Palm made no secret that the Pre is to be compared to the iPhone, so I’ll do so here. I’m a little stunned to say: it’s as good or better than iPhone on most fronts. It’s that good. Loaded with wow factor. Of course, most of what I write here today could be moot this coming week when (if?) Apple announces its new models.
Is it an “iPhone killer”? No, because that’s a trick question (a very common one). I’m working with a prominent VC firm who’s asked “what would it take to unseat the iPhone?”, and the answer is quite complicated– the device itself is only one factor. A huge applications and music store is a big reason for the iPhone’s success, plus verticals with other Apple products, etc. But this quick review is only observations about the Pre vs iPhone devices.
Better Q: would I heartily recommend it to someone wanting a phone today as an iPhone alternative? Emphatically: yes.
Here’s my most-notable feature list, comparing Pre to iPhone:
Just feels better in your hand. Less like a piece of jewelry, no metal. Screen looks almost an inch shorter, though if your eyes are good, you quickly get used to it (more condensed). Screen not quite as radiant as the iPhone’s, but pretty close, partly due to plastic screen instead of glass, which will scratch easier (get a protector) but won’t shatter (a huge plus).
1-handed operation feels natural. Hasn’t crashed for me. Sound is slightly better (audio and calls). Physical keyboard (f**k yeah, albeit Lilliputian), better camera, removable battery (important due to others’ batt life complaints). An actual flat mirror on back when phone is opened, about 1.5×3″: this would be particularly popular in Asia– too bad the phone won’t work there (CDMA/US only)! Network speedtests mostly out-performed iPhone/ATT, though this was ad-hoc and not conclusive. The Pre OS does feel fast, and without the annoying and widespread slight delays on iPhone when typing or changing tasks. Comes w/ (only?) 8GB. Music synched via iTunes (if non-DRM’ed) or Amazon Music Store.
The UI/UX is also a bit more advanced, feels more like the future. Deck and card views are great and more interesting than on iPhone, you can flick an app away to trash it or reorganize. This is the part that’s toughest to describe and best experienced.
Apps: weakness for now. Hey, it’s a new device and new platform: Developers Wanted. It will take time and resources and faith in the platform to build a thriving apposphere. My thought is Palm’s done it before (and lost it before, a few times) and could do it again. And yes there’s still room even despite Apple having become such a mobile force. Smartly, Palm came up with WebOS, an environment that is based on common web tools. This promises to impose upon developers far less specialization and learning than with other mobile platforms. Japan’s DoCoMo i-mode used such a strategy with great success 10 years ago. (sidenote re iNames: i-mode predates iPod by > 2 years. Coincidence?).
And luckily, the phone comes with a great array of apps to start with– Pandora, Gmaps, etc, pretty much the essentials.
[By-the-ways (not really disclosures)]:
1. One of my current foci, http://eastagile.com, an awesomely gifted dev shop, is developing for WebOS.
2. A former company I co-founded (Interactive Web Concepts) was sold to Palm/3COM in 2000.