Palm's Web OS could easily be the winning smartphone platform, if only...

I was one of the first of the public to own a Palm Pre. I got up early and was at the local Sprint store a couple hours before they opened so I was sure to get one. But within a week, I returned it, a little disappointed. It wasn't the first time I returned a phone. I am on my 26th phone now, if that explains anything. It's simple: I don't have much tolerance for mediocre devices. I gave up on the Palm Pre for two main reasons: the sub-par keyboard amd the lack of any decent 3rd party applications.

Having had recent stints with an iPhone 3G S, the HTC Droid Eris, and now the Blackberry Tour, I am missing my Palm Pre more than ever. I just really liked Web OS. It's too bad the keyboard was so terrible, and there were no apps because Palm didn't release their SDK to more than a handful of developers. And back on the hardware front, now with the Palm Pixi, I hear Palm cut back on the stuff under the hood to release a less-than-perfect experience of their new OS - in my opinion, not their best move ever, despite the reports that the Pixi has a better keyboard.

So how long will it take for Palm to come up with something with a little bigger keyboard and powerful hardware that will work on anything other than Sprint? And the bigger question: when will Palm get their act in gear and really start pushing developers to make apps for the Web OS platform? With the way Palm engineered the platform, apps for Web OS should be easier to build than the same apps on either the iPhone or Android platforms, since it doesn't require much in terms of a learning curve. And yet, Palm is significantly trailing the iPhone and Android platforms in terms of available apps.

I'm really hoping Palm has a good reason for taking so long to really release their Web OS SDK. Some might argue that Palm is past the point of being able to compete with app libraries like the iPhone's or Android's. But it's really time they get the thing out there, doing whatever they need to do to get developers to start developing for their platform, even if it takes cash incentives for creating great apps.

I really hope Palm can start pushing forward in both the hardware area and the 3rd party developer market. Web OS is pretty innovative. I just hope Palm can start moving so they can get some significant traction before their lunch gets eaten by somebody else who understands you've got to have it all together to really start selling devices.

The Droid Eris is a failure

I'm a phone fanatic and everybody knows it. I am constantly in search of the perfect phone. So when I heard about the new Verizon Android phones, I was pretty excited. I even got up early yesterday (9 AM) to go pick one up. I had a T-Mobile G1 back in the day (on AT&T, of course), and it wasn't my favorite device in the world. Android just wasn't ready for primetime, so I had hoped the time between the G1 and the Droid Eris would be sufficient enough to get Android to the place it should be. Some may disagree with me, but while I think Android is definitely better than it's V1 release, I still don't think it's quite there. Read on...


The main reason I went with the Droid Eris over the Motorola Droid was for HTC's Sense UI. I strongly dislike Android's default skin, and it was a big enough factor for me to opt for the lower end Eris.

I have three big problems with this phone: the lag, the input methods, the choppy scrolling, and then the capacitive touch buttons.

Input Methods

Obviously the ability to input data into a mobile device is the most important function on a phone, besides maybe receiving signal (*cough* iPhone *cough*). This phone holds 2nd place in worst device input methods, the absolute worst being the HTC Touch Cruise. Although the Droid Eris has a convenient T9 input method (which I personally love), the lag makes it unbearable, as it takes too long to load in new suggested words. The on-screen QWERTY keyboard doesn't work either, because the keys are just too small (the device is smaller than the iPhone). I just can't type on this thing for beans.

Choppy Scrolling

This killed me on the G1, and it hasn't changed on the Droid Eris. The scrolling sucks. It sputters and stalls, and is horribly laggy. Sure, say it's the phone itself and not Android, but it doesn't really matter. IT DOESN'T WORK. HTC should have worked this out some way before releasing a device with sub-par functionality.

Capacitive Touch Buttons

I have had nothing but trouble with the touch buttons toward the bottom of the device. If I tap directly on them, they do nothing. It's like I have to tap on the top border of the icons to get them to react. It's really hit or miss for me. Sometimes I get them to work. Usually it takes two or three tries.

Simple Things

The simple things are really what killed it for me on this device. Things like, adding contact to a text message and trying to dial a contact were more than challenging. There are complicated menus and buttons you have to push - it made me think about steps I shouldn't have to think about. Right out of the box, it should just work. I shouldn't have to go download anything from the Android Marketplace to make my device work. Even reading new notifications is harder than it should be. To unlock the phone, you have to swipe down on the screen. Then to view notifications, you have to swipe down from the top of the device. This whole process requires two downward swipes. Why not one up and one down? It's the little things that really kill this device in my mind.

I really wanted to love this device. I want to love every device I get. But unfortunately, this one has let me down. When it gets to the point where I end up giving up typing a text message or posting on Facebook or Twitter from the device because I get so frustrated with its lag and input methods, you know the device is a failure. And no, I'm not getting a Moto Droid. I hate the keyboard.

Good try, HTC, but try again. It doesn't matter how pretty you make a device. If I can't do the simple things quickly and easily, you have failed.

Back to Blackberry I go...

My thoughts on the Peek Pronto

I am a light phone talker. If you look at my call history, you'll see maybe one or two calls a day, if that. My bread and butter is email and texting, so I thought I might try out the Peek Pronto, a device that claims to do those two things and those two things only. And with no monthly service fee (with a higher purchase price), it sounded like a killer deal to me. I even ended up using credit card reward points to purchase the device, so I was out of pocket nothing. So how did I like the Peek Pronto? Did it change my non-verbal telecommunications world? Keep reading...

I really had high hopes for the Peek Pronto. With claims of email and sms, as well as social networking capabilities, this sounded like the perfect device for me - just the thing it would take to let my cell phone collect dust at home. But while the concept was great, the implementation was terrible. Here are a few main points:

The Device Itself

The Peek Pronto is an email device. Plain and simple. It's really not made to be anything more. And fortunately, it sucks at that too. The only way to navigate is through the scroll/click wheel on the right side of the device (think Blackberry). There are no front-facing navigation controls. This required me to always keep re-adjusting the device so I could hit the controls. The click wheel was also too hard to press. It took a lot of effort to press in accurately. But probably the worst part for me was the keyboard. It made a very loud clicking noise for every key press as opposed to a softer click from a more padded control under the surface. The keyboard buttons were also too hard to press. Trying to punch out a message was archaic. I'll give it one thing, though: the device was sturdy. I'm pretty sure you could drop the thing from a 2-story building and it would still work.


The way the Peek Pronto displayed email was nothing special. The font was too big (no option to make it smaller) and very Blackberry-esqe (think 2004). Scrolling line by line was unbearable too. No HTML email viewing and of course no way to click links in emails because there is no built-in browser. Email also got pushed to my device consistently slower than it got pushed to my iPhone.


Although the Peek claims it support SMS, it really doesn't. You can send a text message from the device to a regular phone number, but it comes through from a standard 10-digit phone number that you have to reply to before the session ends. You can't save the phone number the message came from as being from your contact, because if you've never received a text from the Peek before, or outside of a limited period of time, the text won't go through. This right here is a deal breaker. There is no way I'm going to explain to my friends that you can't save the phone number that I texted you from because it's not me. Oh, and Peek attaches a "Sent with Peek" message in the footer of every text. I'm sorry, but no.

In my head, when I heard the Peek Pronto supported text messaging, I kind of figured the phone sent the text via an email address to the phone's email address based upon what carrier the cell phone was on. For example, I send a "text" from <myusername> and sends to <7141234567> (all carriers support this). That way, recipients would at least know to save (and could reply to) the email address.

Unfortunately the method that Peek uses is the worst method possible.

And don't even get me started on the social networking integration.

Setup Process

For a device that is supposed to highlight simplicity, even the setup process failed. Sure, it would have been nice and simple if it worked, but my setup wasn't. I think the device is supposed to instantly work as soon as you power it on, but I was told to go to the website to register it. But when I tried to register it, it told me to call customer service. Once I got on the phone with the customer service rep, she said the 1-year prepaid plan I ordered with the device didn't attach itself for some reason, and that she would have to send an email to the billing department. I asked if I could just be transferred, and she told me she was in Arizona and the billing department was in New York and "didn't have phones" because they're an email company, "like the Peek." I'm sorry, what?? Even when I asked if I could be transferred, there was instantly an attitude in her voice. From her voice, it sounded like she was from Atlanta.

Anyway, she told me she'd call by Friday, two days later, a length of time that seemed unreasonable for activating a simple email device.

Having struck out here, I decided to try tweeting @peekinc. An hour later, my device was working and a couple hours later, I received a follow-up call by someone else making sure my device was working. I think she was from the billing department. I though they didn't have phones.

A couple hours after that, I got an @reply on Twitter from @peekinc, confirming that I was up and running. To their credit, they probably looked up my Peek account from my name that displays on Twitter, which I was mildly impressed with, given that most customer service reps would probably ask for a name rather than fact checking for themselves.


Like I said at the beginning, I really had high hopes for the Peek Pronto. I wanted to love it so much that I could use it for all my email and sms, and maybe even switch my current phone plan to a prepaid plan. But unfortunately, it's implementation is less than perfect. I don't even think this is a good device for small businesses that want an affordable way to load up their employees with email-only devices. I will definitely be returning the thing. I will keep my eyes open for a new Peek device - maybe something more expensive with an implementation that can really blow it's featureset out of the park. I would definitely pay a lot of money for something that could do what this device does well (with little or no monthly fee), but at this point, the Peek Pronto is not a good contender in the marketplace. I kind of expected more from Peek, since this isn't their first offering.

I watched some videos of the CEO presenting the device and talking about it on national news, and he seems like a smart guy. I just really hope that he guides the company in a direction that will product FUNCTIONAL devices, rather than low cost crap devices like the Peek Pronto and the TwitterPeek, which, I don't think I have to tell you, is a device that will go nowhere.

Despite all of this, I'm rooting for you, Peek!