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.

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  • TheProf - Saturday, June 20, 2009 - link

    That's because to most non-PhoneGeeks, a good interface to a feature is more important than the feature itself. Usability trumps power in most if not all cases.

    If a feature is too hard to find or too hard to use, it might as well not exist, for whatever values of 'too hard to find' or 'too hard to use' apply. "pack[ing] as many features into a phone to make it a powerful device" may appeal to tech geeks, but it doesn't fly with the broader computing audience, let alone the general public.

    That's the true overriding 'feature' of the iPhone and the Pre; they take features that existed in previous phones, but were so complicated that hardly anyone used them, and made them things that a much broader audience actually *enjoy* using.
  • cplusplus - Friday, June 19, 2009 - link

    Now I'm not actually expecting a G2 review at any point, but Android is only brought up twice in this whole review? The G1 has been out for 8 months and already pulls from the cloud (Google natively, and I believe it can pull from Facebook) and has multi-tasking. Two of the things you say you really like about the Pre. The G1 isn't as good as the iPhone (for the most part), and I know that, but the G2 is supposed to be much better, and I would like to see how Android stacks up against webOS, at the very least.
  • Anand Lal Shimpi - Friday, June 19, 2009 - link

    I played with the G1 while writing this review, while I think the OS has some definite promise - the current hardware is just disappointing. Multitasking has been around long before any of these phones, yet it was the Pre's interface and relative quickness that made it a very desktop-like experience. The next-generation of Android based phones will hopefully deliver a full set of gestures and better performance; I think that would be the appropriate time to look at a comparison.

    To my knowledge, Android doesn't natively handle Facebook integration and has no mechanism for removing dupes between Gmail/Facebook contacts on the fly. Google (Android) is closer than anyone else (other than Palm) right now though.

    Take care,
  • mrhumble1 - Friday, June 19, 2009 - link

    This is kinda disappointing, Anand.

    You are saying the G1 doesn't cut it simply because of Facebook integration??

    Newsflash... plenty of people (and phone geeks) don't care one bit about Facebook. That's a terrible reason to knock the G1.

    As for hardware, the G1 shouldn't be judged only for its hardware. The G1 is all about Android.

    The G1 has PLENTY of functionality that most review sites completely ignore. Does the iPhone (or Pre) have widgets? Do either of these phones have skins/themes/ or home screen replacements that include custom icons/backgrounds? These features greatly enhance the customization/usability options of the phone yet nobody seems to care.

    I use apps every day on my G1 that Apple would never allow on the iPhone. The Pre may have great synching capabilities, but it has a similar notification bar like the G1 yet nobody gives the G1 credit.

    You say the Pre gives a better "desktop experience" but the G1 is EXACTLY like using a laptop. I have the icons where I want them, I use the app tray like the Start button (XP), I have shortcuts to every function I could want, and separate home-screens for each category of app (Home, Settings, Games, Contacts, Multimedia, etc.), I have widgets set up on the various screens that provide me with information and functionality (from weather to wireless settings)... the list goes on. I haven't even mentioned the browsers which are excellent.

    I often jog with my G1. Here's what it does for me:

    -I open one app that plays streaming internet radio (over stereo bluetooth)
    -I turn on the GPS and use another app to track my workout. The app reads back my elapsed time and distance aloud so I don't have to interrupt my music or look at the phone to check my stats. Then, when my run is done, it uploads the info and emails me a summary of my workout which includes a map and detailed stats regarding time and distance.

    Can the iPhone/Pre do that? The iPhone can't even run 2 apps at once!

    Android is not a small player in this game. Let's give it a little more credit, ok?

  • Anand Lal Shimpi - Friday, June 19, 2009 - link

    I think this is the key point we differ on:

    "As for hardware, the G1 shouldn't be judged only for its hardware. The G1 is all about Android. "

    I agree that the G1 is nothing without Android.

    I agree that Android is extremely important.

    But where we disagree is the value of the hardware. In my eyes, the G1's hardware keeps it out of the running for the top places. It lacks all of the major gestures that the iPhone and Pre support and the UI/device is much, much slower.

    Many PCs can run an impressive set of applications, but what we're looking for is the right combination of features and performance - the latter just isn't delivered by the G1. I do fully expect future versions to fix that however, I just don't believe the time is now. And I believe most of the reviews of the G1 echo my sentiments; the hardware doesn't do the software justice.

    Take care,
  • cplusplus - Sunday, June 21, 2009 - link

    Just as a quick reply, the only reason Android doesn't have multi-touch is because they were afraid they would get sued by Apple for having it. Everyone was. It's not big news/problem because since Palm has been in the PDA game much longer than Apple, they have patents that Apple are probably infringing, too. There are cooked roms out there that show that the G1's screen is fully capable of multi-touch. Now that Palm has shown that it can be implemented without being sued, I fully expect it to show up in the 2.0 version of Android.">">">
  • Griswold - Friday, June 19, 2009 - link

    "Even the individual buttons on the Pre don’t feel as good as those on the iPhone. The ringer and sleep switches both feel cheap."

    But does the ringer switch fall off as easily as the one on my iphone? Personally, I dont care if some parts feel or look cheap, as long as they arent cheap - like the ringer switch on the iphone.
  • joos2000 - Sunday, June 21, 2009 - link

    [quote] Pinch two fingers to zoom in, move them apart to zoom out.[/quote]
    Certainly it is the other way around?
  • aileen - Friday, July 3, 2009 - link

    It is indeed a great resource to obtain information on this subject. Keep posting. Thanks.">">
  • Hrel - Tuesday, June 23, 2009 - link

    no, why would it be??? That would make no sense at all.

    >>> <<< to zoom in. <<< >>> to zoom out. How does that NOT make sense?

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