My Palm Pre first-gen fears

One need only look at the iPhone to understand that buying the first version of a hot, new consumer electronics product has its pitfalls and that smart shoppers wait for later versions. Is the first-edition Palm Pre an exception?

David Carnoy Executive Editor / Reviews
Executive Editor David Carnoy has been a leading member of CNET's Reviews team since 2000. He covers the gamut of gadgets and is a notable reviewer of mobile accessories and portable audio products, including headphones and speakers. He's also an e-reader and e-publishing expert as well as the author of the novels Knife Music, The Big Exit and Lucidity. All the titles are available as Kindle, iBooks, Kobo e-books and audiobooks.
Expertise Headphones, Bluetooth speakers, mobile accessories, Apple, Sony, Bose, e-readers, Amazon, glasses, ski gear, iPhone cases, gaming accessories, sports tech, portable audio, interviews, audiophile gear, PC speakers Credentials
  • Maggie Award for Best Regularly Featured Web Column/Consumer
David Carnoy
3 min read

CNET News Poll

Are you comfortable buying version 1.0 of the Palm Pre?

Yes, it looks as good or better than the iPhone.
No, I'll wait for a later version.
No Palm Pre for me--I'm holding out for the new iPhone.

View results

I usually follow a simple rule when it comes to consumer electronics: I avoid buying any first-generation products. That doesn't mean I haven't ever done it, but I tend to wait for generation two or three before I plunk down my dough, particularly when it comes to heavily hyped stuff.

As I've written before, I'm a prime candidate to buy the Palm Pre. I'm a Sprint customer who has a contract conveniently expiring in June and I have a phone (the Mogul) that's on its last legs. Ideally, the Pre would cost $50 less and not have a mail-in rebate, but at least Sprint didn't price the thing at a pure $299, as I'm sure it would have preferred to do. Pricing aside, the biggest hurdle I'm facing is the fact that the Palm Pre is a first-gen phone--and platform--and I'm really not a first-gen guy.

By contrast, the iPhone will be on its third generation and its platform is already fairly mature. We'll find out exactly how the new third-generation iPhone specs out at next week's WWDC event, but it's safe to assume that many of the small, nagging kinks that were found in earlier editions of the iPhone will have been ironed out. I don't expect it to be perfect (no phone ever will be, because there's always something better around the corner), but I feel pretty good about getting a lot more iPhone for my $199 than those who purchased the original non-3G model (which was originally $599--with contract!) or even the iPhone 3G.

Sometimes, of course, a brand new product can come along that's so far ahead of the pack that even the introductory version is too tempting to avoid. In my book, the lack of a 3G data connection in the original iPhone was an instant deal breaker and made it easy to pass.

Future editions of the Palm Pre will assuredly have more than 8GB of memory. Palm

The Pre, on the other hand, has only one glaring issue on the surface: it's got only 8GB of built-in memory and no memory expansion option. It's also unclear whether the platform will truly take off and attract the large number of developers--and have a robust app store--that the iPhone has. Not that apps are the end-all be-all for smartphones, but if everybody's out there developing cool stuff for the iPhone and not the Palm, you're potentially going to feel a little cheated.

The other thing I like about the iPhone is that it does allow for software upgrades. Yes, you're limited by the hardware feature set, but phones, like computers and game consoles, should be upgradeable. Say what you want about the early editions of the PS3, Wii, and XBox 360, which were plagued with reliability issues; at least those "old" machines can all run the new system software, and, in the case of the PS3, the first systems offered backwards compatibility for PS2 games.

Another beef with the Pre: it's not a world phone, so you're stuck with just Wi-Fi if traveling overseas. We know that a GSM version of the phone won't be far behind--so that's just another reason to wait.

From my personal smartphone experience, Microsoft and the carriers have always been woeful about offering upgrades for Windows Mobile phones (upgrading the firmware on my Mogul was always a chore and would be near-impossible for technophobes).

By contrast, newer smartphone OS outfit Google seems to be doing a pretty good job of offering updates to its Android-powered G1 T-Mobile phone, so I'm hoping that Palm has an upgrade plan for the Pre that helps potential buyers like me get over their first-gen fears--especially with riper platforms like Blackberry and Apple sitting out there alongside up-and-comers like Android. (I'm not forgetting about Nokia's Symbian or Windows Mobile, but the former has more of a European base and the latter--in the form of Windows Mobile 7 devices--should have been out six months ago).

Maybe I'm a sissy. But I have a gadget philosophy. I try to live by it. I try to show discipline. How 'bout you? Anybody else holding back on the Pre because it's a first-gen model? Or is switching to Sprint the bigger concern?