HP/Palm’s WebOS – A couple months in…

I purchased a Palm Pre Plus a couple months ago for free* (*AT&T’s definition of free which is actually about $20 usually followed with paying much more a month).   So my somewhat vague, somewhat specific requirements:

  1. I wanted it to be “free”, so I purchased it knowing they might not back-port the newer WebOS that was going to launch in a few months (on the Veer for instance).  This was therefore accepted as a limitation.
  2. I purchased it because I wanted a phone that was relatively open and not locked down.  I don’t have time to “root” devices that I purchased.   (I was really hoping for a MeeGo phone)
  3. I never wanted to *have* to put contacts in my phone directly again.  (I wanted sync with web services)
  4. I wanted a keyboard.

Did the HP/Palm WebOS on a Palm Pre Plus deliver?

  1. This has nothing to do with HP really… Watch out for AT&T, sometimes they say it needs a data plan other times they don’t.  Oh, and it completely depends on who you talk to on the phone as well.  Great.  Made a FCC complaint about it (AT&T claims that they have made phone plans cheaper over the years, but with more than half of their phones requiring a dataplan not so) which may have helped get it resolved faster.  Your mileage may vary.. A lot.
  2. HP/Palm really deliver on openness.  It’s NOT completely open source.  However, they support their homebrew community, and be support I mean they have donated servers to them.   All the devices I looked at (haven’t looked at the Veer) ship with the ability to go to developer mode, which really does mean typing in “upupdowndownleftrightleftrightbastart”.  Which is just awesome.. The homebrew site even has (unsupported by Palm) instructions on how to upgrade a WebOS 1.4.5 device to WebOS 2.1 (the veer os).
    Part of the homebrew community is patches to change functionality.  About 500 of them or so, for instance changing how the date displays, adding alarm options, and a lot more.
    Oh, and Ubuntu is a supported developer environment
  3. Syncs perfectly with Google’s servers for contacts/calendar/mail and likely more that I don’t use.   (On a related note, Google Voice goes into “phone” mode in the web browser but I haven’t actually tried it.
  4. The keyboard is nice and easy to type on.  I just open the phone and start typing and it will automatically find a contact or give me the option to search google or wikipedia.

It really does deliver on my expectations, in fact in many areas it exceeds.  How the built-in keyboard really allows you to find what you are looking for faster is one of the features that really surprised me.   (It also surprised me just how slow this really is on other phones).

Where does it fall short?

I wish it supported more audio/video codes and maybe WebM too.  It has gstreamer underneath and some homebrew people have added support for some formats, but none that I want… yet. Too be fair about WebM, it wasn’t out when this phone was released.  The youtube app works flawlessly though…  (It doesn’t support flash, but I know the newer version does)

More chat networks in the built-in app.  You can add others by apps, but all I am asking for is Jabber :/.   Under the hood it’s using libpurple (pidgin’s im system) so again should be do able.

Needs more market share.  Some apps aren’t available for it, some websites fall back to a non-mobile browser.  However the browser can handle most pages fine.  If you were thinking about getting a MeeGo phone why not get a next gen Palm instead? I would love to see it become the true third contender in the smartphone market.

Finally, many of these issues may have been fixed in the latest release…  and the homebrew community does seem to be making the shift.  It would be really nice if HP/Palm would create an official way to switch, but if not, they’ve empowered the homebrew community to help me do it myself.

Oh, and best of all, it feels like it’s actually designed for the palm of your hand.