HP Pre 3: First look at the latest webOS phone

We got a chance to play with the Pre 3 at HP's 'Think Beyond' event.

While the HP Veer is targeted at first-time smartphone users, the Pre 3 is for the person who wants to do everything on their phone. It has a nice mix of business and multimedia features with the horsepower to do it all. I was only allowed to use the keyboard and a limited number of apps on the Pre 3 in the hands-on area. I got slight deja vu for CES 2009 when Palm launched the first Pre--we couldn't even touch it.

[ TouchPad vs. iPad: Does HP have a chance? ]

Still, the Pre 3 is a nice upgrade from the original Pres. In design alone, the upgrades are apparent. Unlike the original Pres, the Pre 3 doesn't feel plasticky. The hinge on the keyboard feels secure too (the older ones always felt on the verge of snapping) and the soft-touch backing makes it comfortable in hand.

HP made a big deal about the improved, larger keyboard, but I'm still not a huge fan of it. Yes, there seems to be more space between the keys and a larger surface area, but I still felt my fingers cramping as I banged out a message and made a few errors. Click the photo to the left for a close-up look at the keyboard.

In terms of business features, the Pre 3 has VPN and data encryption in addition to Exchange support. It also has a front-facing camera for making video calls. HP announced that the Pre would launch with a Skype app, but they were not demoing it at this event, unfortunately.

For all of your video watching purposes, the Pre 3 sports a 3.6-inch 480-by-800 WVGA display which is two times the resolution of the first Pre. It also has a 5-megapixel camera with HD video capture. Unfortunately, I wasn't allowed to test out the camera.

The Pre 3 supports HSPA+ (so it is coming to either T-Mobile or AT&T and you better believe it will be marketed as a "4G" phone). It will also support EVDO Rev. A so it can be used as a world phone. Most intriguing, the Pre 3 has a Qualcomm 1.4 GHz processor. In my very limited hands-on time, the Pre 3 seemed pretty speedy, but I really need to do full testing on it.

What do you think of the Pre 3? Is it enough to revive webOS and compete with the likes of the iPhone 4 (and upcoming 5) and the army of Android superphones?

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Ginny Mies

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