I’m pretty sure I just heard Evan‘s head explode with surprise.

I’ve long been a proponent of dumb phones, putting battery life above features.  If they made a rotary dial cell phone that would last for a month on a battery charge, I’d probably own one.

This has been a year of change, though.  A year ago, I firmly resisted eBooks.  Now, I’ve completely gone over to the dark side.  Not only do I own a Kindle (a gently used third-hand model), but even reviewed the Kindle Fire and other new models.

Have I done a complete 180, ditching my dumb phone for an iPhone 4?

Nah.

While most people use both aspects of a smart phone – the “smart” part and the “phone” part.  In my dual traditions of frugality and non-conformity, I am not.  What I purchased, in reality, it a portable WiFi device.

What did I get?

I got a used Palm Pre.  Lazy Man thinks they are the bee‘s knees, the banana’s pyjamas, and the best thing since sliced bread.  Aside from irresponsible behavior when it comes to baseball – following a team in the inferior American League – we actually see eye to eye on quite a few things.

Earlier, Lazy Man had me convinced to jump on the Touchpad clearance sales, but I was late to the frenzy and came up short.  The Pre is much smaller (cell sized), but also runs the WebOS.  Since I’m a tech guy, I enjoy learning new OSes.

But why?

I’ll be able to check sports scores anywhere I can get a WiFi connection.  Yes, that’s the main reason.  Should come in handy when doing yard work – or even sitting on the couch – or at a location where WiFi is available.

In addition to being a net device, I can also use the Pre as a reader.  I haven’t found a way to load actual Kindle books on it yet, but I can load ePub books.  Not surprisingly, the first book I loaded was Jules Verne’s classic Journey to the Center of the Earth.  Perhaps a bit surprisingly, this was also the second book I loaded.  When I noticed that the first version was the Hardwigg version, I immediately sought out a Lidenbrock version.  This is one of my very favorite books, and I find it very jarring to not have the Lidenbrocks in the book.

The next time I’m stuck in a long line at the grocery story, I’ll just pull out the Pre and read.

I’l searching for a decent Blackjack game I can load via PreWare.  The one I currently have has pretty weak graphics and treats the Ace as always being worth 11 (instead of 11 or 1).  That’s a pretty big flaw in a blackjack game.

Early thoughts

It was more difficult to get past the activation screen than it should have been.  It would have been nice to see something like “activate later”, but I had to flash the rom, run some Java tools, and reboot into developer mode just to get the Pre to a state where I could actually get to the main screen and load software.  Luckily, the Pre community has a lot of helpful documentation, but it was still a pain in the rear.

I also haven’t yet found a way to deactivate the “phone” portion of the Pre, since I will never need to use it.  For the moment, I have at least taken the phone app off the dock and have the Pre set to be on Airplane Mode.

It would also be nice if there was a decent way to get access to the App Catalog without activating the phone.  It seems that there’s a way to do this by jumping through some additional hoops, but I just wanted to get online fast, so I took the route with fewer hoops.

Other than using my wife’s iPhone on occasion, this is my first experience with a touchscreen phone.  The LCD seems to pick up finger prints really easily.

Grade

I’d give it a B- so far.  The grade would probably be an A- if not for the extra steps to get the Pre working.  I know very little about WebOS, but seem to be figuring out things are I go.  I keep having to remind myself of the gesture area at the bottom of the screen (touching in this area triggers a variety of actions).

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Kosmo is the founder of The Soap Boxers and writes on a variety of topics. Many of his short stories have been collected into Kindle books.

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