Just months after quietly launching the Palm Pre 2, today HP unveiled three new Palm devices in three new form factors. Whatever Apple has planned for this summer, it had better be good; Palm has just put the Cupertino design legacy to shame. Here's how.
Small Devices
How big are smartphone screens going to get before we all take up sledding on them? Big screens are nice if you're never near a computer. But for those of us who are usually in range of a PC, tablet or car nav system, a smaller smartphone would be nice. Palm nailed it with the tiny Veer coming out this spring. They also nailed our prediction that someone would start shrinking smartphones to get the, ahem, sexy back.
Device Agnostic
Hey, Apple: we're becoming device agnostic. As consumers store more stuff in the cloud, and use cloud-based phone services like Google Voice, Skype, and Verizon's rumored VoLTE system, it means we're no longer chained to a single device for calls, texts, and mobile Internet. Making just one screen size doesn't make sense; everything between an AppleTV and an iPod Shuffle should run apps and take calls. Palm has smartly offered five different form factors, if you include the Pre 2 and the Pixi Plus; that's better than the two that Apple makes.
No one is fooled by iOS multitasking. While Palm lets you shuffle between apps using a "card" metaphor, and allowing you to group together running apps, Apple hangs on to its antiquated credo that "Only one application is visible in the foreground at a time."
Just Type
Using devices together should have some kind of bonus. But there's no reward for having iPhone and iPad--it's good that iPad and Apple TV can talk over AirPlay, but iPad and iPhone can't. Other OEMs offer this, though; Samsung allows you to stream video from your Samsung Galaxy Android phone directly to your Samsung TV, for example.
Palm lets you "tap" one device against another to transfer files and URLs. While we're not totally comfortable with beating our handhelds together like cymbals, we appreciate the effort to make sharing between devices easier.
Anyone who uses an iOS device for work will tell you it really sucks that iOS devices can't display Flash--especially on the iPad, which could otherwise be a complete netbook replacement. HP has wisely included Flash, making it possible to view a lot of "desktop grade" websites and embedded videos that Apple devices can't. (Sure, Flash is a processor and memory hog. But with a 1.4GHz chip and 512MB of RAM, the new Palm devices have resources to spare.)
Tap and Hold
Tap-and-hold should do something on a smartphone. As in Android, tapping and holding items in webOS allows you to drag items too and fro (like Cards, pictured here, during multitasking.) Unfortunately, most iOS apps (including Apple's) seem to have forgotten that the Macintosh pioneered drag and drop; users rarely have opportunity to drag anything around in iOS. Except those jiggling Home Screen icons.
Palm also knows it's more polite to notify people of new messages without stopping them dead in their tracks. In webOS, notifications pile up at the bottom of the screen, where you can swipe them away (while still leaving those messages unread). In iOS, every new Push notification or SMS message stops you cold with a pop-up message. This is especially absurd on the iPad, where a tiny little text message can paralyze the whole screen with a pop-up.

What HP/Palm Got Right (That Apple Didn't)

Three new HP/Palm devices were announced today. Apple's iOS devices suddenly look awfully tone-deaf.

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