I have been using the HTC Tytn for almost two years and my contract with my current carrier, T-mobile, expired in December. At the time the main options that I was considering were the Apple iPhone, T-mobile G1 or the HTC Touch Diamond. The HTC Touch phones run Windows Mobile (WinMo) and I wasn’t particularly excited because I have been using a WinMo 6 phone for a while. It gets the job done, but isn’t pretty or “finger-friendly.” The G1’s operating system was new, but the hardware wasn’t particularly exciting. Just when I was starting to seriously explore the iPhone, Palm announced the Pre. Looking at the initial videos of the Pre I decided to wait for it. Well, finally the Pre has been out for a month and it is about time for me to decide.

Palm Pre iPhone 3GS

Here is what I am looking for in my next phone…

  1. Size matters. After using the thick Tytn for a little while, I have decided that I need a “pocketable” phone. This is a huge factor for me.
  2. It has to have good GPS support, I don’t want to worry about a separate GPS device.
  3. I am quicker at typing than hand writing, and I don’t write much on my Tytn anyways so I am all for not having a stylus (plus it is so easy to lose!).
  4. I don’t want to worry about managing network connections. The device should work and choose the best source. I don’t mind toggling wireless / plugging in the USB, but that’s the farthest I will go. WinMo 6 isn’t the best at handling this.
  5. It should have a good web browser.
  6. I use google’s services for work (google apps) and personal stuff (gmail, calendar) so nice integration with multiple services is a big plus.

Relatively simple dialer in webOS iPhone's dialer, same as the Pre dialer (or the other way around :)), but the on-screen keyboard in iPhone is comparatively better option than Pre

My dad recently purchased an iPhone 3G so I asked him to let me try it out. I have been using it with t-mobile for the past week and here are a few good and bad things to point out.

iPhone acid score using the Safari provided in the 3.0 firmware.
Pre's acid score using webOS 1.1
  1. It is a bit on the bigger side and I don’t consider it to be “pocketable.”
  2. I have been able to find a good application for pretty much everything that I wanted, a big, big plus.
  3. The games are pretty cool :).
  4. iPhone doesn’t have as good GPS support as the Sprint Navigation on Palm Pre.
  5. The phone has pretty bad reception. My Tytn gets good reception in most of Madison (WI), but there are stretches across town where I get no signal with the iPhone.
  6. Multi-tasking is critical for me and iPhone doesn’t multi-task. I hate having to wait while I am switching between applications. Yesterday I tried the 3G S at the local apple store and was impressed by the speed, but still not as “productive” as a multi-tasking OS.
  7. Going with iPhone means going with AT&T and I have heard a lot of bad comments about AT&T’s service. There was even a post done at TechCrunch yesterday about this issue, note the huge number of comments agreeing with the complaint. I am guessing that the iPhone is crowding AT&T’s network quite a bit 🙂
  8. I actually have a good use for the compass on the 3GS 🙂
  9. The following for iPhone and its current demographics of users means that there is at least one other person who has had the issues that I will be having and blogged about it with the fix.
  10. iPhone’s dialer can be improved significantly. I like the onscreen keyboard, but there are many times when I want to dial a contact while driving or carrying stuff (i.e. I can only operate with one hand) and will miss SPB Shell’s Contact Smart Search feature where you can just “dial” the person’s name on the bigger on-screen keypad and the contacts are filtered.
  11. iPhone’s javascript support seems to be pretty good for a mobile browser with an Acid3 test score of 97/100.
  12. iPhone 3G S has both 16GB and 32GB models (very good!).

webOS's calendar application in month view.  Some people don't think this is very good view, but to me this gives a good idea of days and times I have open. iPhone's relative simple calendar month view

So, with that we come to the Palm Pre. Seems like a very exciting device. After a few days of iPhone I decided to dive deep into the Pre. Interestingly, last Thursday Palm released the Mojo SDK, which includes an emulator! What better way to try out the OS than to actually play around with it? I installed the emulator and started experiencing, setting up all the accounts and other stuff. I left it open in the background keeping an eye on email, calendar and notifications. I know this isn’t the real experience, but pretty good for testing the OS functionality. I have also stopped by the Sprint store several times over the week to check out specifics as I learn about them in the emulator. Here is what I have gathered so far.

webOS' contact reminder feature
  1. Pre is definitely pocketable. If I get it I will probably only put something like the BestSkinEver to keep the size to a minimal.
  2. I love the multi-tasking support in the OS.
  3. People have really liked the Sprint Navigation application that is included with the Palm Pre. I haven’t tried it in detail (not on emulator, plus it would be hard to test without GPS support), but from the looks definitely seems like a better option than the iPhone app.
  4. I love the support for multiple sources ( Synergy ) in the contacts, mail and calendar applications. Like most people in the online world, I also have multiple email and calendar accounts. “Contact Reminder” feature in contacts is also pretty cool.
  5. The interface is almost as pretty as the iPhone interface. The fact that Pre packs the same number of pixels in a smaller screen makes the interface crispi er.
  6. Once again, I will have to change carriers, this time to Sprint. Like AT&T, Sprint has had a mixed reputation. Customer service has bad rep just as AT&T, but I haven’t heard as many nickel-and-diming stories with Sprint, plus their plans seemed to be priced better (~$129 for 1500 minutes and unlimited data family plan). PC World did a test of three major cell phone carriers in which Sprint 3G with 89.8% success was ranked above AT&T 3G with 68% success. As of now I am waiting to hear back from a friend who uses Sprint locally.
  7. Based on the experiences shared on PreCentral forums and across the web, I am a little worried that this phone will not last very long. The good thing is that Sprint actually allows Sprint Premier customers (which I will be if I get the Pre) to upgrade after only a year. Even then I am going to get the extra $7 insurance if I end up getting this phone so that’s an extra monthly cost that I wouldn’t have to worry about with the iPhone.
  8. The App Catalog for Pre is lacking. This is partly because the Software Development Kit (SDK) was only released last Thursday (7/16). Being a geek, I had to explore the SDK, and so far I think Pre’s development is very, very easy, especially when compared to iPhone development. This means that we should see a lot of applications, probably not as complicated as the iPhone ones (3D games?!), but good enough to fill the purpose of a smartphone. Also, there is a chance that I might try creating an app or two, which probably wouldn’t be the case if I were to go with the iPhone (I am PC :)).
  9. From a business promotion perspective, i.e. ShopFiber, this probably isn’t the best choice because iPhone is much widely adopted and it will take the Pre quite a long time to get to that level of acceptance.
  10. I am being peer pressured into picking the iPhone so I will have to really justify my choice of Pre 🙂
  11. Just like the iPhone dialer, Pre’s dialer can be improved significantly. I like the keyboard and the universal search, but there are many times when I want to dial a contact while driving or carrying stuff (i.e. I can only operate with one hand) and will miss SPB Shell’s Contact Smart Search feature where you can just “dial” the person’s name on the bigger on-screen keypad and the contacts are filtered.
  12. I use Skype quite a bit and it will probably take a while before a Skype client is released for the Pre (if ever).
  13. Pre’s webOS is in its infancy. This means that there will be (and are) rough edges and some missing features, but also means that it should be improving a lot. Given that the Pre is Palm’s lifeline and a big player in Sprint’s future I have high faith in both players trying very hard to improve the experience significantly.
  14. Pre’s browser is pretty good for rendering and comparable to iPhone’s (even 3GS’), but it lacks javascript ability. Currently it miserably fails the Acid3 test completely.
  15. Pre comes with only 8GB, some of which is shared with OS and programs.

webOS' browser bookmarks iPhone's browser bookmarks

I can keep on going about both the phones, but I am going to stop. As you can guess, I am leaning a lot more towards getting the Pre 🙂 I will be making my decision over the next few days, let’s see. Remember this is my preference. Are you also choosing between these devices? What do you prefer? What factors play a role in your choice?

Side notes

HTC Hero

Windows Mobile (WinMo) phones generally don’t use capacitive screens (i.e. “finger friendly”). I have recently tried WinMo 6.5 thinking that it would be an improvement, but it doesn’t have too many changes. The interface has improved, but right now it is not good enough when compared with the competition.

I also considered the new MyTouch (HTC Hero), but its size, T-Mobile’s comparatively weak 3G presence and Google’s relatively low interest/progress in Android (very broad statement, I know) have made me look in other directions, at least for now. My guess is that if Google really wants, it can make Android a huge success, but right now they are making very slow progress. Think about it, most of the cell phone manufacturers are making good devices, but other than Windows Mobile they don’t have many other good options when it comes to the operating system. That’s the gap that Android is filling.

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