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Palm Pre vs. iPhone Comparison

Features & Specifications Comparison of Palm Pre & iPhone 3G – Pre Has Good Edge But Is It Enough To Win The Game?


Most early Palm Pre reviews have noted that this smartphone is by far the closest direct competitor to the iPhone to have emerged yet but this clearly does not immediately mean that the Palm Pre can/will be as successful as the iPhone. 

I’ve been thinking a lot about this lately as we prepare the launch of Preonauts.com (hopefully live next week!) and after playing around with an iPhone 3G this past week I thought that I should share and compare the strengths and weaknesses of both these devices – a comparison that is based on my personal views as well as those of most other reviewers.

Top 10 Things I Love About The iPhone

  1. Display 
    Beautiful, large (3.5 inch diagonal), high-resolution (480x320 screen) multi-touch display.  [Albeit the downside is that I have come across too many shattered displays…]
  2. App Store 
    Installing new applications on the iPhone is a complete joy.  It’s ultra simple and quick – an absolutely superb experience than virtually nobody has matched today.  With 15,000+ apps now available there is something here for everybody and although there is a lot of rubbish there are also many superb applications.
  3. Accessories 
    The breadth of manufacturers developing custom accessories for the iPhone is truly staggering and many of these are among the best in the market today.
  4. iTunes 
    The DRM restrictions associated with iTunes music had always put me off but now that many are DRM-free I’m more interested.  Leaving this aside, it’s clear that for a great many people the simplicity, functionality and vast content choice available via iTunes is a real plus.  The fact that it now offers music, movies, video and all iPhone apps together further enhances its value.
  5. Desktop Management & Sync 
    Unlike virtually all competitors’ smartphones, I think that a two year old could figure out how to manage his iPhone and keep it synched within a few minutes.  Again, top marks for making the process simple and hassle-free.
  6. Regular Updates 
    Where competing smartphones either get few/no updates or these updates are complex to install the iPhone (via iTunes) offers a completely painless and regular update process.  Nobody comes close to matching this today.
  7. Form-Factor 
    There’s no doubt that the iPhone is simply a beautiful object – a superb achievement of industrial design.
  8. User Interface & OS 
    Gorgeous, fluid, rich, fast, fun user interface – enough said.
  9. Browser 
    Closest thing to a full desktop browsing experience on the move.  It’s true that Opera, Skyfire and Iris offer very good solutions on Windows Mobile smartphones but none of them is as good as the iPhone.
  10. Multimedia (Music, Photos, Movies, Video) 
    Listening to music, viewing photos and watching movies/videos is just “something else” on the iPhone.  Nearly 10 years after the launch of the iPod most competitors are still in nappies when it comes to even matching functionality, ease-of-use and overall experience.  A superb end-to-end consumer solution (particularly now that most music is finally DRM-free).

Top 10 Things I Hate About The iPhone

  1. Virtual Keyboard 
    Typing on the iPhone via the virtual keyboard simply drives me NUTS!  I absolutely can’t stand it and feel like a complete idiot every time that I use it.
  2. No Multitasking 
    Although I understand and appreciate the reasons that Apple did not enable multitasking for third-party apps the fact is that it greatly reduces the overall functionality of this smartphone and thus the experience.
  3. No Stereo Bluetooth 
    For a company that is the leader in digital music the lack of Stereo Bluetooth capabilities (A2DP and AVRCP) is pathetic.
  4. No Removable Battery 
    Not everybody needs this but given the amount of time that I personally spend on the phone the lack of a removable/replaceable battery is a deal breaker.
  5. No App Trials 
    The App Store may be great but the fact that paying apps cannot be downloaded on a trial basis bothers me.  The standard has pretty much always been to offer trials and Apple should address this.
  6. Too Much Touch 
    At first doing everything with your fingers alone is a fun experience but those who like me have grown used to a physical keyboard with hard keys know the speed and usability benefit of sidestepping touch.
  7. No One-Handed Operation 
    Most of the time it’s impossible to do anything on your iPhone with one hand alone.  I don’t like to tie my two hands up whenever I need to do something on the phone – particularly not when I’m driving and I actually need one hand on the steering wheel!
  8. Not A Good “Phone” 
    Too many people have complained about poor volume and other basic phone “malfunctions” on the iPhone.  Most reviewers agree that it’s a great device but still misses being a great phone.  [It’s also worthwhile noting that the built-in speakers are not particularly good either…]
  9. No Copy & Paste 
    At first I thought that this would not be that important but in daily use you quickly come to realize that the lack of Copy/Paste functionality significantly limits your ability to get certain things done (particularly with regards to email and SMS).
  10. No Adobe Flash 
    With such a great web browser it’s more than a shame that Adobe Flash support is still not available (Apple is apparently working on it though).

Other complaints include: not being able to forward messages, not being able to “reply all” in SMS, no MMS, can only sync with one computer, poor default ringtones and inability to convert MP3 file to ringtone.

The Palm Pre Solution – 20 Things To Love?

  1. Display
    Beautiful, large (3.1 inch diagonal), high-resolution (480x320 screen).  The screen is not as large as the iPhone (0.4 inch smaller) but this is balanced against other hardware features such as the removable battery and sliding keyboard further below.
  2. App Catalog 
    Palm has already confirmed that it will create a full App Catalog – one that will presumably have the same functionality and ease-of-use as Apple’s App Store.  Clearly though there will not (initially at least) be as many apps available for the iPhone as for the Palm Pre.
  3. Accessories 
    The most recent accessories designed by Palm have already show significant improvement and now the question will be if Palm is able to create as large and robust a third-party accessories ecosystem as Apple’s.
  4. iTunes 
    Given the fact that (for now at least) most of the sync functionalities of the Palm Pre will take place over the “cloud” I’m not quite sure what the company may have in store regarding media synchronisation.
  5. Desktop Management & Sync 
    Many people have voiced concerns about Palm’s (initial at least) lack of support for a desktop application to manage and sync your smartphone – it has instead chosen to perform all activities over-the-air.  Yes, I feel that this is a serious flaw BUT third-party developers have already indicated that they will step in to fill the gap and I also have to assume that Palm will eventually release one of its own.
  6. Regular Updates
    At this stage I can only hope that Sprint will have seen the huge benefit to provide quick and painless updates over the air.  Also that Palm will implement this so that owners can perform a one-click install.
  7. Form-Factor 
    From looking at images alone the Palm Pre does not appear to be particularly beautiful but since I’ve actually held one in my hands I can categorically tell you that it feels absolutely great.  It’s one of the most organic devices that I’ve come across and you just want to stroke it in the palm of your hand.
  8. User Interface & OS 
    Gorgeous, fluid, rich, fast, fun user interface + the new “cards” features is completely unique.
  9. Browser 
    Ultra-fast and powerful.  One of the best mobile browsers available – finally!
  10. Multimedia (Music, Photos, Video) 
    It’s clear that although the Palm Pre will have a number of interesting multimedia features (including robust photos, Pandora and Amazon MP3 downloads) it is unlikely to match the richness offered by the iPhone (at least not at first).
  11. Physical Keyboard 
    It’s not the largest physical keyboard around (smaller than the Treo and larger than the Centro) but the fact that the Palm Pre actually has one is a huge plus for me.
  12. Full Multitasking 
    Yes, yes and yes!  The Palm Pre is ALL about multitasking – open as many apps simultaneously as you like.
  13. Full Stereo Bluetooth 
    Not sure what Palm’s plans are on this front but given that it has already managed to build Stereo Bluetooth into its Windows Mobile smartphones I have to imagine that the Palm Pre will have this full functionality.
  14. Removable Battery 
    Oh yes baby…  Palm has become increasingly good not only with creating a better removable battery slot but also at improving battery capacity.  It’s still a closely guarded secret but I hope that the Pre will deliver a minimum of 5 to 6 hours talk time (not great but in line with iPhone performance).
  15. App Trials 
    Both the Palm OS and Windows Mobile have thus far allowing app trials and I very much have to assume that Palm will go the same route with its next-generation webOS.
  16. Touch + Physical Keys 
    Keep the Palm Pre closed to used touch alone or open its sliding keyboard to extend its functionality.  Touch is fun, keys are fast and accurate – both together is absolutely great.
  17. Full One-Handed Operation 
    As with all previous Palm smartphones, the combination of a physical keyboard and large touchscreen allows you to do most repetitive tasks on your smartphone with one hand alone.
  18. A Great “Phone” 
    All latest Palm smartphones have been absolutely great “phones” and I have no doubt at all that the Palm Pre will meet or exceed my expectations.  Additionally, as with previous models you can expect a great and rather loud built-in speaker.
  19. Full Copy & Paste 
    YES!  Of course…
  20. Adobe Flash 
    There is no confirmation yet but many sources point to Palm actively working with Adobe to bring Flash to the Palm Pre when released.

Other top virtues of the Palm Pre include: the ability to combine/merge multiple contact details (business/personal/social) into one, “Universal Search”, combined Outlook + Google + Facebook calendars in one view and much more…

Palm Pre Overall Rating:        12   1  7  
Apple iPhone Overall Rating: 10  10

So is the Palm Pre the clear winner?  Not quite.  Before a battle can be won it first needs to be fought.  In this respect, it’s evident that Apple has a powerful arsenal – not least its superb marketing engine, huge brand recognition and loyalty as well as an immense cash horde and an incredibly rich ecosystem of developers, accessories manufacturers and other partners.

What is nonetheless clear is that thanks to the Pre, Palm finally has a powerful weapon of its own with which to battle Apple and others in this hypercompetitive smartphone market.  At this stage I personally feel that the greatest strengths of the Pre rest on its superb form-factor (touchscreen + keyboard) and its ultra-powerful new webOS (particularly its robust multitasking capabilities).

It’s evident that Apple will not sit still while the Palm Pre attempts to gain momentum in the market.  Rumours already point to Apple possibly preparing this summer to release a $99 iPhone “Lite” as well as an updated version of its iPhone 3G which may offer multitasking as well as other features.  Also, as I’ve mentioned before, Apple “could” eventually (though not likely) release an iPhone with a physical keyboard which would indeed make life a lot more difficult for the Pre.

Whether compared to the iPhone or any other competing smartphone on the market today or tomorrow the fact nonetheless remains that the Palm Pre is quite an achievement in its own right – one that will likely once again completely reshape expectations for what a next-generation smartphone should offer.  It’s undoubtedly a refreshing picture to see Palm leading the way again…

In the meantime, I’m curious to learn how prepared you are for the arrival of the Palm Pre (expected in May/June) so please take a moment to share your views with your fellow Preonauts below:

Preonauts Survey
How ready are you for the Palm Pre?

Already with Sprint - will buy Pre as soon as it becomes available
Verizon - will switch to Sprint as soon as it become available
AT&T - will switch to Sprint as soon as it become available
Other carrier - will switch to Sprint as soon as it become available
Will wait before moving to Sprint
Will wait for GSM version of Palm Pre (6 months after launch)
Will wait to buy more expensive Unlocked GSM Palm Pre
Will never move to Sprint - will wait for my carrier to have Pre
Will never buy Palm Pre


Thanks for all the comments (both positive and negative).  Since the negative comments from iPhone supporters (or plain Andrew haters) have been more overwhelming than those of Palm Pre supporters I thought that I should update this post to reflect both my “errors” as well as those of others.

#13 Stereo Bluetooth
Without confirmation from Palm yet it’s true that I am “assuming” that the Pre will offer this functionality.
>>> Rating changed from  to

#14 Removable Battery
The Palm Pre has a removable battery while the iPhone does not.
>>> Rating unchanged.

#15 No App Trials
While it’s true that _some_ iPhone Apps are available as free or demo versions the overwhelming majority are not (unlike PalmOS and Windows Mobile apps where 99% are).  Having said this, it’s also true that there is currently no way of knowing how Palm is going to address this with webOS apps.
>>> Rating changed from  to

#18 A Great “Phone”
Everything that I have seen so far indicates that the Palm Pre will be a great phone but I agree that until it’s launched its actual performance remains an educated guess.
>>> Rating changed from  to

#20 Adoble Flash
The iPhone currently does not have Flash but “may” have it in the future.  The Palm Pre is likely to have it at launch _but_ this remains unconfirmed.
>>> Rating changed from  to

Separately, the 10 things I hate about the iPhone also remain unchanged as these are not only my personal views but also those most widely commented by people who actually own the device or owned it and did not like it.

Palm Pre Overall Rating:        12   1  7  
Apple iPhone Overall Rating: 10  10

Palm Pre Cost
No official price has been set yet but most analysts predict that it will be $199 to $249 with a two year contract.  Additionally, the competitive landscape within which the Palm Pre will launch is already pretty much set since no other “super” devices aside from a possible iPhone “Lite” and updated iPhone 3G are expected.

OF COURSE there are third-party apps to convert MP3’s to ringtones for the iPhone but the fact remains that you cannot do this conversion directly on the device.

Palm vs. Apple Battle
It’s clear that the battle will not be an easy one and as I’ve pointed out in this post the iPhone is an absolutely formidable opponent – one that I actually really like but not enough to actually use as my preferred device.  As Kontra points out, the Pre is clearly a bit late to the party and it will have to work extra hard to gain lost ground.

Judging by the continued rally in Palm stock I have to assume that most people today agree with me that thanks to the Pre the company is getting ready for a major rebound – one that will likely shake up the smartphone industry and which evidently has more than a few Apple fans already actively “fighting” the threat…

Overall I think that I can happily live with all the personal attacks (some are actually quite original) and I have no doubt that the Palm Pre will be equally capable to stand its ground against all major competitors when released in June.  Let the battle begin!

Preonauts are always leading the revolution

Posted by Andrew on February 12, 2009 at 12:07 PM

Palm Pre

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by comparison fail | Feb 16, 2009 1:08:57 AM

btw, some other considerations

Apps- iPhone apps are consistently better than Palm apps

Browser - iPhone Safari is the best mobile browser, iPhone users browse more than other phone users because it is superio

Phone - iPhone is a better phone than Palm in terms of reception, signal quality and audio quality

Syncing - along with updating, which Andrew notes is best in industry, is critical for smart mobile information use

Battery life - one of, if not THE, longest lasting 3G phone

iPhone is superior to Palm on the most important criteria, as identified here.

Pre is not very likely to deliver better results in any of these categories.

And we haven't even discussed the ecosystem of the iPhone- sharing data with Mac applications, iTunes, iPhoto, etc. etc. which Palm has no strategy or anything to offer.

The Pre is less than a Zune, if that's even possible!

by Liberty | Feb 16, 2009 4:20:34 AM

One shortcoming of the Pre will be that it will not allow you to capture either audio or video.

(see http://developer.palm.com/webos_book/book9.html "Video and audio capture is not supported in the initial webOS products")

by swng1grl | Feb 16, 2009 12:29:59 PM

while i'm sure biased, I agree with many of the points of this article...i personally couldn't stand the first i-phones...1GB PLEASE, apple did it to sell the first run before finally putting more memory in. couldn't stand the lack of a real keyboard, i've tried to use the i-phone it gives me fits everytime. i love having a SD expansion slot, i had 8gb of movies and 8 gb of music for my treo 750. and yes removing the battery, huge plus. just saying that there really are people out here who objectively prefer the treo to i-phone

by APP | Feb 19, 2009 8:45:47 PM

Does the Pre have native apps?

I don't think so.

by Brett | Feb 20, 2009 12:09:38 PM

I've seen these guys all over the web defending their iPhones like someone just called their mama a slut. The iPhone is great. So what if some people consider the Pre to be better than the iPhone. That does not negate your love for your iPhone.
I'm in the rare position of having a TReo but working on a Mac. The Mac has been very unfriendly in the sync dept. I tried to switch over to an iPhone but I realized I NEEDED a hard keyboard, especially when dialing phone numbers. It drove me crazy. I'm excited about the Pre and, notwithstanding sync, will have one in my greedy paws soon.

by Agent-19 | Feb 28, 2009 6:12:02 PM

There's a reason I don't have an iPhone - AT&T!

There's a reason I won't get a Pre - Sprint!

Verizon has been an excellent carrier for me and I'll keep my trusty 755p until Verizon get the iPhone. Then, all bets are off. I love Apple and virtually everything it does.

by melcrose | Mar 2, 2009 11:41:05 PM

I don't get it: at all.

The platform I have spent YEARS using loving has been abandoned: and we're suppose to be exited about that?

The "meet pre" (that name.. ) video is .. horrible. A little background music, mkay?

NO MICRO SDHC SLOT? Holy crap, you're kiddin' me, right? On my 755, I have 5 8GB cards (1 in the phone, 4 above the battery held by double-side tape: they fit) ..
Movies, music, games, etc..
How in the world would anyone survive without an external memory slot? I'm sure I must have mis-read that: 'cause that would be a deal-breaker for the vast majority of people.

My pre review? no flippin' thanks: ever.

by Elaina | Mar 3, 2009 9:51:50 AM

I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don't know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.



by Ryan | Mar 3, 2009 11:10:41 PM

I've had my Treo 680 for almost 4 years. Waiting for something good to come to AT&T from Palm.

by King Harald | Mar 10, 2009 10:39:25 PM

#13 Bluetooth. Why doubt it? Rubinstein himself said so at the launch, and it's on the Details page: "Bluetooth® 2.1 + EDR with A2DP stereo Bluetooth support".

by PxG | Mar 12, 2009 8:18:08 AM

Too many annoying pinapple fans boys here...
This specie is worldwide know as having a high level of blindness and mindless cap...

GL Palm Gl Pré, as a consumer I wish them luck.

by platano | Mar 24, 2009 6:54:27 PM

No way Pre will match iphone...not even close...

applications are the most important for most users...can the pre match those?

display...iphone wins
removable battery...please..ridiculous...who cares!!
itunes? not for pre
digital keyboard, not a problem AT ALL...maybe for dummies
phone works pretty good most people say...

nice try palm!!

by rdbiii | Apr 27, 2009 1:20:07 PM

I enjoyed the interview. While some of the items were forward thinking that only makes sense on a Palm related website. Inexcusable is the lack of an SD card slot. Some of my thoughts are as follows:

1. I use my phone for business and quite a bit of texting so, contrary to some of the comments, a 'real' keyboard is key.
2. What's the deal with the Sprint 1st policy???
3. Being in real estate I use business specific Palm applications if these aren't supported I don't make the move.
4. SD Card slot?? You guys have to be joking. It just makes too much sense to include this with the prices of related memory being so low it creates an easy upgrade path for your customers. Be the company that provides more now instead of making me wait for the next upgrade cycle to get what should've been included in the first version. Moving backwards is never good. You should always have the features of prior products in the new versions.

by knick | May 20, 2009 9:35:40 AM

What about all the accessories I have for the centro? will they be trash if I get the pre? More importantly, what about the 7-10 3rd-party apps I bought over the years on the "old" palm OS? I have maintained them through all of their incremental updates (mucho $$$ here). You are talking about a lot of money down the drain if I have to re-purchase new apps for the new PAlm OS. What up with that? And what do I do with my old centro then? Paperweight? Chasing the latest and the greatest is stupid when I have such an investment now And I agree that no SD card sucks big time. That was the best way to transfer to a new phone too.

by Nick | Jun 2, 2009 12:48:57 PM

I have an IPHONE and I wanted to add a few more of the things that frustrate me.

1. No insurance! such an expensive/easily broken device without insurance is ludacrist!
2. No picture messaging
3. Can not record video
4. it costs ove $150 a month for a truly "unlimited" (text, talk, email, internet) plan!
5. No GPS Navigation.

by kurlin Matthews | Jun 4, 2009 1:34:09 PM

PALM PRE should be an excellent choice

by MrWhite | Jun 23, 2009 2:21:29 PM


Pre weekend sales = 50,000

iPhone Weekend sales = over 1,000,000

Pre fails.

Also, some of the things listed as far as what the iPhone can't do is no longer the case with iPhone 3.0 update, so it makes this article null and void.

by jon | Sep 24, 2009 12:40:26 PM

well one thing i will say about the iphone is that it is for now the best Device/phone on the market. but as far as the phone part itself. At&T service is now where near Sprints or Verizon. maybe closer to Boost Mobile. like i said. what good is any phone if you can't hear the person or its always shutting off and the battery doesn't hold a charge for long.

by Aaliyah Weston | Jan 4, 2010 5:42:01 PM

Keep up perfect job.I have been wondering .A good comparison is helpful in many ways.

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