Written the day before HP announced their intention to buy Palm, this article reveals the kind of mountain that their new owners are going to have to climb.
In the UK, Palm sales have been disastrous, with their Pre webOS device failing to gain the traction it deserved – something not helped by the company’s frustrating inability to communicate.
We can’t tell you how exasperated with Palm we’ve become. We’ve been covering their products for years and have been pretty much fans since the days of their PDAs and Treo 600s.
We stuck with them while they served up a succession of half arsed phones (the Treo 680 barely qualified as an upgrade and the Centro wasn’t much more than a half-pint Treo 650), and even stayed with them after they ditched the entire old Palm OS (and consigned all our paid-for apps in the dumper).
Like most of the tech world, we were suitably wowed when they showed off the superb Palm Pre at the Consumer Electronics Show way back in January 2009, and waited for the UK release.
And then we waited. And waited and waited until the Pre finally made it to the UK months later, slithering out with a spectacularly feeble launch.
Not only was there zero pre-launch publicity on sole vendor o2’s homepage but even their retail partners couldn’t be bovvered – our trip to a Carphone Warehouse store on the eve of the UK launch was met with baffled stares: “The Palm… what?”
Things didn’t get any better over the coming months, and we ended up penning an article in frustration: Palm Pre: why Palm’s innovative handset failed in the UK.
The sound of silence
Mindful that we may have been too negative – and keen to give Palm the right to respond – we wrote to both Palm UK and their PR agency and invited then to comment.
Palm, as usual, completely ignored our request (hey, we know we’re not the biggest tech site out there, but at least an acknowledgement might have been nice), while their PR company replied saying that they had, “reviewed our article and would very much like to provide us with a response.”
We’d very much like that too. That was on the 26th February. We wrote again on the 9th March to remind them and were promised our reply “ASAP.”
February came and went, while another polite reminder at the end of March remained unanswered.
We tried one last time early last week, but now accept that they simply can’t be arsed to answer – and that pretty much sums up Palm’s attitude to its UK users.
We bought, we loved, and lost
The one Palm Pre we’d bought (with our own money because Palm wouldn’t give us a review model) last year was a truly superb phone.
We fell in love with the webOS, loved the multitasking and notifications, and in our comprehensive face off against the iPhone, we awarded it joint top place. It was that good.
Palm/o2’s awful tech support
Six weeks in, the phone developed a physical fault with the SIM card holder, and here’s where we learnt where Palm users sit in o2’s pecking order of customer care. Right at the end.
After 90 minutes being bounced around from one tech support department to another, it appeared that barely anyone at o2 actually knew anything about the Pre. In the end we were transferred to Palm UK’s own tech support, which turned out to be a truly miserable experience.
We spoke to a grumpy bloke who sounded like he was operating out of his garden shed, who quickly insisted that we’d have to send our new phone in for repair for an unspecified period of time, “because under EU law we don’t have to replace faulty phones after a month.”
By this time we couldn’t even be bothered to argue any more and the thought of having to send a new phone off for repair (while iPhone users on their network get swift replacements) send us packing off the Palm platform.
Is there any hope left?
We kind of hoped that our last article may have elicited a positive response from Palm but there seems little to get excited about.
While the US market has enjoyed subsequent releases of the Palm Pixi, the Palm Pre Plus and the Palm Pixi Plus, we’re still stuck with just the one (rapidly ageing) handset and an app store that looks positively anaemic to just about every other platform.
We’re trying to be enthusiastic, Palm. We want you to do well. We want to own a Palm phone again.
Let’s hope that HP can now do the job properly.
…Meanwhile, he’s another reminder from the States of what UK users are missing.