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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Galen: What really frustrated me on the Pre was its Launcher, where your apps reside. By default, it’s one screen that you scroll through vertically. But that screen shows only some of your apps; the rest are hidden on additional “pages” that you have to scroll to horizontally. But you can’t scroll to them until you move this little slider icon at the bottom right of the Launcher. Who would figure that out? Making you scroll vertically implies one long page, à la a Web page; the hidden horizontal control is hugely unintuitive. The fact that you can’t launch apps from the Launcher’s list view also mystified me.

Brandon: There’s an easier way to find apps than what you suggest: The Pre’s automatic search functionality will display apps in the search results as soon as you begin typing the first letters of the app’s name.

[ See which iPhone apps the InfoWorld Test Center rates as best for business. | And see the 21 “jailbreak" apps Apple doesn't want you to have. ]

Galen: For business document editing, I used the $20 Quickoffice for iPhone, a productivity editor for Microsoft Word, Excel, and PowerPoint documents that lets you perform basic edits and retain revisions tracking in the original document. But it doesn’t work with zipped files. And Apple's prohibition against saving files on the iPhone means that Quickoffice can't get to those e-mail attachments. Quickoffice does offer a cool tool to transfer files to and from the iPhone over Wi-Fi, but you need your computer up and running to do that -- in which case, why would you edit the documents on the iPhone?

Of course, there is no document editor available for the Pre. Yes, DataViz has announced Documents to Go for the Pre, but given the recently released iPhone version, I'm not that hopeful: All it can do is basic editing of Word docs -- though it does let you edit them from e-mail attachments, at least.

Brandon: We’ll have to see what apps come for the Pre in the future, so I’ll concede Office editing for now. But the iPhone’s inability to edit documents in e-mail is huge; how much advantage does the iPhone really have here if you can’t get to the documents in the first place?

Galen: I also use Google Docs on the iPhone. It's barely possible to edit a spreadsheet; the most you can do is select and add rows and edit an individual cell’s contents. You can't edit a text document, and for calendars all you can do is view and delete appointments.

Brandon: The iPhone may not be so great for Google Docs, but the Pre is. There is the hindrance of having to zoom in and out of each file because of the mobile screen size, but the Pre does a great job of allowing you to view and edit Google Docs.

The winner: A tie. The iPhone’s breadth of apps is unmatched, but iPhone users will be jealous of the Pre’s multi-app capability and its ability to work with Google Docs well. The iPhone’s lack of multitasking is a major limitation to using the huge array of apps out there, and it keeps them from working together. The Pre, on the other hand, needs more apps and perhaps a simpler presentation of the apps you have installed.

Deathmatch: Web and Internet
Before the iPhone had a wealth of apps, it had a wealth of Web sites, thanks to its Safari browser's support for most modern desktop Web technology, though Flash support is the big omission. That means you can view most Web pages on the iPhone, as long as you are willing to zoom in and scroll. But as noted in the previous section, Web-based tools such as Google Docs are a different story. Here I find the Pre easily as capable on the Web as the iPhone is.

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