About a week after it was outed by a French wireless carrier, the long-awaited Palm Pre 2—complete with a new version of WebOS—is finally official, and it'll be heading to Verizon Wireless in the "coming months," according to HP.
Arriving more than a year after the last major Palm phone (the diminutive Pixi), not to mention being the first Palm-branded handset since HP acquired Palm in April, the Pre 2 looks an awful lot like its predecessor: the same basic slider design, a physical QWERTY keypad (with small, stubby, but relatively tactile keys, or at least they were on the first Pre), and a 3.1-inch display with a resolution of 320 by 480 pixels.
Indeed, the new Pre (which is slated to arrive Friday on French carrier SFR, the same carrier that leaked the handset last week) is almost precisely the same size (4 inches long, 2.35 inches wide, 0.67 inches thick) and weight (5.1 ounces) as the original. The Pre 2 replaces the Pre's plastic screen with a glass one.
Most of the changes in the Palm Pre 2 (which I have yet to see in person, by the way) are under the hood rather than cosmetic. The new handset marks the first Palm phone with a 1GHz processor, while the built-in camera has been upgraded from 3 megapixels to 5. (The camera still has an LED flash and video recording capabilities, although Palm has yet to reveal whether the Pre 2 will be able to capture video at HD resolutions.)
As with the Pre Plus (the slightly tweaked Pre that launched on Verizon and AT&T earlier this year), the Pre 2 will boast 16GB of internal storage, along with the Pre Plus's ability (on Verizon, anyway) to act as a portable Wi-Fi hotspot for up to five other nearby devices.
Perhaps more important, though, the Pre 2 will ship with WebOS 2.0, the first major point revision of Palm's WebOS since the platform debuted with the original Pre in the summer of 2009.
Among the key new features in WebOS 2.0 is revamped multitasking, complete with "stacks" of apps that are automatically grouped together by type. (For example, a screenshot provided by HP shows app "cards" for messaging, the phone dialer and the calendar all stacked together.) Of course, app "cards" that you could swipe back and forth (or flick up and away—with a little "poof"—to quit) was a key feature of WebOS 1.0, so I'm curious to see the new, grouped stacks of app cards in action.
Another new feature, dubbed "Just Type," will let you start composing an e-mail, create a message, update your Twitter status and so on, by ... well, just typing, without opening an app first. How does it work? Just sit back and relax as "WebOS takes you there," HP's press release promises. Interesting—but again, I'd like to see how it works up close and personal.
WebOS 2.0 will also feature Exhibition, which will automatically launch slideshows, your daily agenda or other goodies whenever your handset is sitting on the wireless Touchstone charging dock. You'll also be able to communicate via Skype-to-Skype calls (on Verizon, at least), connect a Bluetooth keypad and watch Flash videos in the revamped WebOS browser.
When exactly will the Palm Pre 2 arrive on Verizon Wireless—and for how much? Still unknown on both counts, for now.
We're also still waiting to learn when existing Pre and Pixi users will be able to download the WebOS 2.0 update.
One interesting side note: HP says it'll offer an unlocked version of the Pre 2 for sale to developers, although again, we're still awaiting pricing and availability details.
— Ben Patterson is a technology writer for Yahoo! News.