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Review: Palm Pre on Sprint

So, I got a Palm Pre about a week ago, and I've fallen in love with smartphones as a category. Yeah, I'm late to the party, but I will never go back to regular phones. This one in particular has some great things going for it, and some... Er, opportunities for improvement, I guess.

Weak Points
This thing eats battery life insanely fast. That's compared to my old dumb phone, and yes, I am using it for hours on a typical day to grab data, check mail, Twitter, etc. Fortunately, there's the Touchstone induction charger, but even so, I was surprised how often I need to charge it; every day, sometimes twice. Fortunately, you can swap out the battery yourself, unlike an iPhone, if you really need to juice up on the go.

Photos: The 3 MB camera is slooooow. I can't seem to get the hang of the shutter; it's cripplingly slow to take a picture. I really, really wanted this to work a lot better. Major disappointment.

< 50 Apps: The apps store has all the basics, but it sure is less than Apple. OTOH, they're rolling out more every day.

Strong Points
Palm Ease of Use:
Everything just seems to work, from the beautiful box and components, to the 30 second tutorial and the fluent gestures. The integration of gmail, calendar, contacts, Outlook, and multiple email accounts all are almost magically mapped together. Best of all, this feature is free, unlike the MobileMe feature on the iPhone.

Apparently the staff that designed the Pre includes a number of former Apple designers... So perhaps it should be no surprise that it's a mobile OS design triumph. It's smooooooth.

Feature-Rich: Yes, the Palm Pre does voice calls, WiFi access, the web, Pandora, iTunes, YouTube, TV, PDF reader, ebook reader, Twitter client, copy/paste, etc etc etc. It offers some features that I don't think the iPhone does, like turn-by-turn navigation. And er, NASCAR stuff.

On the hardware side, having a real keyboard works wonderfully. And it takes a standard headphone jack.

Multiple Apps: Running 5 or 6 apps at once is beautiful. I can click a link, go see the site, and then flick back to the active card/app that I left behind. Or I can launch a complex browser page, then go check my Twitter account and come back in a minute.

Value for Money
One major element that struck me most about the Palm Pre and that has gotten no play in reviews I've seen is that it offers all of what the iPhone does, for less money. "But Monkey King," I hear you Apple fans say, "the iPhone is the same price or less, how can you say that?"

Well, it's easy. Because smartphones are subsidized by the carriers, the upfront cost of the iPhone device is not the real price you pay; the real price is in the service contract. AT&T's monthly service adds up to about $2360 over the lifetime of the contract (that includes texting and two years of the MobileMe price to make this an apples-to-apples comparison, but I didn't add in a GPS nav contract).

The Sprint contract, by comparison, will run me just $1,512 over two years. A little haggling at sign-up got me a massive 27% discount off the listed monthly price.

From my experience, AT&T reps will not haggle at signup. Ever. And even the pre-haggle rate from Sprint is just $69/month. That's for all-you-can-eat, no limit usage on data, texting, photo messages, etc. Compare the Apple/AT&T price of $90+/month.

The Pre is as impressive a device as the iPhone, for about $850 less. Oh, HELL yes.


Jun. 18th, 2009 08:16 am (UTC)
Wow--an iPhone is really $90 a month? That officially make the iPhone the ONLY thing that is significantly less expensive in the UK than the US. Tam's costs us about £30 ($40-$50, depending on exchange rate) a month. (Generally, everything here costs about 50% more than in the US.)

As for MobileMe, I'm not sure how important it is for your apples-to-apples comparison. I don't have it, and frankly I'm not really sure what it's for--I seem to be able to do everything it's advertised to provide. Certainly none of the features you mention rely on MobileMe.

By the way, good to see an actual blog post, Wolf! I'd about given up on you. . . .

Jun. 18th, 2009 06:09 pm (UTC)
Hm, perhaps I was misled on the ability of the iPhone to combine multiple email/phone contacts automagically into a single set of contacts; I was told that requires MobileMe.

The iPhone is at LEAST $90 a month; some folks tell me they pay more than $100 a month for it. If you drop text messages and limit the data cap, you might get it down more, but the plans are not exactly transparent. I'm pretty sure AT&T can retain that pricing because it is a status item, and paying too much has always been part of Apple's allure.

It's probably good in the long run that Palm/Sprint is exerting pressure on their pricing. AT&T does rake it in from iPhone customers.

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