The Good: Google Services integration, 16GB on-board memory
The Bad: Lack of a dedicated menu key, lack of virtual keyboard is disappointing, no central location for settings
The Verdict: After a few days of using this WebOS device there are several things I like and several that I don't, stay tuned for the full review in a few days.
The first thing you need to know before you delve any further into this first impression (and do remember that it is just that) is that this is my first experience with webOS. I have owned Palms in the past with both PalmOS and Windows Mobile, but it has been a good while since I've picked up any sort of Palm-branded device. That being said, the good news is you'll get a true first impression just as if I were an everyday consumer looking for a new phone.
When I received this phone, the first thing I did was open a little window on my computer to start making a list of likes and dislikes. The list got long pretty quickly and the "pro's" side seemed a bit bare, of course this was only the first few hours. Fortunately or unfortunately, I managed to accidentally delete that list and truth be told, I think it was for the better. My initial dislikes turned out to be frustrations with setting up an unfamiliar device using an unfamiliar OS more than anything else.
The AT&T branded Palm Pre Plus comes with everything you'd expect most smart phones to come with: earphones, a USB to micro-USB cable which doubles as a phone charger when plugged into the a/c adapter, a cute little pouch for holding the device (which is somewhat impractical since it's near impossible to retrieve from your pocket despite cat-like reflexes) which comes stock with the most wonderful new-car smell (I seriously found myself sniffing away on more than one occasion!), a battery, the phone, a sim-card if you got it brand new, and a touchstone charger (for a limited time only).
I've been using the Pre Plus in the metro Atlanta area for a few days now and for the most part have had excellent signal throughout. I've made several calls and the reception has been good on both ends. I paired the device with the Bluetooth functionality in my car and had immediate success initiating and receiving calls. In terms of 3G coverage, the area that I live in seems to fair well as I've managed to achieve between three and five bars out of a possible five for the majority of my testing. When attempting to access the PhoneDog website with full 3G coverage, I was able to do so in about 18 seconds while the mobile site loaded in about 11 seconds. When accessing the same sites on the Pre Plus, via WiFi, the main PhoneDog site fully rendered in 11 seconds and the mobile site loaded in 5 seconds. That's not half bad.
The Palm Pre Plus has a 3.1-inch 320x480 HVGA capacitive multitouch enabled display which (in my opinion) is a bit small for a touchscreen device based on today's standards. The screen was pretty responsive, but not necessarily as fast as I'd like it to have been. There's a dedicated volume rocker on the left hand side of the device and on the right sits the micro-USB port. At the top of the phone there's a 3.5mm headphone jack , the power button which turns off and "wakes up" the screen, and turns the phone completely off when held down for an extended period of time. Also on the top sits a dedicated ringer switch, which as I recall is somewhat of a trademark for Palm devices and switches your phone between sound and mute/silent. On the back of the phone is the speaker (for speakerphone and media playback), a 3MP camera and LED flash. At the bottom of the phone is the "gesture area" which allows you to swipe your finger from right to left to go back to a previous screen or from bottom to top (of the gesture area) to make the current screen into a card, which means the page is still active but you can choose to open a new page or flick it off the screen to get rid of it. Tapping on the gesture area when you are in full page view has the same functionality as swiping up, making your page into a card (I found this to be much simpler than swiping up).
You're probably aware that this phone has a full QWERTY slider keyboard. To be honest, I didn't really love the keyboard, for several reasons. First, when sliding the keyboard out with an active screen, your finger is bound to touch something on the screen that you probably would have preferred not to be activated. This is the point at which I wished there was a virtual keyboard or some other way to slide out the keyboard other than touching the screen. Additionally, when typing on the keyboard - particularly at the top row - I found that my thumbs would often butt up against the bottom of the phone (which is positioned right above the top row of keys), making it more difficult to type accurately and less comfortable.
The other thing I noticed that seemed to be missing from the keyboard was a dedicated menu key. I often found myself within various applications thinking it would be useful and almost necessary. Additionally, making matters worse, there seems to be no central location for settings. In most devices I've used, if you need to make a change to a core setting there's usually one place you can go for options or settings to make the changes you need.
Overall, while I don't think this would be my personal first choice of devices, for people that are looking for a mid-range phone with 3G capability, a full QWERTY keyboard along with a touchscreen, it manages to perform pretty well. As I mentioned, I've only had the phone for a few days and have yet to run the full gamut of tests, so check back in a few days for the full review and to see if I've changed my mind.
Update: Thanks to those who informed me that there is actually a dedicated menu option. It's not a key on the QWERTY keyboard apparently, but a specific way of gesturing upward in the gesture area and then dragging your finger over to an arrow on the far right of the screen. More on this to come in the full review!