Palm Treo 680 vs. Apple iPhone Comparison
UPDATE: Please also see my Treo vs. iPhone take the day of its launch in my post iDay: The Apple iPhone Revolution Begins
After literally years of rumours Apple finally officially announced its much anticipated iPhone (pictured below in proportion to the Treo 680) due to be released in June 2007 and naturally everyone is already hotly debating just how much of a “Treo Killer” it has the potential to become.
I have to begin by pointing out the obvious. Namely, the iPhone is primarily a consumer multimedia phone and not a business smartphone. As such any potential Treo vs. iPhone comparison should be principally limited to the equally consumer oriented Treo 680 and not the rest of the Treo family.
Let me start by a simple comparative chart of the specifications below:
Screen Resolution + Input Method (Palm 1: Apple 0)
Because the iPhone uses a virtual ‘soft’ on-screen keyboard instead of the full QWERTY keyboard on the Treo, Apple has naturally used this additional space to increase the screen size. The resulting design is very similar to the one that I outlined in my post “A Future Virtual Thumboard Treo?” as well as “Future Treo Prototypes Roundup”.
I have already had the opportunity to test the virtual Thumbboard on a Palm LifeDrive and while it is certainly a unique and innovative concept I don’t believe that it is a match for a full physical keyboard. Having said this, since the iPhone has not actually been released yet any usability considerations of its new “Multi-Touch” screen technology will naturally be limited and subjective.
Operating System (Palm 1: Apple 0)
The PalmOS has now successfully powered many generations of Treo smartphones while the OS X variant which powers the iPhone has yet to prove its mettle – particularly when it comes to telephony where Palm has had the benefit of a long learning curve.
Storage (Palm 1: Apple 0)
The opportunity to have 4 or 8GB of permanent storage on the iPhone may prove appealing at first but the fact is that seasoned Treonauts fully understand the higher benefits that an external SD card storage provides. For some $150 I can easily add an 8GB SD card for data storage on my Treo without limitation to the number of cards that I can use.
GSM + Wireless Data + Camera (Palm 0: Apple 2)
While both the iPhone and Treo 680 share an almost identical Quad-Band radio with GSM/GPRS/EDGE support there is no doubt that Apple wins points here by adding WiFi, Bluetooth 2.0 and a 2.0 megapixel camera. However, the use of WiFi is likely going to quickly drain the iPhone’s non-removable battery which is a consideration to keep in mind. Also, a 3G iPhone is planned for Europe by the end of 2007.
Battery (Palm 1: Apple 0)
While the battery performance of the iPhone and Treo 680 are fairly similar with 5 and 4 hours of Talk Time respectively there is no doubt that the removable battery on the Treo provides significantly better power options for Treonauts on the go.
Dimensions + Weight (Palm 1: Apple 0)
While the Treo 680 is some 15% heavier than the iPhone the fact is that I consider the additional weight of the full QWERTY keyboard, SD card slot and removable battery to be well worth it.
Leaving these technical specifications aside the iPhone does offer some unique and innovative features that our Treo could certainly learn from:
- I am extremely impressed by the overall look & feel of the user interface with very rich graphical elements which I have been yearning to see equally well represented on the Treo (see An Issue Of Design). The UI looks rich, inviting and user-friendly.
- The iPhone’s “Visual Voicemail” which allows you to go directly to any of your messages without listening to the prior messages so you can quickly select the messages that are most important to you is a feature that many Treo power users have suggested for some time but which Apple is now first to implement.
- With a full iPod interface inside the iPhone it is clear that people will be delighted by its Music, Movies and Photos capabilities.
- The Safari web browser looks extremely robust and has a stunning display for web pages.
- iPhone uses a rich HTML email client that fetches your email in the background from most POP3 or IMAP mail services and displays photos and graphics right along with the text (albeit it looks considerably more complex to use than on the Treo).
- The iPhone’s “Widgets” like the Weather pictured here above are an absolute pleasure to look at and the iPhone’s “horizontal scrolling” is equally smart.
- Advanced sensors including an accelerometer detect when you rotate the device from portrait to landscape and changes the display orientation; a proximity sensor detects when you lift the iPhone to your ear and turns of the display while an ambient light sensor automatically adjusts the display’s brightness.
At the same time there are some things that I already quite clearly dislike about the iPhone interface:
- The main Phone interface appears to be significantly more complex and cumbersome to use when accessing your Contacts and dialling a number
- The SMS functionality with a small screen and odd keyboard (pictured here below) is significantly less user friendly than the award-winning one on the Treo
It’s funny that the iPhone should so clearly have helped me to better recognize the terrific accomplishments that Palm has delivered with our Treo. It may not be immediately perceived to be quite as “cool” as an iPhone but the fact is that the Treo clearly deserves the praise and success that it has already achieved.
I have no doubt that the iPhone and all its cool iPhone accessories will be an extremely successful device in its own right – one which will continue to help grow the smartphone space with an even younger generation – but for now at least I certainly don’t believe that it will be a Treo-killer.
At the same time I am delighted to see Apple enter the smartphone space as the increased competition will certainly help to bring even more and faster innovation to our Treo as all players battle it out to attain the leading market position.
Treonauts are always ready for a battle…