Palm's Pre Touchstone: Clever, But Overpriced

There aren’t a whole lot of accessories announced yet for the Palm Pre, but the Touchstone charger dock sure is an interesting one. Unfortunately, at $70—a third of the price of the phone itself—it’s a somewhat painful purchase.

Touchstone is an induction charger, like the sort used with electric shavers and toothbrushes, that uses magnetic coupling instead of a direct electrical connection. It's a little cylinder with a "micro suction" base that clings to a desktop and an oblique top surface. To use it, you replace the standard Pre battery cover with a new one that includes the induction circuitry and have a nice rubberized surface instead of the slick one on the stock Pre back. Once the new back is in place, a magnet holds to Pre in place on the touchstone and allows it to charge without connecting any cables to the phone. It also automatically puts the Pre into speakerphone mode when a call comes in.

At $70, a price that has to include a lot of margin, you'd think that Palm might have made the Touchstone a complete charger, but it isn't. To use it, You have to take the wall-wart transformer--itself a cute little cylinder--and micro USB charging cable that came with the Pre to connect Touchstone to AC power.

If you want to leave Touchstone rigged up on your desk and keep a second charger in your briefcase, you'll have to buy a second charger. Except that Palm doesn't offer one yet (an auto charger is available for $30). Fortunately, despite dire warnings in the documentation about using anything but an official Palm charger with the Pre, I found it worked fine with any 5 volt micro USB charger, such as the one supplied with the Amazon Kindle 2.

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