The Palm Pre vs. Apple's iPhone 3G: Preliminary Results and 3GS Discussionby Anand Lal Shimpi on June 9, 2009 12:00 AM EST
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I got up early, went down to very sketchy Sprint store and bought a Palm Pre on Saturday. I've been playing with it and testing it ever since and before I finish the full review I thought I'd share some data with you all.
First, battery life:
|Phone||Web Browsing (Cell Network)||Web Browsing (WiFi)||Talk Time|
|Apple iPhone 3G||218 minutes||400 minutes||289 minutes|
|Palm Pre||219 minutes||351 minutes||312 minutes|
|T-Mobile G1||398 minutes (on Edge)||435 minutes||218 minutes (on Edge)|
T-Mobile doesn't have any 3G coverage in NC yet so all of my tests for the G1 were on Edge, thus we get a much longer web browsing battery life. The thing that surprised me the most however was the eerily similar battery life results between the iPhone 3G and the Palm Pre. The Pre didn't do so well in WiFi web browsing but in the other two tests it lasted around as long as the iPhone 3G.
The Palm Pre uses TI's OMAP 3430 processor, clocked somewhere around 600MHz. The OMAP 3430 uses an ARM Cortex A8 core. The iPhone 3G uses an ARM11 based processor running at somewhere around 400MHz (thank you guys for the correction). The ARM11 in the iPhone 3G is a much older design than the Cortex A8 in the Palm Pre. Both processors are in-order architectures, but while the ARM11 was a single-issue chip the Cortex A8 is dual-issue.
The ARM11 has an 8 stage integer pipeline compared to a 13 stage integer pipeline in the Cortex A8, so the A8 loses some of its advantage there but makes up for it with its superscalar nature. There should be no contest when it comes to performance between these two chips, the Pre's Cortex A8 has the clear advantage. It's why Palm is able to enable pre-emptive multitasking while the iPhone pretty much can't.
The recently announced iPhone 3GS does address the performance issue, presumably by introducing a Cortex A8 based processor to the iPhone 3G. Apple is claiming significant improvements in battery life for everything but 3G talk time with the new iPhone. What this tells me is that Apple did a great job squeezing the most performance per watt out of its ARM11 based processor in the iPhone 3G. The new iPhone 3GS should have performance levels simliar to the Palm Pre, but if Apple's numbers are to be believed it means that battery life will go up significantly.
For Palm this means that there is a lot of room left on the table to improve battery life. In most of my interaction with the Pre I've gotten the impression that if Palm only had a few more months the Pre would be significantly more polished, I suspect that battery life falls under that observation as well.
Other Pre Notes
When I compare the T-Mobile G1 to the iPhone 3G it's no contest, Apple's smartphone takes the cake. The G1 feels more like the smartphones that existed before the iPhone rather than something competitive with it. With the Palm Pre however, it's difficult to make such an apples-to-apples comparison. In many ways the Pre falls short of the iPhone, but in others it's completely untouched by Apple's offering. I'm nowhere near my conclusion but I don't think I'll see a clear victor in this review.
The Palm Pre brings multitasking to the smartphone market better than any of its predecessors. It's almost as if Apple did it. I say almost because the implementation isn't as polished as I'd like. Despite the significant performance advantage of the Pre's CPU, the multitasking just isn't as smooth as I'd want it to be. I'm guessing battery life isn't the only thing Palm could stand to optimize on the Pre.
What the Pre lacks is what the original iPhone had going for it: mastery of key features. The Pre does many things but it does very few things well. The original iPhone on the other hand didn't do a lot, but what it did do, it did better than any other phone on the market. Palm comes very close to achieving that, but I think it needs another 6 months with the Pre to produce the level of polish I feel is necessary to pose a true threat to Apple.
What is truly striking about the Pre is how far Palm was able to take it. Going from Palm's position to truly out-innovating Apple is a serious accomplishment. There are things about the Pre that even Apple's iPhone 3GS can't touch.
More in the review to come...