Palm Pre 2 review: Internet
The internet experience was central to the original Pre, and HP webOS takes this up a notch with the inclusion of Flash 10.1 support.
All the old features that made the Pre the great browsing hope against the iPhone are still here, but now it has one up over its rival.
Okay, it definitely has one up in terms of features. After all, the two can go blow for blow when it comes to most features, including pinch to zoom, but Flash is firmly in the Pre's favour.
Unfortunately, features don't make the man, and the Pre 2 feels like its fallen slightly behind the iPhone and the likes of the HTC Desire HD.
Pinch to zoom works smoothly and quickly most of the time, though it doesn't feel as precise as on Android devices or the iPhone.
You can also double-tap to zoom on part of a page or a column, which will reflow the text. Here's where things start to seriously wobble, though.
The WebKit-based browser's behaviour when zoomed in using the double-tap is erratic. On one site, trying to move the browser up or down on the page resulted in it zooming in more, and moving the text around.
We definitely didn't have another finger touching the screen (so we weren't accidentally pinching) – it just totally flaked out.
Another day, we wanted to follow the BBC's live football text commmentary, so zoomed in on the column of text. Every time we did, we were greeted with a an unresponsive phone for a few seconds, followed by an odd beige screen of... nothing.
After another few seconds of confused tapping, the browser suddenly zoomed itself out and showed the bottom of the page. Every time we tried to zoom in and read, we got the same issue. It was basically useless.
Speaking of awkward and inconsistent, let's talk about Flash. We're still not convinced by its presence on mobiles, particarly in this case.
We started off by visiting the 4oD website, and trying to watch something. The videos simply never loaded (though the Flash-based menu system worked well).
Next we tried iPlayer, only to be rejected because the phone isn't supported. Not to be defeated when it comes to watching TV, we visited TVCatchup. Like 4oD, the videos just never loaded.
What about other Flash videos? We visited GamesRadar to have a look at the Flash videos in their reviews. One of them just came out a distorted, unwatchable mess. We reloaded the page, and it worked much better the second time.
In fact, we thought we were onto something good when the (very low-quality) advert before the video played quite smoothly. So did the first few seconds of the actual video. Then the frame rate dropped, and it became pointless.
We tried another video on the page. The result was more or less the same.
We naturally went around trying some other sites' videos. All were pretty much the same; many would play at low resolution at two frames per second. Seriously.
One odd foible of Flash-enabled sites is that many of them would just be loading in the browser forever (well, probably, we got impatient eventually). All the content will have appeared, but the page will be unresponsive. If you hit the stop button in the bottom-right corner, the site will then work fine.
As you might expect, Flash browsing causes overall performance to take a dip. Quite a steep one, in terms of RAM. We'd only loaded two videos before getting an error message telling us we had too many cards open. We only had about six open, including the browser, and they were very low-resource apps. Clearly, this message is a euphemism for running out of RAM.
Similarly, just moving around sites with loaded Flash content can be very slow and bitty. Sometimes it's fine, to be fair, but often it slows things down a lot.
We've done a lot of criticising here, so let's say that the browser works perfectly well 90 per cent of the time. It's snappy to respond and nice to use.
But that 10 per cent, when you're watching a Flash video or it's bugging out on zoomed-in text, it's frustrating and simply doesn't do its job.