Palm has attempted to shed the image of being a handset manufacturer under fire by unveiling the pre - a new handset that actually matches the iPhone in functionality.

Sporting a 3.1in touchscreen and a full portrait sliding QWERTY keyboard, the pre is a phone that it claims has really thought about the user when it was designed.

It also sports a 3MP camera with LED flash, GPS, 3G connectivity, WiFi and 8GB of onboard storage for multimedia fun, with a 3.5mm headphone jack to facilitate the hi-jinks.

One of the most innovative features is the 'Cards' system... using the centre button at the foot of the device, users can see a full set of all the open windows, and either flick through them or 'throw' them up the screen to discard.

The pre also features a gesture zone where users can swipe around to navigate through applications, or drag up the menu loader to access a full range of applications.

The Palm pre also features multi-touch capability, meaning the familiar 'pinch to zoom' functionality present in the iPhone has finally made its way to another device... and the press demonstration hints that it works pretty well.

Humans at the centre

The system is based on a "human centred design policy" according to CEO Ed Colligan, and press speak aside, it seems to be a handset that has a really intuitive interface.

Palm unveiled the webOS framework that powers the device, as well as Synergy, which synchronises contacts from Facebook, Google and Outlook in the handset's contact list.

The framework also allows developers to add in applications to the open platform, and can be simply written in CSS, Javascript or even HTML, so expect a slew of new possibilities with the pre if it takes off.

It's set to debut in the US in the first half of 2009, with Colligan saying "We have to finish it up and get through certification", but it shouldn't be long before Palm has a go at re-emerging as a smartphone contender.

TechRadar will be battering down Palm's door (or just attending its stand) to get a hands on with this product and find out the all-important UK release date and pricing.