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Palm Touchstone Kit Review

By: Ryan Kairer
June 5, 2009

The Palm Touchstone is a charging dock that permits wireless recharging of the Palm Pre via induction technology. It is sold with the Touchstone Charging kit, which also includes the required soft touch back cover replacement. The accessory is available at launch with the Pre for $69.99 online and in stores.

Drastically different in both appearance and functionality and possessing much more pizzazz any of Palm's past accessory releases, the Palm Touchstone is a stunning little device in its own right that deserves a further look for anyone who is traditionally fond of desktop charging cradle solutions.

Palm Touchstone Kit Review

The main Touchstone dock resembles a hockey puck with a severely sloping front. As a standalone device it is a sleek charger that is sure to evoke a conversation or two.

Palm Touchstone Review

Touchstone is based on inductive technology. Inductive coils inside the Touchstone charging dock generate a small, oscillating electromagnetic field and transmit it through the matte back cover.

Palm Touchstone box

Here is the box that it comes in.

Palm Touchstone Unboxing

This shows the box contents. It simply includes the Touchstone Dock, the replacement back cover and a small instruction manual.

Palm Touchstone kit

The Touchstone stays firmly in place on most surfaces via a very strong suction material on the bottom.

Palm Touchstone

Since it does not come with a spare USB cable, you must use the one that comes with the Pre along with the electrical plug.

I have to wonder if Palm deliberately made the microUSB cover harder to remove. I found trying to lift the microUSB cover was also somewhat laborious and a challenge to dislodge. It is just so much easier to just drop the Pre onto your desk to charge.

Palm Touchstone Accessory

Since the Pre has no exterior notification lights or charging LED's, the display always remains on when it is charging on the Touchstone. A bummer is that this display simply shows the current time when in standby. It will show some notifications as well but If you want to check the actual charge level you have go through a tedious method. First you have to unlock the device, then tap the battery icon to open the status panel. There should be a large changing icon or something else to let you know the charge status.

Palm Touchstone

Here's a look at the side view. The dock holds and even guides the Pre into position via a strong magnet. It stays firmly in place. Charging time is about the same as via USB, however after a long charging session the back of the Pre can be a little warm, but not dangerously so.

Palm Touchstone Back Cover

The soft touch back cover is actually much nicer than the default glossy one. It feels a lot better to hold due to its matte finish and does not smudge nearly as much.

Palm Touchstone

In the underside view you can see that there is much more going on the touchstone cover. The gold contact points connect to a receiving set on the back of the Pre below the battery.

Palm Touchstone

Touchstone also features some innovative software integrations. If you place the Pre on the dock during a call it will automatically go to speakerphone mode. The same goes if you answer a call while it's charging or if you pick the Pre up it will auto answer incoming calls without having to tap the screen.

Overall, I would definitely recommend the Touchstone Charging Kit to go along with any Palm Pre purchase. The Touchstone is a very strong complimentary piece from Palm and their industrial design team. The ability to charge wirelessly is simply cool. It all lends itself as a much simpler and totally convenient way to take care of the usually mundane charging process.

Kris Keilhack also contributed portions to this review and you can also read his earlier hands on impressions report.

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Spare battery charger?

philpalm @ 6/5/2009 7:36:41 PM # Q
So Ryan, can you charge a spare battery upon the touchstone separately or you will have to buy another battery charger for the spare?
RE: Spare battery charger?
Ryan @ 6/5/2009 7:44:46 PM # M Q
No, you must have the Pre connected (and the special back cover) to charge anything via the dock.

I imagine that this product would work, as the battery size/connectors are identical to the Centro.

http://software.palminfocenter.com/productaccessories.asp?id=22384

RE: Spare battery charger?
Marshall Flinkman @ 6/6/2009 2:04:12 PM # Q
I've said it before-Palm needs to release a spare battery charger to work with the Touchstone. Use the 800w one as a template (same size battery & it has the microUSB port for when the Touchstone may not be available) and add the magnet and inductive system.
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Intrigue Factor a Hit for Palm

LiveFaith @ 6/5/2009 7:55:02 PM # Q
Palm has done precious little in the past few years to create excitement. The touchstone creates an intrigue factor for their revival that will probably attract thousands to the device.

As you said, it's cool, but other than that I cannot fathom paying $70 for a charger that ties up my USB cable too. It's nice that it has an angle to it, but Palm has not taken opportunity yet to do NEAT thing with the device while it leans on the stone.

Qs?
1, I heard reported that charging was much slower than with the mUSB. Did you notice any speed difference?

2. Can devs get to the code to cause various responses when loading / unloading / or haing "events" on the touchstone?

3. Any idea if the Eos etc will be able to "get stoned"?

Killer review!
Pat Horne

RE: Intrigue Factor a Hit for Palm
twrock @ 6/5/2009 8:38:28 PM # Q
"Get stoned!" Palm's new slogan. It'll be appearing everywhere soon.

Pat, quick, get a copyright on that puppy. Then you can sue the pants off of Palm when they try to steal it. I'll vouch for you in court.

Hey Palm! Where's my PDA with Wifi and phone capabilities?

RE: Intrigue Factor a Hit for Palm
Ryan @ 6/5/2009 9:09:41 PM # Q
Thanks Pat. 1. I did not notice a significant difference but it was only slightly slower than going into the wall. Unfortunately, I didn't get a chance to time the difference. 2 & 3. I am not certain, but would hope so.
RE: Intrigue Factor a Hit for Palm
bigredgpk @ 6/5/2009 10:43:42 PM # Q
Would you want to get the Treo 800w compact charger? It has the Micro USB charger plug like the Pre. If you get teh Centro version it'll have the old Palm Charger plug
RE: Intrigue Factor a Hit for Palm
SeldomVisitor @ 6/6/2009 4:06:46 AM # Q
Palm says don't use any charger but the Pre charger.

Somewhere (probably TreoCentral forums) I read that the charger itself controls the charging (as opposed to simply being a transformer) to limit charging when the battery is full, thus stopping the "exploding battery" syndrome. Of course, I have no personal evidence of that but that's what I read. And Palm DOES say don't use any charger other than the Pre charger...

RE: Intrigue Factor a Hit for Palm
Skykeeper @ 6/6/2009 3:49:27 PM # Q
"Since it does not come with a spare USB cable, you must use the one that comes with the Pre along with the electrical plug."

So... how much is the spare Pre USB cable? Or is it a standard USB cable?

(... sometimes company use very tight design that doesn't let you use standard usb cable, because the plastic around the connectors are too thick)

Thank you for your reply.

RE: Intrigue Factor a Hit for Palm
Skykeeper @ 6/6/2009 4:33:18 PM # Q
BTW.. just realized that you needed a charger too to connect the touchstone... can't see any for sale... except car chargers ?!
RE: Intrigue Factor a Hit for Palm
SeldomVisitor @ 6/6/2009 4:48:57 PM # Q
The Pre travel charger (same as that with the Pre) costs $35.

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Good hardware, needs software update.

alanh @ 6/7/2009 12:40:45 PM # Q
I bought a Touchstone and I always preferred using a cradle with my Palm devices. I really like the Touchstone concept. It's easy to use and is much easier than fumbling around with cables. I feel they need to improve the software in a few ways:

1. Let me configure the screen dimming perhaps all the way to "off." I keep my phone next to my bed when I sleep, and the current setting is brighter than I'd prefer.

2. Allow me to disable the "I've been put on a Touchstone" alert sound.

3. Make some changes in the "I'm sitting on a Touchstone" screen. Make it aware of the orientation of the device and rotate the clock accordingly. Put some indication of how charged the battery is on the screen.

It's a great first iteration and I don't think the hardware needs any update.
-alan

RE: Good hardware, needs software update.
jca666us @ 6/7/2009 6:36:19 PM # Q
A good number of early adopters are reporting "splotchy," distorted, or discolored displays (we've seen reports of dead pixels, too, though we'd actually be more weirded out if there weren't). See examples here, here, and here.
We've also heard reports of unexpected system shutdowns (like those reported in the LAPTOP piece above) that require a battery pull to resolve. We're hearing that you can also patch this up by holding down the power button and toggling the ringer switch three times, but your mileage may vary. If we had to guess, this'll be fixed up with a firmware update at some point, which really drives home the value of OTA capability.
Text fields in the web browser don't seem to support symbols that aren't on the keyboard (that is, symbols you need to hold down "Sym" to access). We've independently verified this one, and it's nasty - it'll be particularly bad once the phone launches internationally, so we'd also expect this to be patched sooner rather than later.
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Touchstone Charger

keepmyjob @ 6/10/2009 12:51:50 PM # Q
Does anyone know whose partner in technology Palm used for the charger?
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Charging inconsistent, should have come with own cable

realbrick @ 6/10/2009 2:02:52 PM # Q
Every time I put my Pre on this thing, there is a bit of suspense: will it start charging, or will it do nothing. About one time out of three, it does nothing. Very annoying - hopefully something Palm can fix with an update.

Also, ridiculous that a $70 device doesn't come with a way to plug it into the wall. You have to use the wall charger/USB cord that comes with your Pre to hook up the Touchstone!

So when you travel, or you want to charge at a different location, OR if you simply want to transfer files from your PC (that uses the same wire), you have to completely dismantle your Touchstone charger setup. Palm really screwed up the customer experience, here. They should send everyone who bought the Touchstone a wall plug/mini USB cord for free.

Do not buy this until 1) they fix the sometimes-it-doesn't-charge problem; 2) it comes with a way to plug it into the wall.

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Not to be left out...

twrock @ 6/24/2009 4:57:03 AM # Q
Yep, get one for your iPhone:
http://www.engadgetmobile.com/2009/06/24/wireless-charging-comes-to-apples-iphone-3gs-too/

What's that? It costs even more than the Touchstone?!!!!

Oh yeah, that's right, it's for an Apple product. Silly me. ;-)

Hey Palm! Where's my PDA with Wifi and phone capabilities?

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