God, I’m so predictable. Less than a day after getting the Pre I buckled and started looking for the HomeBrew application and instructions and as it turned out I’m glad I did. The instructions looked worse than the process turns out to be, the only snag I hit was trying to download the FileCoaster application off the PreCentral website. I normally use FireFox for my browsing requirements but it didn’t want to know about the file so I used Safari instead and it worked then.
Once the process is done and FileCoaster installed on your Pre you can then start browsing the store, at present there are nearly 280 apps in there and they are all currently free although some seem time locked, possibly prior to their paid entrance in the official Palm catalogue? I was really only looking for two apps, an RSS reader and Podcast player and found both. DrPodder is a great podcast manager although it takes ages to download podcasts even on wifi for some reason, the progress bar was crawling across the screen for me. Even better is Feeds, RSS reader which syncs with Google Reader so getting my feeds in was a breeze. It is terrific at what it does and zipping through posts is simple. These two apps, both free, show me the potential that lies in the web OS software. What is also nice is that the apps I have tried so far have a similar look and feel, there is a uniformity there that is similar to the iPhone which means you sort of know what to expect in terms of look. I compare this to Android where you open a downloaded app for the first time and have no idea what to expect, sometimes the fonts are way too small or are badly misaligned and it just doesn’t look right. It’s like everyone is working in a different way.
Not only that but the apps behave in a different way, for example in the RSS apps I tried on the Hero, very few let you touch the screen when reading a post to move to the next article, some made you click the trackball to open or close an article and it made moving between articles really cumbersome and slow or even worse, you had to press the menu button to then select the feed and start again picking articles. Overall, the few Palm Pre apps I have tried are a lot more polished and frankly quite a bit better. It is things like this that make me think I am more likely to carry on with the Pre than revert back to the Hero but I will not decide for a few weeks yet. I’m an “Apps are King” type of guy these days, I can put up with hardware that is less than my ideal if the apps are good more than I can put up with great hardware and iffy apps.
A couple of other initial thoughts on the Pre from my short time. Firstly the browser is great, I am thinking it is better than that on the iPhone, or at least as good. When you go onto a site it is easy to format it for mobile viewing and it seems to download pages are a bit quicker too. Also, it handles HTML emails better than the iPhone in that it appears to automatically reflow them to fit the screen. The Android OS does feel quicker though, opening apps and moving between menus is just zippier. I’m hoping I’ll be able to handle this slight lag on the Pre and that it will not develop into a deal breaker down the line as I am really taking to the Pre so far. You know how these things can grate after a while and suddenly become the most annoying foible in the universe…… Possibly it is something that Palm can address in updates and if so, great.