How the Palm Pre Predicted the Modern Smartphone
The palm pre the most innovative and groundbreaking smartphone, i believe at least of all time, a phone that almost 12 years on still continues to influence the world of smartphone design. Today, Music now let’s take a look back at the smartphone industry. In early 2009, the iphone had only just introduced the app store, the first android phone, the rather ungainly htc dream, had been released to let’s, say mixed reviews. Windows mobile was now well and truly dated and, finally, on the way out, nokia for some odd reason had decided to purchase the clunky symbian platform in a last. Ditch attempt to modernize it blackberry had quite confusingly from today’s perspective, still had a few years of massive growth ahead of it and finally, palm who had popularized pda with a pilot, um and smartphone with the trio was hanging onto deer life by switching from the archaic Palm os to the archaic windows mobile platform, while apple at this point, had shown a vision for the future of the smartphone industry. It was clear that the rest of the industry was still scrambling to catch up. However, at ces 2009, this was all about to change. As we witnessed one of the most amazing tech keynotes of all time, a keynote where we realized that the way that we use smartphones was about to be transformed forever. The palm pre running the webos platform showed the world not only a new way to navigate your phone, but also what it was capable of performing and looking at the smartphone landscape.
Today, the influence of palms efforts is quite undeniable now to ascertain what made this phone just so special let’s. Take a look at the pre itself palm described this piece of industrial design as being inspired by a polished river stone it’s, not difficult to see why it’s rounded corners fall perfectly into the palm of the hand, it’s, smooth, beautiful and a minimal piece to behold compared To the hideous htc dream in particular, it’s a work of art, while the original iphone is thinner in comparison to the pre, it does feel quite large, blocky and ungainly in comparison. Although the materials that apple use are undeniably superior, the prey’s rounded design flowed into the display too, where the software rounded the corners of the screen and the 2.5 d curve display glass or plastic in this case went on to influence not only the organic shape of The iphone 6, but also the iphone 10, especially, but it also most amusingly, rather went on to inspire the samsung galaxy s3’s advertising campaign, where they proudly proclaimed it to be the first phone to be designed for humans and inspired by nature, with a pebble like shape And a natural element in the ui hmm. Now i wonder where i’ve heard that before the design, however, did quite literally begin to fall apart when you slid the phone open where it reveals a qwerty keyboard um, while the keyboard was pleasant enough to use it wasn’t. Amazing, but it was alright, it was the wobbly slider mechanism that heard many with many describing it as being not dissimilar to an oreo.
The keyboard also features an edge that was so sharp that i could famously cut cheese and, furthermore, the 3.1 inch display, while was sharper and it’s more colorful than the iphones. It did feel a little cramped even by 2009 standards. Now, despite the um, ultimately unremarkable hardware design, there was one feature that holds up even today, now remember when in 2012, samsung and nokia were making a racket about wireless charging. Well, the problem with normal wireless charging is that you have to be quite precise, with where you position the phone on the charging pad, for, if you don’t precisely line it up, you can potentially wake up to a dead phone, but not only that it is rather Difficult to keep using a phone while it’s being charged by inductive charging and only with the latest, iphone 12 from 2020 that they finally had the brainwave to add magnets to wireless charging and call it magsafe. Well. In 2009 palm introduced the wireless touchstone charging dock sold with a special back cover. Not only was it the first wireless charger available on a phone but palmer also the first ones to get it right: visually it’s, quite a hefty hockey puck cell device that sticks onto a surface with gekko feet technology. The suction was so strong that it can quite effectively stick onto a window, but what makes the dog so fantastic is that your phone sticks magnetically to the surface, so you always know that it’s secure, aligned and charging.
Furthermore, you are able to position it in a landscape or portrait mode, so you can use it as a nice stand to watch a video or after the webos 2.0 update, use it to um use a variety of mini applications through something called exhibition mode, which is A bit similar to an amazon alexa show today and i’m sure that this is a feature that apple or google may choose to implement in the near future, but enough about the hardware, because it was the webos software that was truly exceptional. Now let’s begin by looking at what they called the zen of palm. It was the philosophy that the whole company had been built around since the original palm pilot pda, where whether apple newton was too bloated and difficult to use. The success of the pilot during the mid 90s came from its simplicity and reducing the feature set to just the mere essentials. Each interaction with the pilot was designed to be as efficient and take as few steps as possible and, to be honest, the original iphone show. These qualities quite fantastically, or rather in this ipod touch, because our iphone 2g is rather broken, like with the original pilot apps were displayed in a grid, and the workflow is quite simple, it’s to turn on the device and to be introduced to a grid of icons. You touch an icon to use the application, and then you press a button to return to the home screen and rinse and repeat.
Well, this is quite simple and beautiful: it isn’t exactly a powerful way to interact with your phone and it limits what you can precisely achieve with it with webos. The idea was to bring the power of your desktop computer into the palm of your hand, and, unlike windows, mobile, perhaps introduce it in a way that feels natural and works with, rather than against your workflow. Now. Imagine that your desktop computer is like your desk at work with multiple sheets of paper or windows on it, where you are able to juggle and rearrange all of your windows on your screen and then throw them away once you’re done. While this is a versatile and powerful way to work, if we were to bring all of this onto a phone, that metaphor would of course be disastrous, as there simply is not the real estate available to make it an enjoyable experience. Therefore, what palm decided to do was instead of having sheets of paper sprawled across a desk, each application was its own card, that you can shuffle and sort in one hand and then simply throw them away, quite literally from the top of the screen, once you’re done. With it, the idea of multitasking beyond simple thumbnails and without fiddly little icons to press on a mobile device was so groundbreaking that it was the one element that webos is largely remembered for today and while both ios and android have borrowed from the idea.
Since the execution still leave much room for improvement, for example, while ios has borrowed the card interface and the gesture of throwing the card from the screen is still largely a thumbnail view of your most recent apps, they can’t really organize to meet your needs on your Palm pre, you could organize your workspace, like you can on a desktop computer. However, you wish and then switch between them and as easily as a swipe across the bottom of the screen in the webos 2 update. They even allowed you to group cards together in a stack. So if we take a look at this later, pre 3 model, what i like to do was have all of my social media apps in one stack like a space on a mac, then having another one for productivity and then finally have a couple of games that I would play through throughout the day. It is with this flexibility that we all enjoy on our desktop computers, that palm manage to emulate so elegantly in webos. The flexibility and the power of cards in my mind, far outweighs the usefulness of widgets and a list of recently used apps that modern os’s have come to adopt and while android and ios have borrowed some of the fundamentals of cards, it will take a fundamental changing Of priorities for the full change to happen, however, this sort of change isn’t unfamiliar to both ios and android users. As over the past few years, they have both adopted the gesture based navigation, that webos was famous for and boy did, that take a while, while ios began with the navigation focus on a single button, when multitasking was introduced in ios 4, the doubleclick action started to Reveal the intrinsic limitations of relying on a single button for navigation android in comparison adopted a more efficient but far less elegant solutions having four then three navigational buttons on the bottom, which is both a bit confusing and not exactly elegant a comparison in webos.
There is a touch sensitive area below the screen called the gesture area. The basic gestures are a swipe up to exit and reveal card view and then another swipe up to access the launcher. Furthermore, it was a half swipe back to um. Take you back and then a full swipe across to switch between applications. Furthermore, you can do a a swipe down from the top right corner to see your system settings and then another one from the other side to see your app specific settings. It took apple to get rid of the home button entirely in 2017 for them to adopt these gestures, and they are indeed very similar and, of course, it took apple to adopt gestures for android to copy it, as recently as android 10 last year. I feel that it’s far easier and far more intuitive to simply perform a general swipe in one direction. Then it is to locate a specific button or perform a series of button presses. It took almost a decade but i’m glad that gesture based navigation is finally something that most people can now experience. Other features that webos pioneers that are now found in other phones include universal search notifications that are not only beautiful and subtle, but also actionable the combining of data from different sources from the cloud like calendars and contacts through synergy, a unified messaging app over the updates And backup where you no longer need to plug your phone into itunes every time you wanted to update it and then finally continuity.
When the touchpad tablets came out, phone calls and text messages were shared between devices and there was even a tap to share feature using palms version of nfc, where you could share web pages and other items from phone to tablet. But that is obviously a feature for another video, as you can see, while unfortunately palm isn’t with us anymore, and no, this little thing definitely does not count. The spirit of palm and webos lives on in every mobile device that we use today in the verge’s 2012 story on the history of webos chris zeigler, concluded by saying, as he hopes, that a thousand web os’s will bloom and while that didn’t exactly happen, i think That the two web os’s in the form of the modern incarnations of android and ios, are close enough. Now, if you enjoyed this video, i will be making a lot more tech videos, both modern and retro, on this channel so subscribe.