Palm Pre's First Apps Hands On: Seriously Good-Looking Programs

We're nearing the still unknown release date for the Palm Pre, and new details are slowly surfacing. Sprint demoed the Pre's WebOS apps at CTIA, including PalmOS Emulator, Google Maps and Pandora. These look fantastic.

Like the iPhone, Palm gives developers a set of recommended UI design elements in the SDK, to promote a cohesive look in WebOS. While use of these buttons and menus aren't mandatory, these early developers have embraced them. I also happen to think the design DNA of WebOS looks better than any platform on the market, even Mobile OSX.

Google Maps
Google Maps is tightly integrated with the Pre's universal search function, so when you start typing something in search, you can launch straight to Maps, and it will zero-in on the points of interest. You can pan and zoom around the app using your fingers, and pretty much behaves like any other touch-enabled version of Google Maps.

Pandora's integration with WebOS will make it the best available mobile version of this music service. When you start Pandora and exit to another app a little Pandora logo remains in the bottom right corner of the screen. When you tap it, a quick launch UI pops up that lets you control the app without exiting whatever else you were doing. Serious, serious multitasking. And in general, the UI seems much more intuitive and usable than most the other versions of Pandora, with plenty of UI navigation options that make it less labyrinth, more music app.

PalmOS Emulator
PalmOS Emulator lets the phone UI look and act like the Garnet OS, and even has virtual, on screen buttons to give you full functionality. If you have old PalmOS apps you can't bear to part with, or just really hate WebOS (but love the Pre?), you can go back in time 10 years. Also worth noting is that Palm says they will roll out a solution for migrating data from old PalmOS phones to new WebOS ones, including support at the Sprint store. But Palm says they'll divulge details closer to release.

TeleNav GPS
The TeleNav demo wasn't fully up and running, since the demo was indoors, but it essentially looks like the version available on the T-Mobile G1. Not much else unique going on there, but that's not necessarily a bad thing, either.

Sprint TV
Sprint TV was probably the least spectacular of the bunch, but even that looked like a pretty nice app. There's a main menu for Viewing options (Live, Premium, On Demand TV), and then secondary menus that let you choose channels or content. Once you hit that, it launches into the TV service, which pulls up video. Video quality wasn't that great, and there was some artifacting/glitching going on, but it was certainly viewable. And there didn't seem to be any sort of on-screen guide or controls for Sprint TV. Not a dealbreaker, but it would sweeten the package.

There were also other apps, like FlightView, which lets you track planes and schedules in real time, among other things, and a NASCAR app, which will let you appreciate America's fastest growing sport (which is heavily sponsored by Sprint!). But if this is what we have to expect for future Pre Apps, I'm pretty excited.

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