Eric Stewart: Running Off At The Mouth

The Palm Pre, One Year (almost) Later

by Eric Stewart on Jun.13, 2010, under Cell Phones & Providers, Technology

Yeah it’s been a while since I’ve posted something.  In fact, I have a draft of an article that’s been waiting for pictures for some time.  I haven’t had much to talk about, or at least haven’t had the desire to bore you with it.

So let’s talk about my phone and Sprint.

I’ve had a minor version of the “oreo” effect on my Pre for some time.  I’ve tolerated it, since it’s no big deal.  There are articles out there about how to fix it yourself, if you’re willing to void your warranty.  After several OS upgrades, fights with patches, and general use and tweaking over time (including what I think was a borked theme install), my Pre was useful, but seeming a bit pokey and less polished than I would want it to be.  This is taking into consideration only the OS, and not the physical issues (just scratches on the screen from me not taking proper care to keep it safe).

The latest thing to go wrong physically was the power button.  Not a fatal flaw, but damned annoying, since the only way to get the phone on at that point is to slide it open (something you only need to do normally if you want to use the keyboard).  If fully powered off, charging it would get it to power on.

So I checked out to find stores near me and found the closest “repair” store.  I went in, commented on the oreo effect but indicated the primary reason for me being there was the power button.  What could have been a ten-minute fix had they had spare buttons ended up being a “next day” replacement phone.

Let me say that again.  Sprint has replaced my Pre because they were out of power buttons.

Pictures and music and most other “flash” data on the phone you should back up from time to time.  It’s unlikely that Sprint will transfer that for you (and it could take quite some time depending on how much you have on the phone).  However, App Catalog apps and most settings will be transferred (including, surprisingly, some settings only available through Preware patches).  Any applications you installed via Preware (and Preware itself) won’t be.

So, you’ll end up with what would best be described as a new phone, out of the box, but “slightly” personalized.

For me, I went ahead and went through the process of getting Preware back onto the device.  I was considering doing the bare minimum (patch-wise, anyway) to get my phone to a tolerable state.  This still involved 15 patches.  For a little while I was even fine not including a theme in the deal, but eventually I went ahead and installed the Original Blue Theme – and was quite surprised, as either it’s gone under heavy updating, or the install on my old Pre was quite munged, as it’s now looking quite stylin’!  It even feels a bit snappier than it had been.

All this leads me to suggest some advice to those of you that are using your Palm Pres but feel that it isn’t as good as it once was, or should be:

It used to be (and I’m sure for some geeks, still is) that I would rebuild my Windows computer every so often, wiping the drive and putting a fresh install on it, even if this did not involve a new version of Windows.  As it is with computers, so it could be with your phone.  Back up everything, going as far as to write down what applications you might have installed via Preware.  Get all your passwords for your accounts squared away (and possibly research what it might require to reactivate your phone), and when you’re sufficiently prepared, use the WebOS Doctor to wipe your Pre and start from scratch (one alternative that *might* be just short of using the Doctor is to use Jason Robitaille’s WebOS Repair Utility, but I would suggest doing what you can to uninstall all patches, themes, and maybe even Preware apps before doing so if you want to get your Pre as close to “out of the box” with the Repair Utility – in my experience, the longer you’ve gone with your phone between first power on, Preware tweaking, and the Repair Utility, the more likely you are to run into some weird left over file from the time before Preware was really good at tracking patch changes).  Then just go through the process of making sure the phone is up to date, install Preware (I suggest using Robitaille’s WebOS Quick Install to do so).  Install your patches and apps and maybe even a theme, and you should be good to go.

Smart phones are getting to be more like computers every day.  In fact, they really are just mini-computers, and if you muck with them as much as you can muck with WebOS, they might just benefit from the occasional wipe-and-reinstall as Windows (does) used to.

Now, I know this is a long article and this next section might just seem like it belongs elsewhere, but it is a bit related … see, it took them 30-45 minutes to find my new phone in the shipping boxes, so while I waited, I got to play with the HTC Evo, the “first 4G phone available.”  This is an Android powered device, and I will admit to not having touched an Android phone before.  Here’s a quick sequence of thoughts on this phone, in no particular order:

  • It’s huge!
  • Two cameras (one front, one back)!
  • No physical keyboard
  • Virtual keyboard actually quite accurate for me – better than my trials with the iPhone
  • Smooth, no hesitations (though I think my display model rebooted on me once)
  • MicroHD capable of 32GB storage – WANT
  • 4G Capable!
  • Tampa is not yet a 4G town – later this summer, though!
  • OS mechanics sufficiently different from WebOS to trip you up when you try to move around the apps and such
  • Honestly, I if was at the end of my Sprint contract, I’d go with it …
  • … in spite of the extra $10 a month Sprint charges for the privilege (which is still cheaper per month than AT&T and Verizon for similar plans)

So that pretty much covers a couple of recent visits to the Sprint store.  Ready to get a new phone and want a really nice smart phone but don’t want to deal with AT&T (especially now that they don’t have an “unlimited” plan)?  As much as I like WebOS, until they’ve gotten a new version of the phone out and it can compare, I think Sprint’s flagship phone is going to be the Evo.  Willing to pay $40 more a month?  Remember the $10 Evo/4G surcharge, and tack on another $30 for the ability to tether via WiFi with Sprint’s blessing.  Were Sprint’s network on par with Verizon’s, I’d say the iPhone would be wise to take note of the Evo …

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