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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Griswold - Friday, June 19, 2009 - link"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."
We're in the 3rd generation of iphones now and they still cant multitask. If palm does it perfectly, calling it "apple-like" is certainly inappropriate. Palms Pre is now the yardstick for multitasking on the mobile sector. Credit where credit is due, please.
Anand Lal Shimpi - Friday, June 19, 2009 - linkI meant it in a flattering way. That sort of praise is normally reserved for Apple; bestowing it upon Palm, not traditionally a recipient of such praise was intended to be an honor :-P
Johnmcl7 - Friday, June 19, 2009 - link"Shame on Nokia, Motorola and the established cell phone industry for failing to do what it took Palm two years to do."
Ok, so this point is made followed by compliments for multitasking and the cloud syncing however Nokia have had a similar multitasking system implemented in S60 for years (hold the app button to get a list of all apps and change to them as you want). Background apps can have their own data connections without interfering with each other and if you do push them too far the phone will warn you it's running low on memory. I find it strange that the lack of multitasking which is really a requisite for a smartphone has been so overlooked with the Iphone. Nokia's Ovi product lets you sync your system remotely or you can hook your contacts directly into the likes of Facebook with the latest version of S60.
While Nokia lack the flash of other companies however Apple still cannot match the featureset of the S60 phones that were out before the Iphone 2G and I find their core features to be extremely strong particularly signal reception - the 5800 can hold onto a signal where no other phone can which makes it considerably more useful given it is a phone after all.
Anand Lal Shimpi - Friday, June 19, 2009 - linkWhile Nokia has done a great job adding features to its phones over the years, on the UI side the innovation just hasn't been there. Both Apple and Palm deliver far more usable, simple and smooth UIs on their smart phones than I've seen from anyone else.
If your cellphone UI has never bothered you then Nokia more than delivers capable handsets, however I believe (and I feel that a significant portion of the high end smartphone market agrees) that it's only been since the iPhone that we've seen real attention paid towards improving UI and user experience on these phones. Palm does a wonderful job of carrying the torch for the next leg imho.
Connoisseur - Friday, June 19, 2009 - linkI totally agree. Everyone keeps harping on this article regarding the "features" and how they've been available for a long time in other phones. The feature-set aside, these phones just offer a level of smoothness and ease of use in the UI that 90% of the population is wowed about. Sure my old Treo offered a lot of functionality but it took an Apple to take the key components and make it such a pleasure to use.
jmaine - Saturday, June 20, 2009 - linkPlease define "genuine smartphone". Enlighten us to what the iPhone cannot do (and do well) that a Nokia smartphone would be a better choice for the masses? I switched to an iPhone after years of using Nokia, Motorola, Sony, Samsung and Blackberry phones. I even have a Treo 750 from work right now and I absolute hate it and all the former phones I've used and constantly switched between.
TheProf, Connoisseur and Anand hit the nail on the head. It's the interface and usability, not the features that make a smart phone a commercial success. You can have a 12 megapixel phone with an OLED display, but with horrible software, support and application support. It will fail despite the strength of its hardware.
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.
Johnmcl7 - Friday, June 19, 2009 - linkI don't see the point in having a fancy UI if there's nothing underneath it, I expect a lot of functionality from a smartphone (otherwise I would use a normal phone) and Apple still seems to be far behind where Nokia were years before. If you want a fashion phone then yes, a fancy UI is definitely a desirable feature.
Also, I still fail to see why you 'shame' Nokia then praise Palm for a system which Nokia have had for many years.
Anand Lal Shimpi - Friday, June 19, 2009 - linkI believe that the iPhone and Pre do offer much more than a fancy UI, I believe they offer a good balance of features and good interface. Not holding phone makers to a high standard when it comes to UI is how we ended up in this mess in the first place, I don't believe now is the time to go back to our old ways.
I'm not shaming Nokia for its multitasking support, I'm shaming Nokia for not producing a comparable Pre-like or iPhone-like UI in the years since the original iPhone's release. In my mind it should have been Nokia and Motorola who built the first iPhone, they had the experience; for Apple to come in and build such a successful smartphone indicates that there's something wrong with the way the established makers approach phone designs.
Johnmcl7 - Friday, June 19, 2009 - linkThat's because Nokia make genuine smartphones, not devices pretending to be smartphones just because they have a fancier interface - on the initial Iphone release it was missing features even standard phones had (such as proper bluetooth support). I honestly don't know how a phone as basic as the Iphone gets such a free ride on what is supposed to be a tech site - it's very slowly getting there but to me a device without multitasking cannot be considered a smartphone as that severely limits the device.
Even on media features Nokia had Apple beaten hands down and still do in some areas, I'm waiting for the next release in the drip feed series of Iphones which will have a decent camera as at the moment they seem to be around three years behind on that front.
Overall I just much prefer Nokia's approach to a mobile phone - pack as many features into a phone to make it a powerful device rather than Apple's approach of putting at little as possible to force people to upgrade constantly. I guess I'll never understand how tech sites can get so wowed by an interface they can completely overlook the lack of any substance underneath it.
Samus - Saturday, June 20, 2009 - linkYea... Nokia's smartphones are 'true' smartphones. Thats why Blackberry and Apple outsell Nokia smartphones like 50:1.
Nokia makes sturdy dependable phones, but their IU has the elegence of a VW Golf dashboard. Boring. Boring. Boring.