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How does the iPhone 3G compare to the Palm Pre?
Please note all devices mentioned in this Q&A have been discontinued. The iPhone 3G was discontinued on June 7, 2010 upon the introduction of the iPhone 4.
Long written off for dead by many a pundit, Palm has struggled in recent years due to general mismanagement, multiple operating system changes, and an onslaught of competitive -- and generally superior -- smartphones. The Palm Pre, unveiled on January 8, 2009, and made available starting June 6, 2009, is an effort to turn a corner and revive the company.
Although one might be tempted to dismiss the Pre as just another attempt to rival the iPhone with a touchscreen, there are several notable design decisions that make the Pre different from some other touchscreen smartphones.
Photo Credit: Palm, Inc. (Left - Closed, Right - Open, Not to Scale)
The Palm Pre has a 3.1 inch, 320x480 touchscreen designed for finger-based input, like the iPhone (which has a 3.5 inch, 320x480 display), but unlike the iPhone, the Pre is designed for one-handed operation. The Pre has a black "gesture bar" at the bottom of the display that supports a variety of touch-based interactions to launch new applications and perform other functions. It also has a slide-down QWERTY keyboard (compared to an onscreen keyboard for the iPhone). Engadget has some great "hands on" video of the device in action.
The Palm Pre uses a new Linux-based operating system called the "webOS" compared to the OS X-derived iPhone, and like the iPhone, it has a WebKit-based web browser (just like Mobile Safari), music and video player, and other similar applications, as one would expect. Unlike the iPhone models, however, the Palm Pre webOS supports true multitasking -- running multiple third-party and company-produced applications at the same time (not just some Apple applications simultaneously in the background) -- via a series of "cards" that can be opened and "thrown" off screen when they are no longer needed. The webOS also supports copy and paste -- which the iPhone still inexplicably lacks (but will support in iPhone OS 3.0) -- as well as MMS. No doubt to the disappointment of Palm loyalists, the webOS does not support existing Palm applications (although an emulator has been released subsequently).
Although the keyboard and true multitasking support are notable differences, perhaps the most substantial difference between the Palm Pre and other smartphones -- including the iPhone -- is that the Pre's webOS is designed to integrate all of one's web data from multiple sources -- Gmail, Outlook, and Facebook, for example -- into a single interface without being "synched" to a particular overarching web service or computer.
Palm's webOS does not presume any sort of tether at all. The company has totally ditched the idea that you will use this phone in conjunction with a specific "main PC" that contains the canonical, authoritative repository of your data. Instead, webOS draws seamlessly on a variety of data services -- not data repositories, but cloud-based services that actively feed the device both data and critical context.
This is a deep, fundamental break with both the iPhone and previous, repository-based smartphone usage models, and it's important enough that other smartphones are bound to follow.
Other more minor details for the Palm Pre include an accelerometer, proximity sensor, 3G, Wi-Fi, and GPS support, just like the iPhone 3G. The Pre also includes a 3.0 megapixel camera -- compared to a 2.0 megapixel camera in the iPhone models, a removable battery, and support for data tethering, which the iPhone 3G presently lacks. The Palm Pre only has 8 GB of internal storage compared to 8 GB or 16 GB for the iPhone 3G.
For your convenience, the major differences between the iPhone 3G and Palm Pre have been summarized below:
|iPhone 3G||Palm Pre|
|OS:||iPhone OS (OS X)||webOS|
|Cell Data:||3G/EDGE||EV-DO (3G)|
|Storage:||8, 16 GB||8 GB|
|Talk Time:||5-10 Hours||5 Hours|
|Standby Time:||300 Hours||N/A|
|Still Camera:||2.0 MP||3.0 MP|
|Height x Width:||4.5 x 2.4 in.||3.96 x 2.35 in.|
|Depth:||0.48 in.||0.67 in.|
|Weight:||4.8 oz.||4.76 oz.|
|No Contract Price:||US$599, $699||US$550|
|Subsidized Price:||US$199, $299†||US$199††|
* Some Apple applications do run simultaneously, but the company does not allow multitasking for all applications.
† All iPhone models requires a two-year contract in the US. This was the pricing available prior to the introduction of the iPhone 3GS on June 8, 2009. At that time, Apple discontinued the 16 GB iPhone 3G configuration and dropped the price of the 8 GB iPhone 3G to US$99.
†† The Palm Pre is US$199 with a two-year contract after a US$100 mail in rebate (some third-party retailers offer the rebate instantly).
Ultimately, whether or not the Palm Pre will be enough to get Palm "back in the game" will be decided by the market. However, no doubt many view the Palm Pre as well worth considering and that is a step in the right direction for the company. Compared head-to-head with the iPhone 3G, it does look competitive.