of the screen in any app you are in (unlike Android which shows then on the home screen). For text messages that could be great – as you could see the message without the need to switch out of the app.
Ultimately for me I decided to move to Android as I was disappointed by both the hardware and the lack of apps. I remember seeing over and over information about an app – but for iPhone and Android only. I do believe that implementing WebOS on an tablet could be wonderful – provided the hardware is sufficient. The lack of apps will still be an issue – as developers will only develop for so many devices (with Android and iPhone being the most dominant – with Blackberry and the new mobile Windows next).
Good Palm History Sites: