Final Words

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.

Camera & Syncing
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  • palmpre - Sunday, June 21, 2009 - link

    Thank you for this great article / review !!

    The Pre isn't available in France, but many wait already for it !">

  • JC Strat - Sunday, June 21, 2009 - link

    Hi JMaine, it seems like you have been reading a lot lately.

    Just to quote from some of your messages here:
    I've been reading a lot about the Palm Pre's problems since launch - overheating, poor battery life, and software crashes. Don't forget that a smart phone's function is to be a phone first, and everything else after. If you can't use its features without affecting it's essential functionality as a phone, it's a failure.

    I've been reading many reports about battery issues with the Pre. Multi-tasking implemented poorly is far worse than not having multi-tasking at all. I feel this feature add a level of complexity not many mainstream users will appreciate and is an unnecessary waste of battery life, which contradict the primary purpose a smart-'phone' is there for.

    It sounds like you have been trolling for reasons to put down the Pre. I think the multitasking on the Pre is pretty brilliant. I like having 5 apps open. Currently on my mac I have iTunes playing, this web page open (with other tabs as well), a Finder window open, MS Word is open so I could cut and paste your comments, Xee is open from some recent picture work, etc. I think it's not all that complex, anyone with a PC or a mac understands how to have several programs open. The Pre's cards accomplish switching elegantly.

    Now, you seem to have been looking around carefully for stories of people who had problems with their Pre so that you could cast them as general problems in forums such as this one. Why? A strong competitor will make Apple develop a better iPhone. It is in your interest for the Pre to succeed!

    Palm has innovated with this phone. As Apple did before it, Palm has implemented ideas that will shape the direction phones go in. Innovation is a good thing. Using FUD to sabotage and stifle it as your comments seem to do is not cool.
  • The0ne - Sunday, June 21, 2009 - link

    If the comments doesn't shout "trolling" then I don't know what will :D
  • jap0nes - Saturday, June 20, 2009 - link

    I think this is one of the worst reviews I've ever seen, and never expected to come from Anand in person. Why do I think that? Basically, because it's not a review, it's a comparison: Palm Pre vs. iPhone.
    On every single page Apple/iPhone is cited. Okay, they're competitors and all, but when Pre has an advantage, there are comments like 'Apple should do that'. That's ridiculous. I've never seen an review with comments like these. Pure fanboyism.
    Please, change the title of the article to: 'Can Palm beat my Iphone' or something like that.
  • The0ne - Sunday, June 21, 2009 - link

    I have to agree with you. I'm not entirely sure why so many users are applauding the review because they think it's an "in depth review." It's not. It's a "got a new phone to compare to Iphone and have to get a general review out ASAP fever/syndrome.
    I'll be waiting for the "in depth review" of the Pre from Anandtech soon.

    However, if reviews use the Iphone as the criteria in the first place you will have reviews such as this one. Unless the Iphone really does set standards I would have to say it's not going to change until people find standards to test phones too. For example, if battery lasts 3hours+ than it should qualify as being a good phone. It shouldn't be said that the Pre is "lagging" or "isn't better" than the Iphone. That's just really giving a bad impression to those that actually do testing in real life. If anything it makes the author look bad IMO.
  • 7Enigma - Tuesday, June 23, 2009 - link

    And I'll disagree with you both. :) While a traditional review focuses primarily on the product at hand, this one works for a very good reason that Anand restated over and over. The iPhone has been the dominant force in the "smart" phone for several years now with really no direct competition. There were products that had more functionality, more horsepower, but none that had the complete package. The iPhone didn't and still doesn't but it came the closest. So it makes total sense to compare the Pre directly.

    It is very similar to the cpu market where you have basically 2 competetors. Could you imagine a new AMD cpu coming out and having no comparisons with the i7? Of course not. The current "best", be that from performance, functionality, or the package deal of all aspects, should always be directly compared to give the reader the best information to making a buying decision.

    Now cpu's are easy and objective decisions. You run 10 benchmarks, compare hard data, and declare a winner. Obviously a phone is a different beast. It has an OS, and this makes for subjective issues. What I like you may not like. What I think is functional you may find annoying. But the fact is that Anand, who many of us highly respect for honest and detailed articles/reviews, seems to have a good grasp on the smartphone market, and is ACTIVELY looking for an upgrade option to the iPhone.

    Just like we are always looking for a gpu/cpu upgrade by comparing how much better the new part is than our current part, Anand is saying the Pre is coming out years after the iPhone, so it had better damn well match or exceed in all areas that the iPhone already "perfected".

    And I think most of us saw through the article to the underlying message, which was to inflate the level of competition between Apple and Palm so that we, the consumer, benefits in the end.
  • jap0nes - Tuesday, June 23, 2009 - link

    I understand what you say and I agree with you, but that didn't happen in the article. I partially understand when you say that "And I think most of us saw through the article to the underlying message, which was to inflate the level of competition between Apple and Palm so that we, the consumer, benefits in the end", but in the end the "review" sounded ridiculous, towards fanboyism.
  • jmaine - Saturday, June 20, 2009 - link


    Thanks for a really well written comparison between the Pre and the iPhone. A few comments:

    "The multitasking ability of the Pre is honestly one of two features I really, really wish my iPhone had. Multitasking has been done by many smartphones before the Pre or iPhone, but no one has done it as smooth and as Apple-like as Palm. "

    I've been reading many reports about battery issues with the Pre. Multi-tasking implemented poorly is far worse than not having multi-tasking at all. I feel this feature add a level of complexity not many mainstream users will appreciate and is an unnecessary waste of battery life, which contradict the primary purpose a smart-'phone' is there for.

    As you noted in the article, Apple built up it's UI and feature set, gradually perfecting each with every successive update. Do you think battery life is a strong reason for them not adding multi-tasking beyond the ipod music into the iPhone? I personally feel push notifications is a better implementation than true multi-tasking on a phone.
  • Doommidget - Saturday, June 20, 2009 - link

    Had to create a login to address something that made me laugh...

    Thank you for a great review, although I don't hold out much hope of the Pre hitting the UK in the near future. I also think it is right to heavily compare the Pre to the iPhone given that it is the only credible competition for a very user friendly and fairly feature full phone (and by features I don't mean crammed with hardware I mean the services).

    I just have to say, to anybody trying to mention Nokia as producing better phones than the iPhone with S60 having more functionality and the handsets having better hardware... this may be true but Nokias implementation is waaaay off. Every new flagship N series phone is plagued with software issues... N95, N96, expect the N97 will follow shortly. 5800 is also terrible for software problems. The list of handsets with poor reliability extends further back than that and will no doubt carry on into the future. Irrespective of whether the hardware in the Nokia phone is quicker, or the camera is better, or the handset is more open, if you have to have your phone replaced or repaired 5 times within a few months of purchasing then to be honest it really isnt worthy of comparison. And I know not everybody has had issues before I get flamed, myself being one of them as I moved from an N95 8GB to the iPhone 3G, but working in the mobile phone market, I can tell you that there are no end of Nokia software problems and virtually no issues with iPhone OS or the hardware.

    So iPhone > N series pretty much every time; it may not have 2 processors, open bluetooth, great camera etc, but at least it works.

    On a side note, I bet Nokia don't have a 5 day turnaround for fixing or replacing a handset that comes back to them.

    Its all about the ecosystem that surrounds the handset, people in the top end of the market are becoming less impressed with pure hardware these days and are looking for more out of their phone with regards to web integration and services, and Apple have pretty much got everything down to a T as it currently stands.

    So yes, compare the Pre to the iPhone, the Pre looks potentially worthy as an alternative, but not quite there.

    And don't ever try to compare a Nokia to an iPhone, not even in the same ballpark as the iPhone ^_^

  • finbarqs - Saturday, June 20, 2009 - link

    YES! Now I can sync with my Exchange!!!!

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