The Keyboard, it’s so, Real
Push up on the bottom of the Pre’s screen and the keyboard awkwardly slides out from under it. You’re supposed to push up from the middle of the Pre’s screen to do it properly apparently. Either way you go about it, what you reveal isn’t any virtual keyboard - it’s a real 35 key QWERTY keyboard:
Hold down the orange button to use the alternate function on each key and hold down the shift button to yell at someone. There are dedicated @ and . keys as well as a Sym key that brings up a software keyboard (gasp) that lets you enter a variety of symbols.
The size of the keyboard means that it does take some getting used to. You can be quick with it, but not right off the bat. It takes some practice but once you get there, it won’t be a limiting factor. In fact, the biggest limit to how fast you can type is the fact that the Pre has no intelligent predictive text engine. It will capitalize new words for you and insert apostrophes when appropriate, but if you misspell a word it won’t correct it on the fly. Coming from the iPhone, this is a huge omission (Apple probably holds the patent on awesome predictive text input, Palm would probably have to clean Jobs‘ toilets weekly to get access to that one).
I must admit: the physical keyboard is nice. I’m not really much quicker with it than I am on the iPhone’s virtual keyboard, but it’s not about speed - it’s about feedback. It’s nice to just be able to push buttons, I know what I’m hitting and I don’t have to worry about whether my finger is a millimeter too far to the left or right. And yes, you can type while you’re driving (although it’s still possible on the iPhone, just easier with a real keyboard). And yes, you really shouldn’t be doing that.