The Palm Pre Reviewby Anand Lal Shimpi on June 19, 2009 12:00 AM EST
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When I first got the Pre I was disappointed. I expected it to be like my iPhone but better. Instead, the Pre ended up being better in some areas, worse in others, but predominantly different. The more I used it, the more I let go of my iPhone upbringing and embraced how well Palm combined the UI elegance of the iPhone with the functionality of so many smartphones before it.
Augmenting that powerful combination, Palm did a tremendous job in bringing brand new features to the table. Shame on Nokia, Motorola and the established cell phone industry for failing to do what it took Palm two years to do.
The Pre’s multitasking is one area where Palm completely trumped Apple. There are tradeoffs that Palm made but the Pre is just so much more productive (perhaps more for chatting than actual work) because of its multitasking support. There’s absolutely no reason for Apple not to embrace something similar. I’m guessing we won’t see real multitasking from Apple until iPhone OS 4.0, but there’s a lot of catch up that Apple needs to do here. If Apple had been working on multitasking since before the Pre announcement, we’ll easily see it supported in the iPhone next year. If Apple didn’t start on multitasking support until after Palm’s CES keynote, we won’t see it until 2011. Without a doubt this is a clear advantage for Palm.
Synergy is also another tremendous win for Palm that should’ve been implemented long ago by every other mobile phone manufacturer. The days of plugging your smartphone into your Mac or PC to sync it are numbered. Your friends manage their contact information in the cloud, so why not pull from their updates rather than manually manage it all on your own? It’s brilliant.
There are a few rough edges with the Pre but honestly, I have more faith in Palm to make the Pre perfect than I do in Apple to embrace the Pre’s advantages (at least in a timely manner). Look at how long it took Apple to enable Cut and Paste support on the iPhone.
What do you think is going to happen when Palm perfects Synergy? Apple now becomes the underdog and has to play catch up.
Palm needs to work on a lot unfortunately. Synergy needs tweaking, there’s no visual voicemail, limited search functionality, limited copy/paste and there’s absolutely no reason that anything should ever be slower on the Pre than on the iPhone. It’s like me writing software that somehow runs faster on an Athlon 64 than on your Core i7 system. It’s clear that Palm has a lot of optimizing left with the Pre. I’d say there’s a good 6 months of work there to get this thing perfect. If it takes any longer, I start losing faith in Palm, if it takes any less time then I start being worried for Apple.
Then there’s the issue of build quality. The Pre is definitely acceptable, but not iPhone dethroning awesome in this department. Everyone is expecting more webOS based phones to come out in the near future, well at least one of them had better feel at least as sturdy as the iPhone.
I’m less worried about the Palm Store than I am these other items. The initial excitement over hacking the Pre has got me convinced that we’ll see third party development for this phone, it’s just going to take a while to get there.
Bring me a Pre that fixes Synergy, improves performance, has iPhone-like materials/build quality, full search, full copy/paste, visual voicemail and a more mature app store and I’ll leave Apple. Until then, personally, I’ll keep a close eye on the Pre because Palm totally gets it. This is what a smartphone is supposed to be and we finally, two years after the iPhone’s release, have a real competitor both in hardware and in OS.
If you don’t want to deal with AT&T, if you need a physical keyboard or if you just want to root for the underdog - the Palm Pre is for you. If you’re on Sprint, the Pre is easily the best smartphone the network has to offer. The Pre is the embodiment of innovation and I can’t stress how important it is to support companies like that.
How Palm behaves over the next six months will truly determine how positively we should all view the company. If the Pre gets regular updates, fixing issues and expanding features then we have a real winner here folks.
Curtain Call: What Apple Needs to Do
If you have an iPhone or if you work for a certain company in Cupertino (or any smartphone maker for that matter), then the Pre serves as a blueprint for what needs to change with the iPhone.
The following abridged list is a minimum set of guidelines that need to be present in iPhone OS 4.0:
1) Real multitasking support. The Cortex A8 in the Palm Pre is significantly faster than the ARM11 core in the iPhone 3G, Apple will have the same hardware with the 3GS and thus there’s no reason not to enable true multitasking.
2) A Synergy-like sync. Palm’s idea was pure brilliance. Instead of worrying about defending your precious gestures and stopping the Pre from syncing with iTunes, I want to see a free, Synergy-like sync to Google, Facebook, etc... from Apple. And I swear if Apple uses this as an attempt to push MobileMe...
3) An improved messaging client. Along with Synergy came a much better way to communicate with your friends and contacts. Conversations, regardless of whether they are over AIM, SMS all appear in one window, in one chat history. Hello, it makes sense.
There. That’s not too difficult to do right? I’ll tell you what, I’ll even give Apple another $200 to help fund it.
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Shadowmaster625 - Monday, June 22, 2009 - linkWhat is the most important feature of a phone with unlimited data? Obviously it is to be able to provide a broadband internet connection for my desktop pc so I can get away from the comcast bloodsuckers. I find it curious that Anand doesnt even answer this most important of questions. lol. One can only wonder what kind of world Anand lives in ... sheesh... only a moron would do anything more than talk or txt on one of these stupid things.
T2k - Monday, June 22, 2009 - linkLike in many other occasions AT misses the point again - Pre is nothing like the iPhone, let alone aiming at it. If it's aiming anything then it's rather the Blackberry and its integrated communication services - which iPhone never came even close to, let alone matching it.
iPhone is a geek (music/net/media) phone but NOT a smartphone - what kind of a smartphone could it be with NO MULTITASKING whatsoever?
You might can get almost as much stupid little apps as on WinMo - I doubt it though - but the lack of multitasking by itself makes it immediately a laughable proposition, let alone the long-missing other features that took Apple 2+ YEARS to fix, only to catch up with top phones from 2007...
Typical Apple-RDF idiocy at its best - Anand really needs to pull out his head of Jobs' @ss and needs to take a reality trip to overseas and see how laughable his iPhone is when compared to high-end phones in Europe and Asia (as a matter of fact it's quite embarrassing to have an iPhone in Japan.)
There's a reason why Blackberry beats Apple even in the US, which is typically the strongest market for Apple - it's the fact that iPhone is a reat piece for pseudo-business people but no real corporate person would touch it (would you give out your most sensitive communication for Apple? Because that's what you do with iPhone.)
Palm Pre is FAR AHEAD of iPhone but it's not a big step - there are plenty of phones well ahead of iPhone, there's nothing to see here in this regard, sorry.
finbarqs - Monday, June 22, 2009 - linkHere's what I think that needs to be improved:
The balance of the phone. The phone is top heavy, making it very difficult to use it single handed. Additionally, the keyboard is too far away from the screen to call it "useable" with the screen when you have it with one hand. This makes me wish it has a virtual Keyboard! Battery life... well.. is left to be desired. Full charge at 3PM (more like 2:30) talked 3 times, but texted a lot, used e-mail and AIM. lasted t'il approximately 10PM. the talk times lasted approximately 3-4 minutes each.
Slow reaction when launching applications: Anand hit the nail on the head on this one. Still nice, but not as fast as apple. Still time for improvements on this one!
Anyways, Now that the iPhone has 3.0 out, I think it's a serious contender in the smartphone world! Palm pre also lacks video recording and the AF of apple's iphone 3Gs!!!
Ehsan - Monday, June 22, 2009 - linkHi Anand,
When starting messaging part of your review you opened with "The iPhone perfected text messaging". Can you please explain what you meant by this? Did you mean to say that they perfected it from the original one came on 1st Iphone or you meant they perfected it for all smartphones? Because if you meant later you are wrong. It was Palm who implemented threaded sms/mms in Palm OS in Treo 650 times and later customized it on Win Mob for their WM based treos. They were the first and only one till Apple copied that idea. How is that for wakeup call Apple fansboys??
T2k - Monday, June 22, 2009 - link
Nope, it's just another idiocy - iPhone NEVER been a desired texting phone, let alone bringing anything new (originally there wasn't even landscape email writing, let alone the still-missing MMS) - this is just one of the countless ignorant and stupid claims of this article.
Again, Anand badly needs to do some research before he starts putting out more of this kind of embarrassingly ingorant articles...
Sazar - Tuesday, June 23, 2009 - linkI think what Anand is trying to suggest is the format of texting in the iPhone is what is almost perfect.
It is essentially like a chat, a running conversation between the parties concerned.
Using various other phones, I became accustomed to running conversations, but they were never really structured. I am sure other phone makers have excellent implementations, but the iPhone really did raise the bar for me.
With 0S 3.0 and it's landscape keyboard, it is doubly awesome :)
Ehsan - Wednesday, June 24, 2009 - linkI fully understand what Anand may be trying to suggest but what I want Anand and you to know is this running conversation between parties, like chat, is called "threaded messaging" which Palm introduces in its Treo 600 days. It was perfect and Palm included IM into it in their new WebOS so not only your sms and mms are in chat format but also your aol and gtalk IM's are in same chat window.
What I am suggesting is please give credit where credit is due. Apple implementation of "threaded messaging" is carbon copy of Palm's version which they introduced long time ago in treo 600. Please check out history.
T2k - Monday, June 22, 2009 - linkHow about this one?
" 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). "
Yeah.... you know, it's more than awkward to read things like this in a well-publicized article from a well-known person, on a much-hyped site...
...because this level of ignorance, lack of even basic research (there are at least half a dozen predictive text technologies out there and iPhone is pretty far from being the best) would immediately result in a permanent publication ban at any half-decent news organization or site.
In best case - say you are a junior journo - your editor would be reprimanded and you would be put back in some associate position but in worst case - if you were an editor - you'd be released immediately.
JC Strat - Monday, June 22, 2009 - linkDear Anand,
I hesitate to point this out....
Several of the sites (slashdot, facebook) that you loaded on the iPhone 3GS loaded disproportionately faster on the 3GS than the pre based on other site load times.
It has been suggested that these sites detect the user agent of the iPhone and serve up an optimized site for the iPhone. This has been suggested by using a user agent switcher with Safari. Set it to "Mobile Safari 3.0" - the iPhone browser - and the site loads much quicker even on the same mac.
From a recent post at Precentral.net:
Even if you don't have an iPhone, you can test it yourself if you have a Mac, and are running Safari 4. Go to the Develop menu on a new tab, and change the user agent to Mobile Safari 3.0 and load up slashdot.org. Now open a new tab (the user agent will default to the regular one) and open up slashdot.org. Compare the two. Notice the differences? Of course the one on iPhone loads faster- it's a different freaking version!! Similar thing on facebook.com.
Can you confirm that your tests loaded the exact same version of these pages, and that facebook and slashdot did not serve up different versions of their content to the iPhone that was less data or optimized specifically for the iPhone? The evidence seems pretty compelling that if your user agent is "Mobile Safari 3.0" you get a different version of the page, and comparing that with the Pre loading the full generic site is not valid.
I mention this because a variety of news and gadget sites have carried this as evidence of a 20+ % advantage of the iPhone 3GS over the Pre in rendering web pages. If they are not rendering the same page and data, then that needs to be explicitly acknowledged.
It may be that this turns out to be nothing, and the 3GS is rendering the exact same data and page that much faster than the Pre on these sites. But the discrepancy and possible explanation of an iPhone-optimized page should be explored and brought to light.
Personally whether it's 24% or 6% faster than the Pre, I couldn't care less. They are both awesome phones. However, it is appropriate to give the Pre a fair shake.
TheJediSlayer - Sunday, June 21, 2009 - linkVery, very extensive article between the iPhone and the Palm Pre, which I like.
Although the iPhone has a quicker response time, smoother layout, and is more sturdy, I have to nail it in this respect. The fact that the iPhone has a "closed" application network for users and that the iPhone doesn't allow for multi-tasking makes the phone looks very undesirable, for me at least.
However, the Palm Pre has an "open" network for application downloading where everyone can contribute to it, like Androi's market. They offer multi-tasking, which is a MUST need for me and I'm sure just about everyone else.
The one thing that disappoints me about the Palm Pre is not its short-comings when it comes to Syngery, IMing, or anything else It's rather the fact that the device itself doesn't sound physically sturdy, as pointed out in the article. I'm sure it would take a big of doing to smash the Palm Pre, but I'm sure I'll end up dropping my own Palm Pre and I want to know that I'm not about to end up with a dead-unit because of one drop.
Nevertheless, the Palm Pre is something I will most definitely consider as I prepare to get my first smartphone in the coming months. I'd much rather the Palm Pre have the Android OS loaded onto it, rather than its own WebOS, but perhaps its changeable?