CTIA 09: Is the Palm Pre keyboard the Achilles heel of the device?

Since I didn’t have a chance to see the Palm Pre in person and there are no review units out yet, I couldn’t really pick a favorite in my first Clash of the Touch Titans article. Last week I was able to see the Pre in person and get my hands on it a bit. I shot a video of the Pre in action showing some 3rd party apps and overall user experience. I will say that the experience and some of the functionality look quite amazing. However, I was able to also get my hands on and enter text using the Pre keyboard and found it to be a major disappointment that may be the Achilles heel of the device. I find the onscreen keyboard on the iPhone to be much better than the Pre keyboard. So far we have only seen keyboard input as being the only way to enter text so you always have to switch to portrait mode to do this and my first impressions were not good. In the photos I saw before I actually touched it I thought it would be more of a Treo 800w or at least Treo Pro keyboard, but it is much more similar to the Palm Centro keyboard with rubber sticky keys/bumps set on a flat panel. The keyboard felt pretty cramped and I am sure I could get used to it over time since I do have magic thumbs, but Palm was always known for excellent Treo keyboards and to not put one of these types on this new flagship product may be an issue for many people.

We have also not seen much in way of media capabilities (video playing in particular) and it seems the camera will also not be able to capture video. With the initial launch only on Sprint, it is most likely I will skip the Pre until it hits a GSM carrier. With the rumored iPhone hardware update coming in June and still no release date for the Pre, I think the awe of the Pre may be overwhelmed by the updated iPhone. I think Palm and Sprint should have announced a release date last week at CTIA to keep the buzz alive and build up anticipation and I don’t quite understand why they continue to keep everyone in the dark. It isn’t like they will hurt any of Palm’s current sales.

Matthew MillerMatthew Miller is an avid mobile device enthusiast who works during the day as a professional naval architect in Seattle. See his full profile and disclosure of his industry affiliations.