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.

Performance

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...

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  • lwatcdr - Tuesday, June 9, 2009 - link

    Do you work for apple or what?
    I am just sick of Apple and every other flavor of fanboys on the planet.
    Guess what the iPhone is a very good smartphone and does have a large app store.
    Of course at launch it was closed and they told you to make web apps for the thing. Apple improved that.
    So what are the iPhones flaws?
    1. Can not multitask.
    2. You can not get and extra battery.
    3. No memory card slot.
    4. No hardware keyboard.
    The new iPhone and the new software does take care of a lot of issues that the 3g had. The lack of voice dialing I feel was a huge issue.
    The Pre isn't perfect.
    1. No video recording yet.
    2. Small app store.
    3. No memory card slot
    Of course Sprint will save you several hundred dollars per phone over AT&T on your plan which is a good thing. I also have good coverage and have not had many problems with them but YMMV.
    Yes the Pre competes well with the iPhone. Is it a knock out? Not really but for some people it is a better solution than an iPhone.
    Also some disadvantages are also advantages. The lack of apps is a huge advantage for developers. You have less competition so it will be easier to get noticed. The iPhone on the other hand give you the advantage of a HUGE installed base so if you get noticed you can make some big bucks.
    Two good phones and two excellent choices. I for one hope to see more Android devices as well.
    Having several good smart phones to choose from make everything better.

    Reply
  • snarfies - Tuesday, June 9, 2009 - link

    I have three words for you: do not want. GET IT THROUGH YOUR SKULL. I refuse to own a phone that does not have physical buttons. Ever go to an touchscreen ATM and had to repeatedly punch the screen to get it to respond to anything at all? Yeah, well, when I stop encountering those MAYBE I'll buy a phone without buttons - maybe. Reply
  • Griswold - Wednesday, June 10, 2009 - link

    Hello fat-fingers! Anway, comparing these ATMs to the iphone (or any other touch mobile) is ridiculous. They just work, as long as they're not based on windows mobile and its craptastic UI on top of the non-touch OS. Reply
  • theslug - Tuesday, June 9, 2009 - link

    That's only on older glass CRT touchscreens. Newer LCD touchscreens, including ATMs, don't have that issue.
    Reply
  • sprockkets - Tuesday, June 9, 2009 - link

    The older crts had actual buttons. Those Bank of America ones are the worst; they make XP noises which are extremely annoying.

    The key to it working is just to touch it normally; most people try to stick their whole finger on it hard and long which doesn't work as well.

    Actually, I believe those very expensive screens always had capacitive touch screens; none of them ever felt like a resistive touch screen.
    Reply
  • The0ne - Tuesday, June 9, 2009 - link

    Your statement left me a bit confused. Comparing the iPhone and pre is a valid point. They may differ in some features but they are in the same class.

    And while Apple's app store does have some amazing software it is software we're talking about. Do you somehow expected Palm to have the same number of apps available at launch? This reminds me about the XP vs Vista arguments all over. Some users who don't like Vista don't want to change because learning how to use the new UI and features is too much of a pain or isn't worth the time.

    Here's the thing though, if there are enough people that want to devote to coding for the Pre then you'll see that apps just as quickly if not even quicker because of the current FAD.

    And my last question, do you even own or have "played" with the Pre to make those kinds of statements? It seems you're comparing apples to oranges highlighting a phone that has been out for a few years to one that was just released. Give it at least 6 months before you can say the features suck, the apps suck or whatever.
    Reply
  • poohbear - Tuesday, June 9, 2009 - link

    forget the stock speeds, how the hell do we overclock this thing??? Reply
  • Lifted - Tuesday, June 9, 2009 - link

    Why not include one of the new blackberry models? I'd like to know how their battery life holds up in the tested situations. Reply
  • The0ne - Tuesday, June 9, 2009 - link

    I use a HTC smartphone myself and while I would love to see more I think most users, at least most articles I've read separate Blackberries into a different category...business phone. The iPhone and Pre are...what's the word I keep seeing, hmm...oh well, casual phones.

    It's funny how people will find anything to separate products apart.
    Reply
  • winterspan - Tuesday, June 9, 2009 - link

    (BTW, the guys above me are correct -- the Samsung ARM11 in the iPhone is underclocked to 412mhz)

    I think Anand is right in that Palm needs to spend another six months optimizing and polishing the Pre's software and OS. The 600Mhz ARM Cortex-A8 and PowerVR SGX530 GPU are cream of the crop -- The Cortex-A8 core has about twice the raw performance per clock as ARM11.

    Unfortunately, and this is to Apple's credit, the current 400Mhz ARM11 based iPhone is as fast or nearly as fast as the Pre. Despite the fact that the Pre can finish loading a large complex webpage a bit faster than the current iPhone, the iPhone is faster and smoother when it comes to panning and zooming loaded web pages.

    I guess we'll have to wait another week for the tear-down to see what is powering the new iPhone 3GS and see just how much faster it is than the Pre in real-world use.
    Reply

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