Beleaguered Palm promises ‘Pre’ background processing, but what about battery life?

“While third-party apps are being trumpeted as the iPhone’s strength, key Palm Pre demos this week were designed to highlight their restrictions by taking advantage of those precise things that Apple won’t allow,” Aidan Malley reports for AppleInsider.

“At Sprint’s press lounge during the CTIA Wireless Association’s annual event, Palm stressed the advantages of the new webOS platform at the heart of the Pre by running presentations of carefully selected third-party software live on sample phones,” Malley reports.

“The most advanced was Pandora’s Internet radio app. On an iPhone OS device, the music service is partly neutered by Apple’s refusal to allow true background tasks, preventing users from listening to streams while they run other chores; on the Palm Pre, Pandora not only runs in the background but hooks into the always-on notification bar to let listeners approve or dismiss songs without having to even switch active tasks,” Malley reports.

“Apple has long justified its decisions on what third-party apps can and can’t do as attempts to maintain security and speed on its still young mobile OS,” Malley reports. “By halting third party apps from running their own, separate programs and limiting their other privileges in the operating system, Apple hopes to prevent malware from spreading through rogue iPhone apps. It likewise points to tests of rivalling operating systems like Windows Mobile which showed major reductions in battery life by letting software run completely active while still in the background.”

Full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: Malley provides a link for “major reductions in battery life” to another AppleInsider article which states:

In offering a preview look at the new iPhone OS 3.0 platform, senior vice president of iPhone software Scott Forstall… said Apple had tested background apps on rival mobile operating systems from RIM and Microsoft and found background standby time dropped by 80 percent or more with background listening enabled. Forstall noted that, in contrast, Apple’s solution will only see standby time reduced by 23 percent.

Besides the not-so-minor issues of price and release date, Palm has also not stated Pre’s expected battery life. Unless financially-strapped Palm has somehow magically invented new proprietary processors and exotic battery technology, we expect the Pre, if ever does ship, on Sprint no less, to struggle with battery life. Apple, in contrast, is known to be working on both processor design (PA Semi et al.) and battery technology (17-inch MacBook Pro, for the latest example). There is a reason why iPhone does not currently run background apps:

The problem isn’t that the iPhone OS isn’t technically capable… Some of Apple’s own apps — like MobileSafari, the phone app, the audio player, the new-to-3.0 Voice Memos — already continue running when in the background. In fact, because it’s built on the same Unix underpinnings as Mac OS X, Apple had to do more work to create the upcoming push notification system than they would have had to do to just enable background processing for third-party apps. Scott Forstall said as much on stage during the iPhone OS 3.0 special event. The problem is not the software but the hardware — the current CPU is too slow, there isn’t enough RAM, and battery life is already stretched thin. Apple could do it now, but they couldn’t do it well, so they will wait.John Gruber, Daring Fireball, April 1, 2009

Apple could do it now, but they couldn’t do it well, so they will wait. Palm likely can’t do it well, either, but they won’t wait. They can’t wait. Because Palm is quickly running out of time, if they haven’t already. There’s a reason Apple bought PA Semi. Just like there’s a reason nobody has bought Palm – even with them dangling their ‘Pre’ buyout bait in carefully staged demos around the world.

In AppleInsider’s full article, there’s more about what Palm promises Pre can do vs. the current iPhone hardware with iPhone OS 3.0, but, there’s no mention of Pre’s release date, or price, or battery life specs.

What good is the ability to run apps in the background if your phone is constantly running out of juice? We have a word of advice for prospective Palm Pre buyers who want to listen to the radio via battery-hogging Wi-Fi while doing other tasks: the Pre has a removable battery for a reason: Plan to buy plenty of extra batteries and figure out how and where you’re going to carry them around with you all day.

Until the mobile processor and/or battery technologies advance to acceptable usability parameters, we’re more than content to listen to our iPhone’s iPod instead. That way, we listen to exactly what we want, in the background while doing other tasks, and the battery isn’t being rapidly sucked dry by the Wi-Fi radio.

[Thanks to MacDailyNews Reader “Fred Mertz” for the heads up.]

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