Wednesday, June 10, 2009

iPhone and Palm Pre – the Obligatory Post

I’ve had my paws on the Pre, and while I have not, of course, gotten hold of a 3GS, it doesn’t really matter.

See, getting my hands on a 3GS might convince me it has a better hardware/software experience. And since the 3G already has a better hardware/software experience than the Pre, I’m going to call it a “gimme” for the new 3GS.

The Pre, for all of its clever conceits compared to most phones, is still clunky, hiccup-y, and jittery next to even the current iPhone model. The graphics aren’t as smooth, the UI is harder to use, the physical keyboard is marginal, and on and on.

On top of that, it is hard to overstate how important the app ecosystem is to this “competition,” and Palm doesn’t even seem to be trying (they’re still saying “real soon now” on the SDK).

No matter how many apps in the App Store are just fart apps, and no matter how beautiful the bundled apps on the Pre are, there is no contest because these guys are playing different games.

Apple has succeeded in making the phone a general computing platform in the mind of the public – something I argued for 3 years ago – and you judge a platform not by its internal specs but by what you can run on it. Palm doesn’t seem to get that. They’ve got a decent bundle of specs but there’s nothing to run on it and there may never be much.

So with Apple still killing in the UX department, and Palm leaving their A-game at home (if they ever had one) as far as the app/platform/dev community goes … is there anything positive to be said for Pre in this contest?

Only this: AT&T’s network is so egregiously ill-behaved in so many prime metro areas that Sprint could actually pull a few people across the line.

I am one these last folks: I would much rather replace my current phone with an iPhone, but the thought of another two years of dropped calls, missed calls, bars-but-no-coverage, data connection unusable half the time … and I’m seriously considering the Pre.

Say what you will about Sprint (I’ve used every major carrier and none is perfect), where they have coverage, the devices just work. You can make or take a phone call. Which, ironically given that smartphones are bordering on augmented reality nowadays, is still the sine qua non for a phone.

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