O2 has won another exclusive deal for an eagerly awaited handset, after reports emerged that the UK mobile operator has beaten off competition for exclusive rights for the Palm Pre in the UK.

According to a report in The Guardian newspaper, Palm will announce the deal next week. O2 already has an exclusive deal with Apple for UK distribution of the iPhone, including the new 3GS version which went on sale two weeks ago.

Europe has been waiting for the Palm Pre for a while now, but complaints over the handset's build quality are starting to emerge in the United States, with at least one person saying that he's already had to return four devices.

One common problem even has a name now: the Oreo. That describes the way that some devices slide open loosely and twist, reminiscent of the way that some people twist open Oreo cookies.

Others complain of dead pixels on the screens or loose-fitting cases that let in dust and outside light, dulling the screen.

On the PreCentral forum, a user going by the name Sivan says that he has returned four Pres for various problems with the hardware. His current device has a dead pixel, but he's decided that problem is minor enough to live with.

One person said he and his girlfriend bought Pres and while he's had no problems, she had to return hers because it was overheating and the power button would stick.

Another writer said he has a Centro, Treo Pro and Pre. "The Treo Pro is hands down better built. My Pre has 4 stuck pixels, a creaky battery cover, and overall just doesn't feel like a quality product. I do not have any wobble, blotches, and twisting problems, however," he wrote.

Amid the complainers, however, are sympathetic people who say their phones feel solid and work just fine.

"I love my Pre. I have had zero problems with it. And I use the phone constantly, sliding the keyboard in and out countless times per day..." wrote JonR88.

Palm did not reply to a request for comment. PreCentral isn't affiliated with the vendor.

Palm has staked its future on the Pre and the new WebOS software it runs on. It has struggled in its transition from a company that sells primarily personal digital assistants to one that sells smartphones. The Pre launched earlier this month amid rumours of shortages due to trouble Palm had in the manufacturing process.

Based on original reporting by Nancy Gohring, IDG news service

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