It *would* be great….for $149. HP Touchpad.

Well, I went to see it in person, and after trying very hard to keep my expectations very low, I was still somehow disappointed. It pains me to say it; I want WebOS to survive in the worst way, but sadly this launch (if you can even call it a launch) did nothing but further weigh WebOS down from getting off the ground.

Hardware:Since I mentioned weight I guess that is a good place to start with describing the new tablet from HP: heavy! The Touchpad feels like a massive brick compared to other tablets on the market. The hardware in general seems very poor in both quality and design. It feels as though very little time was put into hardware design. The speaker holes feel rough, sharp, and unfinished. The “home” button feels extremely awkward and poorly designed for being the only interface button on the device. Design wise, it is basically a giant iPhone 3G, which came out in 2008.

If it weren’t for the spec sheet saying it had a dual core processor, you would thing it was running a single core around 1.0GHz or less. For being a dual core 1.2GHz, it felt sluggish.

The screen left a lot to be desired as well. It felt very dull as far as color reproduction went and not very clear.

Software:WebOS is still a solid and well designed OS. This new 3.0 version is great, but doesn’t feel as snappy and fluid as it should. My only concern is that you don’t immediately have access to the entire WebOS catalog of apps, since all apps must be re-written to work on 3.0.

As the title states, if HP would have sold this device at a loss to get people amped up and excited for WebOS, that would have been huge. Hell, even at $199 it would be a no brainer for everyone to get one, if for no other reason than just to try it out. If you don’t put WebOS in people’s hands, no one is going to just discover it on their own, sadly.

One last note about this “launch”. I say launch in quotes because HP continues to half ass the release of these new devices. When the Veer came out, no one knew it was out. The stores that were selling it, barely knew it even launched. This was no different: you heard nothing about it, and saw nothing either. You might have just happened to see the display for it sitting in between its competitors, the iPad 2 and Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1; both of which are far more polished and the same exact price point.

At this point I am definitely saying do not buy the Touchpad, and WebOS is officially on the back burner (apparently HP feels the same way).

Nexus Yes!

It has been a rough year for me in the cell phone area. Throughout this year I was on three or four different platforms across six or so handsets. It was definitely a year of swapping. I started out the year with a Motorola Droid that replaced my iPhone in October of 2009. From there I migrated to the Palm WebOS platform with a Palm Pre Plus handset. After that phone was dropped and left with a cracked screen, I moved to a Palm Pixi Plus, still on WebOS.The Pixi Plus was a super awesome little phone with a hardware keyboard that was a dream to use. When Microsoft Windows Phone 7 was announced I was (surprising) intrigued with what I saw. The phone that caught my attention was the HTC HD7. I went to see the phone in person and 30 minutes later walked out of the store with one in hand. Everything with the HD7 was going along nicely until December 16th came along. The release of the Google Nexus S. I looked at it online. I saw it in person. I ordered it online via express shipping! Why did I drop Windows Phone 7 so soon? Simple answer; google services. I use a ton of Google services everyday and the simple fact is that Windows Phone 7 does not integrate with Google services well at all (surprise!).

After a week of use, I am honestly completely blown away with this device / OS. The Nexus S is absolutely fantastic in the hardware and software departments. The Nexus is running the latest version of Android, 2.3 Gingerbread. A big plus to the Nexus S is that it runs a build of Android that is completely untouched by carriers or manufactures, just pure Google. When it comes to hardware, it feels like what I have been wanting in a phone for a very long time. Solid quality, great look, and not a lot of extra unnecessary crap.

Don’t get me wrong, I am still a huge fan of Palm/HP WebOS! The problem is that I personally can’t sit around and wait for things to shake out in the Palm/HP universe. And to be honest the drama that was pouring out of the community lately was starting to really bug me. I would love for WebOS 2.x to come out and make me switch right back. I am totally rooting for them, excellent group of people over there at Palm!

Windows Phone 7 is most definitely going to be a major contender as we head into 2011. Other players in this market are going to have to take notice quickly if they haven’t already. Unfortunately, as much as I like the OS, it will most likely never been what I need as long as I use a mac and a ton of Google services. I am however, VERY happy that there is a new contender in the phone OS war. Competition is what we need to move ahead!

As always this could change at any second, but I am calling the Nexus S the bar that all new phones must at least reach in order for me to even acknowledge. It is official, the Nexus S is the best phone I have ever used as of December 26th, 2010.

PROS:

  • Beautiful screen
  • Great build quality
  • Comfortable to hold and talk on
  • Doesn’t get hot when talking on the phone
  • Gingerbread (Android 2.3) is brilliant
  • “Anti-fingerprint screen coating” seems to actually be real!
  • The power button is in the correct place (not on top)

CONS:

  • No notification light / indicator
  • No dedicated camera shutter button
  • Very slippery

SIDENOTES:

  • Haven’t been able to try the front facing camera on a video call yet
  • Haven’t had the opportunity to try the NFC (Near Field Communication) anywhere

My name is Jason, and I’m a WebOS developer!

Background:Ever since I started using smartphones, I have always wanted to create applications for the phone that I was using at any given time. From Blackberry, to iPhone, to Droid, to Palm Pre Plus. It was never about striking it rich like many have done with their mobile apps (not saying I wouldn’t like the extra $); it was always more about just the cool feeling of having something you created from the ground up running on hundreds, maybe thousands, of what is arguably a person’s most personal possession today: their phone.

iPhone Software Development:I got an iPhone the day it came out back in 2007. Of course when the iPhone was originally launched there was no official SDK for creating applications, so there wasn’t much that could be done as far as writing apps, past jailbreaking and creating apps with the unofficial SDK. Flash forward to when the platform saw the launch of the app store and then you saw an explosion of developers writing applications for the device. Unfortunately by the time I finally got around to learn the languages necessary to create applications for the platform I was already on may way to the next platform, Android.

Android Software Development:After getting fed up with the iPhone and finally feeling like Android was ready for prime time, I made the jump! After using the platform for a couple months and getting used to it, I again started the task of beginning to learn the languages needed to write applications on the platform. After getting a working hello world app going and all that, something interesting happened. I found myself dabbling in a new platform already! A platform that I thought had already died shortly after getting its legs. That platform was WebOS!

WebOS Software Development:Plam’s WebOS really came out of nowhere for me. I had seen it and played with it briefly when it initially came out, and found it to be sub par. A short while later, I found myself at a Verizon store playing with the newly revved hardware and updated OS. I fell in love almost immediately! WebOS felt like the first mobile OS that was actually built with the end user in mind. It was completely intuitive, and I don’t mean like how the other guys say their OS is intuitive; this one actually is. Everything about the OS just felt right. It did what you wanted, and more importantly it did what you would expect in just about every situation. The multitasking was light years ahead of what anyone else was doing. Needless to say, I really like it, obviously. Anyway, I knew that this was finally going to be the platform I’d get an application on. I was so passionate about the platform that I had to be involved as more than just a user. I started by getting a WebOS book and attending Palm’s awesome Developer Days event at their headquarters with my fiancée. We learned a ton of great info there, got some more dev materials, including a FREE developer phone! A free phone? I know! I started writing a couple applications shortly after that, which ended up being a little over my head, so I toned it down and created an app that ended up being the first app I would submit to the catalog. (at the time there was a $99 fee to become a developer, and a $50 fee per application submitted to the catalog. Both of these fees are now waived!) The app was called USAF, and was an informational app about the United States Air Force for use by anyone, in the Air Force or not. It was a way for me to get practice and show my support for the armed forces, since I am a USAF veteran. Getting that app published in the catalog was a huge day for me! Not to mention when I started getting downloads. I was expecting (and would have been happy with) 50 total downloads. When the numbers were more like 1000 per week, I could barely believe the stats! A few updates to the app later, and I am still loving it! I simply cannot wait to see what happens to the platform with the recent acquisition by HP and 2.0 of the OS on the horizon!

If you have not seen or played with WebOS, please give a Palm Pre Plus a try. You won’t be sorry!

Why are you not using WebOS?

What smartphone do you use? Careful, some will judge you heavily based on your answer. The cell phone as we once knew it is dead, it’s all about the smartphone now. It is getting to be more and more rare that you see the flip phone of years past, and much more common to see a smartphone in its place. At first glance, there are a ton of options for the average consumer. You see advertisement after advertisement touting the superiority of one phone vs. another. The fact of the matter is, however, there are really only a few true contenders. Much like the raging war of the desktop platforms, the same is happening the mobile space. It comes down to four; Google’s Android, Apple’s iPhone, Palm’s WebOS, and Blackberry. This may go to five if we ever see a Windows Phone 7 Series. To be honest, the rest are merely sub-par knock-offs of these.

I have used or owned just about every smartphone there is to date. Each of them has been good in its own way, but at the same time, many of them were lacking significantly. Before the iPhone and Android, your choices were Blackberry, Palm Treo, and Windows Mobile (hardly worth mentioning; yes it was/is that bad of an experience). I myself was a diehard Blackberry user back then; they really had the market locked with their addictive qwerty keyboard bricks. Blackberries really were an addictive experience, hence the term “crackberry”. These phones, compared to today, were very limiting, but for the time they were an amazing breakthrough.

With the arrival of the iPhone in 2007, the game was officially changed. This marked the smartphone revolution. I was, of course, one of the many in line on day one to spend $600 for a phone that, when you look back, didn’t really do very much at all. With the introduction of the iPhone, we all expected the competition to step up and show us some really amazing devices, but sadly, this was not the case at all. The scene turned into a bunch of companies trying to make “iPhone killers” by simply copying features, and usually not very well. No one was innovating. To be honest, I don’t think they were even trying, relying more on false advertising and trickery to move these crappy devices off the shelves.

In October of 2008 Google decided to throw its hat into the ring and compete in this space. They released Android running on the G1. This was potentially the first true competitor to Apple and its iPhone. “Potentially,” being the keyword there. The G1 was met with somewhat positive reviews and attention; however it was obvious that Android in its initial release was very beta and was going to need time to get up to popular demand.

In January 2009 at the Consumer Electronics Show we were shown another company step up to the challenge. Here we saw an announcement from a company that many forgot about or gave up on, a company that was struggling to stay afloat, a company that needed a home run or would risk certain death. That company was Palm. Palm had been hard at work on their new platform, and on that day, they unveiled WebOS. Along with this announcement came new hardware, the Palm Prē, and an amazing new accessory, the Touchstone charging station. This charging station was the first mainstream consumer charger to acheive wirelessless charging through the use of electromagnetic induction; with the added bonus of not needing to house your beautiful phone in a nasty, and very bulky, third party case. All of these announcements were very well received and caused quite a stir of excitement. Unfortunately, the story did not end as well as it started. With a poorly planned launch time (a few days before the iPhone 3GS), low stock count in the stores, somewhat flakey hardware, and a carrier that really didn’t seem all that excited about the product (Sprint); WebOS and the Palm Prē were quickly dismissed and swept into the gutter.

A year later, Palm was back at CES to announce a refreshed line of hardware and updates to the WebOS platform. They announced the Prē Plus and Pixi Plus, with revved up internals and a better build quality. These freshly updated lines also got carrier upgrades, moving to Verizon, and later AT&T as well. Even with the new hardware updates, software updates, and added carrier choices, people are still failing to recognize what this platform has to offer.

I truly believe that the WebOS platform by Palm is the best thing no one knows about. When every other company is spending 90% of their budget on marketing and 10% on innovation of the product, it feels as though Palm did exactly the opposite and spent 90% on innovation. Every aspect of the platform and phone feel as though someone actually thought it out and used it before committing. The user interface of WebOS is such a pleasure to use and navigate. You get exactly what you want every time.

On all the other platforms I always found the need to hack/jailbreak/root the device to make it truly what I wanted it to be. This never ended well; it was always a pain to update to the latest software builds, and usually made the phone less reliable. With WebOS, there is none of that. Palm embraces developers and open source like no other company I have seen. Android says they are open, but compared to WebOS, they are as closed as the iPhone. With the iPhone, Blackberry, and Android, the operating system feels as though it was not built for you. WebOS, on the other hand, feels very organic, like it was made to be a true extension of you. WebOS works for you, rather than against you. WebOS makes using a smartphone a joy again, rather than a constant headache. If you are not 100% happy with your current phone, there is a way to be: give WebOS a try and see what the world of smartphones is supposed to be like.