It is a generally accepted aphorism that Palm Pre users are actually closet iPhone lovers. This maxim has been confirmed in a recent stunt by the WebOS Internals engineers. Described as a “homebrew patch,” the developers have created an onscreen keyboard, available at PreCentral.net, that can be used as an alternative to the Palm’s slide-out keyboard. The onscreen keyboard looks and acts suspiciously like the onscreen keyboard that came (seamlessly integrated) with my Apple device.
The major similarity between the Palm Pre’s onscreen keyboard and the iPhone’s onscreen keyboard is that they’re both onscreen keyboards. Both have a full querty layout, caps ability, and animation to visually clue you into the fact that you’re typing a certain letter. All similarity ends there.
Precentral’s Homebrew Apps page comes with an apropos disclaimer: “The apps you’ll find here are all beta and are for testing purposes only. They are all under development – use with care.” The WebOS statements goes a step further by stating: “While a number of people are having success with it, it makes DEEP changes in your Pre. You choose to use this entirely at your own risk. It may cause your pre to melt into a puddle and dissolve while turning blue. Use at your own risk!” While blue dissolving puddles haven’t been witnessed yet, crashing Palm Pres abound.
For starters, installing the app is a bit of a trick. Unless you have a software engineering background or are a tech junkie, we don’t recommend that you try to install it. Even Dieter Bohn admits, “it’s not…simple,” and delves into the Palm’s innards to launch a patch that opens the app and rearranges the graphical user interface in order to present you with…voila…the Palm Pre’s onscreen keyboard.
In addition to a penchant for crashing, the keyboard has difficulty with symbols, even on the widely publicized YouTube video. Unfortunately, you can’t have your keyboard and update your OS, too. First, you must uninstall the keyboard and then update the Web OS and then go back and reinstall the keyboard. If you try and update with the keyboard installed, experts say, you could “break stuff.” Hmm. Beyond the vague and chilling statement “break stuff,” the keyboard has a lot of other problems, too. It does not have auto-correct, lacks the ability to use backspace and return while in webview, contains positioning glitches, lacks a clipboard and shift-highlight, and a smattering of other ghastly errors.
But Palm Pre owners are gloating over the bug-ridden app. After all, the Palm Pre is one step closer to being like the iPhone.