Here's one for the iPhone haters: Just ten days into its life, Palm's Pre seems to be doing not as badly as some hoped. There are, of course, some big plusses and minuses to talk about, and it turns out that some of our early Pre predictions were pretty accurate.
Though Palm holds the absolute sales figures very close to its chest, some analysis placed the figures at 50,000 units in the first weekend, and other rumors suggested that the follow-up webOS phone, dubbed Eos, is on hold because those sales aren't quite as strong as expected. There weren't huge queues outside stores for the phone, unlike the iPhone launches.
But 50,000 units in two days is still a strong performance, and Palm and Sprint are calling the launch a success all the same, with Sprint saying it was the fastest-selling Sprint phone ever.
Apps and Hacking
Just a few days ago, the first home-brew apps appeared for the Pre, exploiting a leak of the entire webOS code. They're nothing special, but they indicate there's a good fan base of coders/hackers out there who will be excited about writing real apps when Palm releases the webOS SDK. Consider that someone hacked the Pre so it plays Doom.
Palm even stepped in on an attempt to enable data tethering on the device, noting that Sprint will get angry with Palm since it has no provision for data tethering in the tariff package it has for the Pre. Essentially Palm has asked the guys at Pre Dev Wiki to behave while its exclusivity period with Sprint holds. That seems to be a nicely level-headed move by Palm.
Meanwhile it seems that the company may actually have one-upped Apple in technology to prevent its phone from being unlocked or hacked. New webOS updates will be forced on the Pre—unlike the iPhone, which merely reminds you you can update. Pre users who ignore four installation prompts will get a message after seven days telling them the system is auto-updating. This structure is a much tighter security system, and could prove harder for hackers to beat—though, of course, they're now trying to hack the auto-updater. Whether you see this as a good sign or not depends if you're into cracking your phone's firmware—but at the least, it looks like webOS has some good technical smarts built-in.
We previously called it a potential Achilles heel, and it looks like it is. Apparently there's a fuss in various places on the Internet, including Twitter, with people complaining about the poor power performance of the Pre. This situation may only get worse when the Pre starts getting a serious number of new apps, and people start running games alongside IM clients and the like.
Palm is reportedly working on the issue, and has posted an update for the phone already that's designed to boost the battery performance. Looks like the aftermarket for second Pre batteries may become quite lively.
When you get cutting-edge devices, you get systems that are usually more exposed to flaws than simpler, older tech. It looks like the Pre is falling foul of this issue with some users reporting serious screen cracks that appear without the phone being dropped. The cracks appear to radiate out from the home button, which is pierced through the glass surface. That's stressful, and it could indicate problems with the glass quality, a manufacturing flaw, or a built-in design flaw.
To their credit, it seems Palm and Sprint are taking a very generous stance on this, and the phones are being replaced very swiftly without requiring payment. It's still a situation to watch, though, as it may be one that Palm can't change without a serious Pre redesign—and that's unlikely to happen.
It's clearly still early days for the Pre, and its performance up to now should really be compared with that of the original iPhone in its first few weeks. At that point it was unfamiliar, there was no app store—or even a promise of such—and people were also snarking about its screen and battery life.