Palm Pre (US) review
E pluribus unum
Besides its multitasking capabilities, the other feature that Palm has put up in lights is its Synergy contact management system. The idea behind Synergy is a very good one: we all have multiple lists of contacts floating around right now, via our email accounts, Facebook, work directories, and more. Oftentimes, we even have contact information for one person spread out among a couple different sources. But we don’t care about contact information—we care about people. Synergy’s promise is to unite all that disparate information under the aegis of a single contact.
A bold promise and, as it turns out, a somewhat overblown one. Right now Synergy allows you to create just a few types of contact account: Facebook, Google, and Microsoft Exchange. (There’s also a desktop utility to help you do a one-time import from other sources such as your OS X Address Book or Outlook.)
As I’m not a heavy Facebook user, that feature didn’t enthrall me—I went ahead and synced my contacts anyway, and it worked fine. I added a Google account, and that too synced appropriately. It even merged the two contacts, as advertised. So far, so good.
The real problem came when I added my instant-messaging accounts to the Pre’s Messages application. I have two separate AIM accounts: one personal, one for work, with some overlap between the two. I also have the vast majority of my contacts’ IM screennames in my OS X Address Book, associated with a person.
Despite that—and despite the fact that the IM screennames did transfer to the Pre along with my Google contact list—the Pre dumped my buddy lists into the contacts application as though they were brand new contacts.
For example, say my friend John Smith also goes by the clever pseudonym of “timelord11112492” on AIM. Even though his timelord alias might be listed under the John Smith contact info as a screen name, I still ended up with an entirely separate contact entry for timelord11112492 listing only the screenname. The Pre does allow you to manually link two contacts if it fails to do so automatically, but I have dozens of buddies on my AIM lists, and it’s a tedious process.
Despite its problems, Synergy comes in most useful in the Pre’s Messages application, which combines both SMS and IM, allowing you to seamlessly switch back and forth between the two mediums while maintaining one consistent conversation. You switch communication methods with a drop down menu in the top right, which also lets you choose which instant-message screenname to use if a contact has several. While handy, I found myself occasionally texting someone when I meant to IM them or sending an IM to the wrong screen name.