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6/13/09

Appiphilia: Browsing through the Palm Pre App Catalog


LA TIMES ARTICLE

Being the new kid in school can be challenging -- especially if the other kids are way ahead of you in their lessons and achievements.

So is the case with Palm's new Pre smartphone. Particularly in terms of apps, it's hard to compete with the memory of Palm predecessors, who practically invented the notion of apps, let alone the valedictorian -- the iPhone, with more than 50,000 apps available to its users.

The Pre catalog is still in beta, with lots of room to grow -- especially in the gaming category. Right now, a number of categories are already listed, even if there isn't yet a critical mass of apps to fill them without multiple redundancies. And many of the offerings, like the ones reviewed below, have already debuted on other devices such as iPhone and Blackberry.

Downloading is fast and easy. You get the option of immediately launching them after download or of continuing to browse without exiting the catalog.

This to me was most notable: Being able to open and operate multiple apps at the same time is very user-friendly. Most people living a digital life have one thing in mind: multi-tasking.

All of that understood, we scanned its nascent catalog and picked out a few to try out.

Pandora (Free)

What it is: A personalized radio station streamed to your device

Bottom line: The Pre's interface allows the app to continue playing your tunes even as your attention shifts to another app or function. The tiny "P" icon sits in the bottom right corner and lets it launch an unobtrusive strip from which you can pause and play and vote up or down the songs it selects for you, without having to open the app.


Fandango (Free)

What it is: Movie listings

Bottom line: The app offers movie listings, trailers and photos, and uses the internal GPS to locate nearby theaters. The interface is nice and clean for the most part. On the same screen, you can twirl down movies opening this week and what's been popular. Buying a ticket is fairly straight forward, although I did want to be able to tap a time directly from the list of offerings under the movie and just buy the ticket. Unfortunately there weren't many theaters in my area that would let me buy tickets through Fandango.


Flixster (Free)

What it is: Movie listings

Bottom line: Like the Fandango app, Flixster includes movie listings and trailers. The app lets users list the movies by title, box-office popularity or viewer ratings -- Pre users can set in preferences to get ratings by Flixster reviewers or Rotten Tomatoes. In addition, this app offers a movie synopsis, links to related movie sites and lists DVDs that are available, with user ratings. I immediately loved the fact that you can, with a tap, set up a movie date in your calendar. It gives directions to the theater using Google Maps. A plus here is that this app doesn't open additional cards. It does the work within the app. As with Fandango, finding theaters that would be nearby to buy tickets was a challenge.


Tweed (Free)

What it is: Twitter client

Bottom line: Like many useful mobile Twitter clients, Tweed lets users log in to multiple Twitter accounts. Search is fairly simple, as is keeping up on trending topics, re-tweets, replies and direct messages. You can also change the font size, which is nice for those of us going blind from looking at these small screens all day. Users get a notification at the bottom of the screen about replies, for example, when another app is prominent. All that's great, but I'm not wild about having separate pages, or "cards" as the Palm folks call them, for the separate accounts. I want the app to multi-task for me, not me for it.


Sporting News Baseball (Free)

What it is: Sports fix in your hand.

Bottom line: As with Sporting News' apps for other devices, this one includes just about all the sporting news a baseball fan could handle. You can select your favorite teams and key players for quick access to their news and stats. The app also offers in-game updates. Tapping into the Pre's WebOS, the app lets you add your favorite team's calendar to the device's calendar app -- probably my favorite feature, since I can look one place to find out whether my movie date is going to conflict with a Dodger game.

-- Michelle Maltais

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