The Poor Man’s iPhone?

With the latest price drop the Palm Pre is no longer the same price as the iPhone 3G. In fact, if you go to a Sprint store you’ll have to shell out $300 before a $100 mail in rebate for the phone. Apple will part with an iPhone 3G for just $99 now.

The problem is that the initial cost doesn’t matter, it’s deceptive. The iPhone 3G will cost you much longer in the long run.

Hardly the most generous wireless carrier, AT&T’s cost structure is as follows:

AT&T iPhone 3G Plans with Unlimited Data 450 Minutes 900 Minutes 1350 Minutes Unlimited Minutes
Monthly Cost $69.99 $89.99 $109.99 $129.99
Monthly Cost with 200 Text Messages $74.99 $94.99 $114.99 $134.99
Monthly Cost with Unlimited Text Messages $89.99 $109.99 $129.99 $149.99


A voice plan will cost you anywhere from $40 - $100 per month. The iPhone data plan is another $30 per month on top of that (required for the iPhone). If you want any sort of text messaging bundle that’s another $5 per month, or $20 per month for unlimited messaging. If you want unlimited everything that’s $149.99 per month from AT&T or $3600 over the course of your 24 month contract. Note that AT&T hasn’t announced pricing for tethering on the iPhone 3GS. I can’t wait to see what that’ll be like.

Sprint, admittedly not as popular of a carrier as AT&T, does a lot better.

Sprint’s data plan is unlimited...everything. You get unlimited data transfers (no tethering support), unlimited SMS and unlimited MMS. It’s included with every Palm Pre plan.

Sprint Palm Pre Plans with Unlimited Data 450 Minutes 900 Minutes Unlimited Minutes
Monthly Cost with Unlimited Text Messages $69.99 $89.99 $99.99


The only thing you have to choose is how many minutes you want. The 450 minute plan will set you back $70 per month, the 900 minute plan costs $90 and unlimited voice is $100. That’s $49 less per month than the equivalent bundle from AT&T, a savings of around $1200 over the course of two years.

Granted AT&T allows your unused minutes to rollover month to month, but Sprint lets your free nights and weekends start at 7PM instead of 9PM. Even taking that into account, there’s no getting around the fact that for a full featured account - Sprint is a lot cheaper.

If you don’t text a lot however, much of Sprint’s advantage disappears. I would hope that Sprint’s plans could pressure AT&T to include SMS/MMS in the unlimited data package (a SMS is data, isn’t it?), but until then if you want a more affordable monthly plan the Pre is the way to go. And no, Sprint’s SERO plans won’t work on the Pre.

Built in Turn-by-Turn Navigation

Another aspect of the Pre’s tremendous cost advantage is its free, out of the box, turn by turn navigation. The Pre has a GPS just like the iPhone 3G/3GS, but it also has a Sprint Navigation app that can be used as an in-car navigation device.

The nav works well and unfortunately, to get something similar from Apple you need to buy the currently unavailable Tom Tom app. There’s no word on pricing as of yet.

Messaging Done Right Web Browsing


View All Comments

  • viciki123 - Monday, February 22, 2010 - link"> Reply
  • jmyette - Wednesday, February 17, 2010 - link

    I've been very disappointed by the Pre and had to switch back to my Treo 700p. I'd say of you like Palm OS and its effective PIM applications (calendar, contacts, tasks and memos), you probably won't like the Pre. Otherwise, I think the Pre may be a good choice. The best review of the Pre I found:">">

  • s1ugh34d - Wednesday, July 15, 2009 - link

    I'm lost on why the Iphone is the definition of a phone. Last I checked my HTC WinMo phone has just about all the same features. Can't a palm be compared to The Touch Pro. I see the journalistic approach, using palm vs apple. But others mentioned android why is anandtech so in love with their Iphones...

    Also wouldn't cell phone fall under "mobile" on the tab bar.
  • s1ugh34d - Wednesday, July 15, 2009 - link

    I missed the messaging part. Since Iphone users can't use it, they don't know what multiple messaging is. Palringo, a WinMo/blackberry app, runs every IM service you ever had.

    Love the magnetic charger, My toothbrush has that, and I always thought that it should be used for small devices.

    The palm does kick a little Iphone butt, but WinMo blows that phone away, they just need multi-touch on the touch pro2
  • Jeff7181 - Saturday, June 27, 2009 - link

    A coworker of mine says the phone gets really hot when in use for extended periods of time. Not sure if it's from the backlight for the display or just the battery discharging. Either way, the result is a very hot phone and apparently a discolored screen. He's replaced his already once because of some yellowish discoloration at the bottom edge of the screen that spreads the more it's used. Reply
  • macs - Wednesday, June 24, 2009 - link

    Guys take a look at the new HTC Hero with Android
  • macs - Wednesday, June 24, 2009 - link

    This is the link:">
  • bored2tears - Wednesday, June 24, 2009 - link

    Techies, come on! Really? Are we such navel-gazers that we don't get it? Sure, my original Palm, my Tilt and my HTC phone could do stuff that the iPhone and the Pre can't do (yet). But that's not the point.

    It's ease of use!!!! The satisfaction of the UI!

    I don't hit the start menu so I can scroll through file manager. I don't mess around with crappy windows mobile UI to find stuff. And when the new WM comes out, it will prove that ease of use is the point. That's the iphone feature that everyone wants to copy, and rightfully so. The companies get it while the techies play their little "mine is better than yours" one up spec game.

    You can turn on my music on the iPhone and surf the web or open another app, etc. AT THE SAME TIME. That's what people want and do. Only people without an iphone don't know that there is some level of multi tasking. I can play most games or use most apps on the iPhone without stopping the music. If I close my web browser to open another app, my web app doesn't go back to the home page. That page stays open. When I click on the web app again, I'm where I left off. Why do I need to have my web browser open while I'm in another program anyway? Now if I'm using something like Pandora, it's a problem. (And that level of multi-tasking would be welcomed Apple!) If I use the pre, I don't have this issue at all. Either way, these phones are initially made for joe public to understand not just for sammy supertech savvy to gush over. And yet, these phones can go up the scale from casual user to business user like myself.

    Anyone who's used the pre for an hour knows how absolutely cool it is. And that's a big factor. It's easy to use. Sure it's powerful and I still think these two smart phones (AND the G1) are great. But it's the UI stupid! That's what sells the phone. Don't hate them because they're beautiful. ;-) There is something under the hood.
  • Ehsan - Tuesday, June 23, 2009 - link

    Hi Anand,
    I am sorry to ask but am bit curious did you use non formated sites for facebook & Slashdot because of too much discrepency of my Iphone 3GS and your numbers of it.
    Also I was wondering if you can do a app launching test on Iphone 3GS with a 3rd party app as most of the native apps run services in background (I found this by installing backgrounder app from Cydia after jailbreak on 3G and found that many native apps were running in background already). So its not launching from standstill if its half running.
  • Hrel - Tuesday, June 23, 2009 - link

    Att's network is completely useless. Their plans are INCREDIBLY overpriced, and they nickle and dime the living crap out of you... I will NEVER get any cell phone from ATT.

    That being said, cell phones need to transition to voip over WiiMax, once a Nationwide (world wide) WiiMax network is set up.

    Data plans need to be INFITINE data, non of this 5GB per month bullshit!! Text IS data, as you said. Voice, well, is kind of data, and should be ALL data soon.

    I don't think sprints network is reliable enough to switch though.

    Battery life needs to hit 20hrs+.

    I want a smart phone from LG, that I OWN, not that BELONGS to a cell phone company. So I can buy the phone, and take it to whatever network I want, Verizon, Net 10, Boost, Sprint, whatever. LG makes great stuff.

    Can you PLEASE review the LG smart phones that ARE out, like the Env, and the other one that costs like 30 bucks more... I forget the name right now.

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