Claiming to be the first site to get its hands on a Pre, the tech blog described the device as having "a real plasticky aura" about it. The post went on to fault the design of the QWERTY keyboard, which causes multiple keys to be hit at the same time when typing. "It's actually really frustrating and doesn't bode well for such a fantastic social communication/personal/business tool," it stated.
Boy Genius, however, called the phone's screen "awesomely executed" and rated it behind the iPhone but ahead of the T-Mobile G1. Writing in InformationWeek's "Over The Air" mobile blog, Eric Zeman chimed in, based on demos of the pre at the CES and CTIA conferences earlier this year.
"I also agree with his feelings that the device feels 'plasticky.' I was not impressed with the build quality of the pre-production units I used earlier this year. The QWERTY keyboard, in particular, was a little cheap feeling," he wrote. "If The Boy Genius does indeed have a production unit, his initial assessment makes me very worried."
John Biggs at TechCrunch was more certain about the Pre's future in his post. "I'm afraid to report that after all the magic, all the tears, all the joy the Palm Pre will be just another phone," he wrote. He also foresees that "the pricing will be high, the feature set will remind the world of every other wonky LG and Samsung out there, and the OS will be half-baked at launch."
What about the Pre taking on the iPhone? Roger Entner, head of telecom research at Nielsen & Co., was skeptical about the Pre's ability to make anyone give up the popular Apple device. "If somebody has the iPhone, I don't know if they'll be able to get them to switch over to the Pre," he told Dow Jones. "For better or worse, it's a very similar product."
Both Palm and Sprint are counting on the Pre to help bolster their reputation and gain ground in the growing smartphone market. While global mobile phone sales overall dropped 8.6% in the first quarter, smartphone sales increased 12.7% from a year ago, according to Gartner.
"This is an opportunity for Sprint to narrow their post-paid subscriber losses with a device that's closer to the iPhone than anything launched in the past. The Instinct didn't do it for them," said Jonathan Atkin, an analyst for RBC Capital Markets. Sprint has lost about 2.3 million contract customers in the first half of the year.
In contrast to online critics, RBC's outlook on the Pre is more upbeat. In a May 26 report, the investment firm increased its price target on Palm by $2 to $14, saying it expected reception to the device to be "positive." "Initial stockouts or glitches may frustrate early buyers, but are expected to be resolved, and may even play to Palm's advantage, stimulating demand," according to the report.