Saturday, June 6, 2009

Palm Pre review - June 6, 2009

Anton’s Palm Pre review

I played with the Palm Pre for a few hours today, at two different Sprint Stores. My review below is not a comprehensive review (go to and equivalent for that), but it does point out my observations and comparisons.

First, what are the positives?

1. Unlike iPhone, it uses the same standard MicroUSB as the newest Blackberries and for that matter all other new handhelds. This is the standard for the next decade and means a lot of simplicity and savings.
2. The screen is beautiful and it seems to render web pages very well, better than Blackberry version 4.6 anyway (soon-to-be-released 5.0 is another thing). It seems similar to iPhone in the web browsing department.
3. The user interface uses “cards” that is in my opinion better than the iPhone. It is the most elegant operating system on the market today. Extremely impressive, extraordinarily elegant interface. This blows the iPhone out of the water and sets a new bar.
4. The address book seems clearly better than the juvenile and generally limited one in the iPhone, which is only good if you have perhaps 100 or 200 entries. The Pre address book seems capable of handling 20,000 or more entries, such as sorting the entries well (“company name, followed by last name and first name”) seemingly similar to the Blackberry.
5. True multitasking, just like Blackberry, Google/Android and Microsoft – and unlike iPhone.
6. Sprint has a great “everything you can eat” plan for $100/month and it includes the great SprintTV service. In addition, Sprint is the only carrier that can give you a combo EVDO/WiMax modem for your laptop/PC/computer.
7. Over-the-air updates, unlike the iPhone and as of yet all-but-two Blackberries (8350 and 9530).
What are the negatives?

1. The sliding keyboard means it is difficult (impossible?) to use a protective cover of any kind – rubber, silicone, plastic, whatever. Somehow I expect a lot of complaints from people dropping it on the ground and scratching it.
2. The keyboard sure beats iPhone, but it’s not nearly as good as a Blackberry 8300 model and up. It is extremely small and has a nasty edge to it.
3. No GSM/HSPA for international travel, unlike the vital Blackberry models sold at Verizon and Sprint.
4. The battery is small, and is likely to generate inferior performance compared to the Blackberry 8800 models and up.
5. It doesn’t allow for secure communications (PIN-to-PIN) and truly encrypted emails. In other words, just as with the iPhone, Microsoft and Google, it can’t compete with the Blackberry in the area of security. As with all the other non-Blackberry platforms, you won’t be seeing this phone used by the Department of Defense, CIA, FBI, White House, Congress, investment banks and consultancies anytime soon.
6. There is no expandable memory, compared to Blackberry where 8900 models and up can handle 32 gig.
7. It can’t record video, unlike the Blackberry.
8. It can’t be used as a modem for your laptop/PC/computer, unlike the Blackberry.

Bottom line: This is a very attractive phone. In my opinion, it beats the current iPhone (launched July 2008 and expiring June 8, 2009) in every single category except two (no GSM and limited AppStore selection as of yet). The “cards” interface is revolutionary – in a positive way! I have no doubt that Palm will take significant market share with this device, and for good reason. That said, I don’t see why a Blackberry user should switch, especially given that all current Blackberries refresh between July 2009 and November, providing superior hardware with a much-improved browser. By the time we find out the level of maturity of this new Pre platform, the outstanding new Blackberries will be in the market. Now that both Palm Pre and Blackberry synchronize with iTunes, the rationale for getting an iPhone is a lot weaker. Blackberry’s AppWorld is on a path to match Apple’s AppStore, and the Palm Pre shouldn’t be too far behind in coming months. That said, Apple will be introducing new products on June 8, 2009, and that could in turn change the game soon enough.