Deathmatch: Palm Pre versus iPhone

In our last comparison, the iPhone buried the BlackBerry. Can the new Palm Pre unseat the mobile champ?

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On the Pre, adding a person from a phone call, SMS, IM, or e-mail is a simple click operation. With the iPhone, it’s a single tap, so that’s a draw. And both devices show multiple calendars, while distinguishing each; both also preserve calendar names from Exchange, iCal, and so on.

As for integrating conversations with the same person across IM and SMS in a single view, only the Pre can do that.

Galen: In the address book, the iPhone lets you jump easily to contacts by tapping a letter, such as T to navigate to people whose last names begin with T. Or you can search for someone in the Search field by tapping part of the name.

Brandon: The Pre has a similar function, using its universal “type for what you want” approach: Type a T to get to the T’s. And you can type more of the name to narrow your search, just as the iPhone can in its search window. So there’s one way to navigate the address book, not two.

The winner: The iPhone, by a nose. Overall, the iPhone -- thanks to the iPhone 3.0 OS upgrade -- is more suitable for business communications, but the Pre comes in a close second. Most people would be satisfied with the Pre, and those who communicate through multiple channels will prefer it.

Deathmatch: Applications
: Palm has made a lot of noise about the Pre’s ability to run multiple apps simultaneously. The iPhone can’t do that, and often when you switch from one app to another and then back, the first app resets. I really like how the Pre handles multiple simultaneous apps, letting you move among them through the row-of-cards metaphor. It really makes Apple’s push notification addition to iPhone OS 3.0 look pathetic.

Brandon: This is the Pre’s strongest feature compared with the iPhone. If, for example, you need directions to colleague’s office, you can dial the first few letters of the person’s name (first or last), choose the contact profile from a list of search results, tap the address, and automatically launch the Google Maps app to get directions from your current location. As soon as you get to your destination, you can use a left-to-right gesture to scroll back to the contacts app where the phone number of your colleague is still displayed.

Galen: Where I think the Pre falls short on apps is in its app store, which has very little to offer, and Palm’s delay in rolling out its SDK won’t help matters. So there’s not a lot you can do with the Pre in terms of apps, even if you can switch among them easily. The inability to peruse Pre apps from the desktop is also a detraction, or it will be when there are enough apps available that the confines of the Pre’s screen inhibit finding them.

Brandon: If Palm wants to gain an edge over Apple in this regard, it will let users load applications from anywhere rather than having to go through a central app store. This open platform approach would complement the already more progressive multitasking capability of the Pre’s WebOS, which facilitates interactivity among apps to accomplish tasks.

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