No, I won't be camping out for a Palm Pre
This guest article was submitted by Steven Law.
As I write this post there is about a week left before the alleged iPhone-killing, Sprint and Palm-saving, all-singing and -dancing, Web 2.0 "Now"phone goes on sale. I am referring, of course, to the Palm Pre. It would be no exaggeration to say that hundreds of thousands of people have been waiting eagerly for this moment. Long-suffering Palm fans will be vindicated, Sprint partisans will finally have a real flagship device to point to, and folks who don't give a toss about brands and companies will have what looks to be a well-designed phone with some interesting features.
All in all, Pre Day (June 6th) will be the culmination of five months of waiting, wishing, and wanting for this varied group. I used to be part of this population, gobbling up what meager scraps of information there was – "Ooh! Another clip showing the gesture area at work!"- though let it be known that unlike certain folks, I only watched the 26-minute Pre video once. Honest!
While I was waiting for the Pre, though, something funny (or not) happened. The other phone manufacturers decided not to wait.
As a result, June and July are now cluttered with smartphone reveals in America. The Android-based myTouch 3G (aka HTC Magic) on T-Mobile, the flotilla of HTC Touch Diamond 2/Pro 2 on all the providers – RIM might be getting into the act with the Blackberry Tour. Samsung and LG will fire back with new Windows Mobile and Android phones of their own. And of course, there's always the lurking Apple iPhone announcement courtesy of Apple's Worldwide Developer's Conference.
However, it's not just competing hardware that's popping up. Remember Pre's multi-service conversations? HTC is implementing that in their Touch 2 phones. Universal Search? Google just revealed the same thing for Android "Donut"; like webOS and unlike iPhone OS 3.0, it incorporates internet results as well. Flash video support? The SkyFire browser for Windows Mobile just left beta, letting you watch Hulu and Every Other Video Site Not Called YouTube relatively trouble-free. Five months is an awfully long time for the cellphone space, and having all of these choices has caused me to hesitate a bit.
At least if I were to stay on Sprint (I think I'm the only Pocketables guest contributor who can claim to be a Sprint subscriber [Whoops; turns out Chris King is also on Sprint. Sorry!]), my problem is fairly straightforward: HTC Touch Pro 2 or Palm Pre? Unless one of the other new phones has a built-in gelato maker, I won't be going anywhere. I celebrate my 11th of 24 contractually-obligated months in two weeks, and a $200 ETF tends to make you think things through.
But back to the phones: both satisfy my main criteria in that they have a touchscreen and a hardware keyboard. Touchscreens just make sense for small devices, and five months with the on-screen keyboard on the HTC Touch Diamond (my current phone) have made me almost want to go back to the Palm Treo 800w I started out with . . . almost. It's a bit of a struggle at this point.
Rather than going over the two phones in meticulous detail, particularly when you'd be better served by an actual phone review site, I thought I'd briefly mention some important elements that each phone brings to the table. I guess someone will be happy that the Pre supports multiple Exchange accounts (no Windows Mobile phone does, surprisingly enough), and a 5.0-megapixel camera on the Pro 2 is a talking point for sales reps; for most folks though, I figure the following items matter more.
- Interface. With every iteration of TouchFlo, HTC gets closer and closer to having a really good shell for Windows Mobile. From the previews it seems that it might actually be possible to use the phone for a day and not have to deal with the icky presentation of WinMo 6.1. Still, multitasking and notifications in webOS seems to be more accessible and less intrusive. Please, guys: quit it with the focus-stealing notifications!
- WebKit-based browser. This is a big one. I'm a huge fan of Opera on the desktop, and before the iPhone and G1 there really wasn't anything that could compare with Opera Mobile. However, the previously mentioned phones show that there actually are pretty decent alternatives. Too bad you have to pay for the phone for it! On the whole, mobile WebKit browsers seem to render pages closer to their desktop counterparts. I also wish Opera Mobile didn't impose a three-tab limit and reacted better to momentum scrolling.
- Portrait keyboard. This one's a little tricky. On one hand, landscape keyboards allow for wider, if shorter, keys. On the other hand, a majority of phones are meant to be used in a portrait orientation (not referring to the screen, but the phone chassis itself); having to rotate the device every single time I want to respond to a message gets annoying. Considering how successful RIM has been with a portrait chassis (Blackberry Storm aside) even at the expense of a smaller screen, I think this is the right move.
- iTunes syncing. I do not like iTunes. I know there are many people on both sides of this. For iTunes fans who want to buy a Pre, this is a great thing. For me: I take this as a sign, a sign that Palm is serious about this, that they're not afraid to tweak a few noses during what may be their final battle, their last hurrah.
Touch Pro 2
- Tethering. With my recent spate of UMPCs lacking internal 3G, having tethering available is a Big Deal. True, I had to do a little tweaking to make things work, but let's be honest. A copy of Firefox is probably going to beat a mobilized WebKit most of the time, especially when there's a table available.
- Higher resolution screen. This is pretty self-explanatory, but I like more pixels on a screen so I'm going to point it out anyway! Pixel count is more than twice that of the Pre. I prefer to do as little zooming and scrolling as possible. I don't get why Palm co uldn't put in at least a 640 x 360 screen. Perhaps they want to take advantage of already-existing iPhone-optimized websites?
- MicroSD slot. More space for multimedia? Sure. But what about being able to backup your phone and restore your phone when you don't have network or computer access? For many businessfolk, their phone contains a good part of their working life. They really ought to be backing up their phones!
- Library of Windows Mobile apps. I rarely buy applications for phones, but for the Touch Diamond I did fork over $30 for WMWiFiRouter. Very, very useful (as Andreas illustrated in a previous article). There's another couple of apps out there that I paid for or can find only on WinMo after all this time. It's really the same thing for any new platform, and there are no guarantees that what I have will continue to work on newer devices. Still…
I hope that I've brought up at least one point that readers haven't really thought about, or at least not in the same way (backing up your phone with the MicroSD slot, for example). Phone reviews are always a little hard – previews even worse – since as long as a phone isn't completely horrid it will take some living with to see if you really love it. And don't worry. Even if you're on AT&T or Verizon, you'll get your chance to consider your choices in a few months!
Guest Contributor Steven Law is a member of Homo sapiens; he certainly is not a robot or renegade auto-blogging tool. Mr. Law does not believe in or support the notion that humanity will be overthrown by an artificial intelligence that spontaneously came into being from the interaction of the millions of pieces of consumer electronics that surround us and know the most intimate details of our lives. Buy more electronic devices. EOL.