Palm Pre gets thumbs up in media reviews

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The Pre smartphone from Palm Inc received mostly positive reviews and predictions it will be a tough competitor to Apple Inc’s iPhone, sending Palm’s shares up more than 10 percent.

The new Palm Pre cellular phone can be seen in New York June 3, 2009. The Pre smartphone from Palm Inc received mostly positive reviews and predictions it will be a tough competitor to Apple Inc's iPhone. Picture taken June 3, 2009. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

The device -- due to go on sale at No. 3 U.S. mobile service Sprint Nextel Corp on June 6 -- was praised by several newspapers for its shape, how it combines touchscreen controls with a physical keyboard and its ability to run several applications all at once, unlike iPhone.

Sprint will have exclusive U.S. rights to sell the phone at least until the end of 2009. Its rivals Verizon Wireless, a venture of Verizon Communications Inc and Vodafone Group Plc and AT&T Inc have also said they want to carry Pre.

Gripes included concerns about battery life and a thin supply of applications, which were a key to the success of today’s iPhone. Some analysts have said the reviews of the phone would make a big difference to sales.

Wall Street Journal reviewer Walt Mossberg noted that Pre will meet some tough competition from a new iPhone expected to be announced next week and available in about a month.

“I consider the Pre to be potentially the strongest rival to iPhone to date, provided it attracts lots of third-party apps, which it sorely lacks at launch,” Mossberg said in his review, which appeared online late on Wednesday.

He said Pre’s biggest advantage over iPhone is its inclusion of a keyboard and he also talked about its “beautiful industrial design.”

Related Coverage

Mossberg described Pre’s design as “much better than” the BlackBerry Storm from Research In Motion and G1, which uses Google Inc’s Android system. The Android system is made by HTC Corp and sold by T-Mobile, a unit of Deutsche Telekom AG.

New York Times reviewer David Pogue said Pre had the usual checklist of features for an advanced phone, but put it all together more effectively than rivals.

“The hard part is making it all feel simple and unified -- over all, Palm nailed it,” said Pogue, who also described Pre as “more comfortable as a phone” than iPhone.

And in another dig at Apple, Pogue also said that, while the keyboard had “Thumbelina-size keys” the Pre’s surface material made “it faster and less frustrating than typing on glass.”

But Pogue said “iPhone is not going away” and he had some complaints about Pre he said needed to be fixed.

He described battery life as “the Pre’s heartbreaker” as the device needed recharging “by late afternoon or dinner time.” But unlike iPhone, Pre’s battery is easy to swap out.

Pogue also said that opening certain programs can be very slow, “sometimes eight or nine seconds” and bemoaned the fact there was no progress bar or hourglass to let you know its still working.”

Palm shares were up $1.25, or 10 percent, in afternoon trade on Nasdaq at $13.74. Palm’s shares had already almost quadrupled since the phone was first unveiled on January 8.

Sprint shares were up 14 cents, or almost 3 percent, at $4.99 on New York Stock Exchange.

Reporting by Sinead Carew; Editing by Derek Caney; Editing by Andre Grenon