The Boston Globe: ‘Palm’s Pre is no iPhone’

Palm’s “Pre is a powerful, versatile smartphone, and in some ways better than Apple Inc.’s renowned iPhone 3G. But it falls short of the elegant simplicity that Apple has taught us to expect,” Hiawatha Bray reports for The Boston Globe.

MacDailyNews Note: Bray is comparing Pre to the current iPhone OS 2.2.1, not to iPhone OS 3.0 which is due next Wednesday, June 17 (a free upgrade for iPhone owners). Palm’s window for having their Pre compared to a year-old iPhone OS is rapidly closing.

Bray continues, “Besides, Apple’s just cut the price of the basic iPhone to $99, half that of the Pre [after you wait weeks for a $100 mail-in rebate]. And Apple is rolling out new, improved iPhones and upgraded software to boost capabilities. Throw in a desperate recession, and it’s plainly a lousy time to launch the Pre, but it’s the only time Palm’s got.”

“The Pre is no iPhone. Fire it up, and you’re not sure what to do next. The most impressive feature of the iPhone is that you know how to use it the moment you switch it on. Its on-screen icons are self-explanatory, and respond just as you’d expect,” Bray reports. “Not so with the Pre… The phone’s user interface takes some getting used to. But that’s partly because the Pre, unlike the iPhone, can run more than one software app at the same time.”

MacDailyNews Take: iPhone can run more than one software app at the same time and has had that capability since its version 1.0 launch two years ago. The difference is that Apple recognizes the limits of current processors and battery technology and doesn’t allow developers to run background apps, opting instead for push notifications until they can deliver full multitasking that works well for users. Google “Pre Battery Life.” It’s not pretty for Palm.

Apple’s Senior VP of iPhone Software, Scott Forstall explains iPhone Push Notifications:

Direct link to video via YouTube here.

Bray continues, “For instance, try the Pandora Internet music service. Pandora picks up music through a 3G cellular network or a Wi-Fi network. But what if you want to listen to Pandora and read The New York Times? Both the Pre and the iPhone have apps for the newspaper, but since iPhone runs just one app at a time, the Pandora music stops when you launch the Times. On the Pre, just launch Pandora, and then the Times. They run concurrently, allowing you to enjoy cheerful music along with your daily dose of bad news.”

MacDailyNews Take: The iPhone has an iPod. Which plays exactly the music you desire while you read whatever talking points The New York Times happens to be peddling.

Bray continues, “Another touted Pre feature is its “real keyboard” with pushbuttons instead of the iPhone’s touchscreen keypad, which many experienced thumb-typists find unsatisfying.”

MacDailyNews Take: As Daring Fireball’s John Gruber explains: My theory that a hardware keyboard is a significant selling point for only one group of customers: those who already own a phone with a hardware keyboard, and that group is a niche. A nice niche, but a niche nonetheless.

Here’s why. Most normal people have yet to buy their first smartphone. That’s why the stakes are so high — it’s a wide open market frontier, but it won’t remain that way for long. Normal people aren’t planning to do much typing on their new smartphones, and they’re probably right. Any smartphone QWERTY keyboard, software or hardware, is going to be better than what most people are used to, which is pecking things out on a phone with a 0-9 numeric keypad.

I type far better on my iPhone than I expected I’d be able to, and that seems to be true for everyone I know who owns one. The only people who struggle with the iPhone keyboard are those who are already accustomed to a hardware smartphone keyboard. Read more in Gruber’s full article here.

Bray continues, “Too bad the Pre’s real keyboard is a real pain, with keys too small and flat for comfortable use. Compared to the Pre, the iPhone’s touchscreen is as comfy as an old IBM typewriter.”

MacDailyNews Take: What’s a “typewriter?” Just tell it like it is: the iPhone’s keyboard is amazing and excellent and the only people who have a problem with it are luddites who’re steeped in old, dead tech. “Experienced thumb typists.” Puleeze. They’ll soon be like “experienced mimeograph operators.” Like longtime Windows sufferers who first try a Mac who’ve learned and ingrained things upside-down and backwards; it takes some time to unlearn bad habits and old methods.

Bray continues, “But this annoying keyboard also enables another excellent Pre feature, ‘universal search.’ It works like Spotlight, the excellent search function found on Apple’s Mac computers.”

MacDailyNews Take: Yeah, it also works just like iPhones running iPhone OS 3.0 which actually runs Spotlight, not something “like” it. Again, Palm’s window for having their Pre compared to a year-old iPhone OS is rapidly closing.

Bray continues, “Palm’s Pre is… probably not enough to woo back defectors or win new business. After all, there’s the iPhone, sleek, attractive, and with thousands of software apps compared to a few dozen for the Pre.”

MacDailyNews Take: If by “a few dozen,” Bray means 18, then he’s correct.

Bray continues, “The newest iPhones, priced at $199 or $299, go on sale next Friday. They offer a built-in video camera… the ability to control the software using voice commands, and even a service that’ll use GPS tracking to locate the phone if you ever lose it. About the only thing missing is a help icon, like you find on the Pre. That’s because the iPhone is so simple, most people won’t need one. And that’s the main reason why Apple has little to fear from Palm.”

Full article here.

[Thanks to MacDailyNews Reader “Dale E.” for the heads up.]

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