Someone at Palm should probably be kicking themselves: The first reviews of its much-hyped Palm Pre aren't bad, but they are not incredibly good, either. This sets a pretty low bar for what coming competitors must achieve to appear more advanced than Palm's newest device.
I'd expected the Pre to make me at least a little envious. But our week of testing with the Palm Pre actually makes me glad I'm an iPhone user. I have twice the memory, limited multitasking (plays music while I do something else), and gobs of useful applications to choose from. I've learned to live without a teensy keyboard.
[ Sprint is set to launch Palm Pre on June 6. | InfoWorld's Zack Urlocker goes hands on with the Palm Pre. | Whatever handheld you use or manage, turn to InfoWorld for the latest developments. Subscribe to InfoWorld's Mobile Report newsletter and stay ahead of advances in mobile technology with InfoWorld's Mobile Edge blog. ]
More importantly: I have Steve Jobs and whatever he already has in the product pipeline, plus whatever he conjures up once he (it's now widely presumed) returns to Apple from medical leave.
Next-generation iPhones, if half the rumors are correct, will rebalance the world in Apple's favor, almost regardless of what Palm does between now and their introduction.
Future iPhone 3.0 devices are already generating more excitement than the Pre will be able to sustain after its launch. The anticipated Android device onslaught coming this fall still has time for anti-Pre tweaking.
Devices based on Google's Android operating system already have the key feature that Pre reviewers are focusing on: Multitasking.
My take on multitasking: It won't be a big as deal for users as it is for reviewers, who are (or should be) power smartphone users. The ability to run multiple apps simultaneously will be useful, for sure, but isn't an iPhone-killer. Besides, it's reasonable to expect Apple will soon open its multitasking capabilities up to developers.
Product managers at competing firms are probably thrilled the reviews are out before the Pre hits the shelves. Palm must have been hoping for a homerun, but only got solid double. With expectations so high, Palm might have done better to wait and give reviewers their devices on Friday, with less lead time before the rest of us could buy one for ourselves. Less risk, fewer deflated expectations that way.
One key flaw for the Pre is battery life, which Palm is supposed to be working on improving. You'd think, for as long as the Pre has been knocking around their labs, that this problem would have been fixed by release date.
The issue here is that people who are used to BlackBerry devices and other, less-smart phones find the battery life to be short. Based on our test results, though, iPhone users are much less likely to notice the difference.
Another challenge, less easily solved, is the unimpressive physical keypad on the device. It was a good idea, but poorly executed. BlackBerry users are likely to hate the Pre keyboard.