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Decisions, Decisions: Palm Pre or iPhone?

An account of why--after months of planning to buy the new iPhone when it came out--I chose to purchase a Palm Pre just ten days after launch and two days before the reveal of the iPhone 3GS.

[An account of why--after months of planning to buy the new iPhone when it came out--I chose to purchase a Palm Pre just ten days after launch and two days before the reveal of the iPhone 3GS.]

Let me say up front that I don't have any investment in thinking of the Palm Pre as an "iPhone killer." I don't personally think it is (or needs to be), and I certainly don't gesture towards a "Palm Pre vs. iPhone" contest lightly. I understand this can be a sensitive subject.

That said, as an unsatisfied Blackberry Pearl user who had been off contract with Sprint for four months, my choice--as I came to see it--was between the iPhone 3GS and the Beta Palm Pre.

For the months leading up to the launch of the Palm Pre, I was certain (beyond all doubt) that I would buy the next iPhone when it came out this summer. I consider myself a Mac person: I love my Macbook Pro. I love my Nano. I even love iTunes. And, I'll admit it...I'm a total sucker for the Apple brand image and what I have come to associate with it: the user interfaces, the packaging, and perhaps most importantly, the fact that every Apple product I have purchased has worked for me without any grief. Until about a month ago, I was unwavering in my intent to purchase the new iPhone when it emerged.

And then I started reading about the Palm Pre. It really wasn't until Pre launch day that I started to doubt my imminent iPhone purchase. I had started following the buzz on as I waited for information to trickle in on about what I was sure would be my new iPhone.

However, by the time the disappointingly familiar iPhone 3GS was revealed at WWDC (say what you will...I was hoping for a much more exciting hardware upgrade), my interest in the Palm Pre's multitasking, notifications, and physical keyboard had grown quite a bit stronger--as had my interest in WebOS. Adding insult to injury, pricing monthly service at both AT&T and Sprint reminded me that iPhone users who want unlimited SMS and MMS are really not taken care of by AT&T: The SMS pricing seems excessive and MMS was not immediately available with the new iPhone.

My decision, therefore, began to seem less and less obvious. So I did what any temporarily cell-phone-obsessed person would do: I read as many comparison reviews (found this user review particularly helpful) as I could find and made a list of reasons to get/not get the Pre, which I posted to the forums so that I could get feedback from other users.

After all of my reading around, here's what ended up on my list:

+ Get the Pre:

1. Sprint service is fairly priced (AT&T's pricing is obnoxious).
2. Sprint service is stronger and faster in my home area.
3. MMS messages *now* with Pre (AT&T says later this summer with iPhone).
4. The Pre is slightly smaller, lighter, and has river stone-like feel in hand.
5. The physical keyboard is surprisingly easy to use.
6. I really like the "cards" and multitasking with WebOS.
7. I am interested in the WebOS potential.

- Don't get the Pre:

1. Very few Pre apps now (more to come soon?). 40,000+ apps for iPhone.
2. New voice activation for iPhone looks promising.
3. iPhone is a GSM phone (can use it overseas).
4. iPhone offers twice the memory of Pre for same price (service costs more though).
5. iPhone can record video and has video editing.
6. New smudge free coating on iPhone a plus?
7. Slightly faster browser of iPhone 3GS.

Feedback on the forums helped me see that my decision was not going to come from a meticulous accounting process. Let's face it, they are both pretty cool phones--as are a few other smart phones available. My decision was going to have to come from figuring out what mattered most to me and choosing the phone that would meet those needs best.

The Decision

Ultimately, my decision to get the Palm Pre came down to four things that I determined mattered most to me:

1. I don't want to pay as much as AT$T wants to charge per month. Over two years, that price difference in service could add up to $1,400. That's excessive and seems to take advantage of their exclusivity contract in a way that, quite simply, pisses me off.

2. I want a phone that facilitates multitasking and messaging and makes it fun. I love that the Pre is designed to be more than an applications launcher. I like multitasking.

3. I prefer the Pre hardware. It's light, it's small, it slides and clicks, and it does feel pretty nice in the hand.

4. I really like the idea of the Palm Pre's WebOS. I like that WebOS is Linux-driven and relatively open and that developers are so excited about it.

When the image of the ROM was found, the Konami code found to work, and developers started their code-diving, it was like reading a great techie Western without all of the interpersonal conflict. The organized chaos and apparent spirit of community and cooperation among developers really impressed and intrigued me.

And so, while I realize the Pre is a Beta product, only launched with 12 applications and to-date offers only 29, and has a few other minor issues, there's an up-side to all of that for me. The phone seems pretty great as it is, and I see the promise of what it can be and am looking forward to being a part of the growth process. We'll see how it goes.

NEXT: Out of the Box: My New New Palm Pre Unboxing!

Catherine Gouge