On Smartphone Competition

It's amusing to me how smartphone owners become champions of their chosen devices. I can see that it's easy when you plunk down a few hundred for a device, but more importantly the device that you choose to be at your side 24/7; a constant companion to keep you connected to the world and amused when you're idle.

One of my friends has a Palm Pre, and he loves it. He's also a huge linux geek, so that also appealed to him; to his credit, he wrote one of the premier rooting tools for the Pre. Every so often he puts on his cheerleader outfit to try to convince people how it's a superior platform.

The things he like to point out are usually:
-How long it took for the SDK to be available. Apple: about a year. Palm: immediately.
-The Apple App Store review process.
-Root access to the phone.
-Hardware keyboard.
-Removable Battery.

To these, I usually say "yes, it's easy to create a device that directly address the itemized list of two years of iPhone criticism have brought up before making a product announcement.'

Sure, a removable battery may be nice. Y'know, as long as you don't pull a fail like the Droid, requiring them to apply a fix (read: Piece of Tape) after a couple of days...


Sure, some people prefer a hardware keyboard. But I don't have pixie-like fingers. They're not ham-hocks, but not exactly delicate. The Pre's chicklet buttons are small... Now, if I'd had a Treo or Blackberry previously, I can see how I may not like the touchscreen keyboard of the iPhone. But this is my first smartphone. Also, it seems handy to me that the keyboard can be modified in software. Different accents (French, German), character sets (Cyrillic, Arabic), and different utilities (text input vs. web urls vs. terminal control characters) can all be implemented in software. Also, I've seen and heard about the Pre's slider getting loose and sloppy with use. While expected with any mechanical device, 1) this has started alarmingly early in their lifecycle, and 2) no sloppiness in my iPhone...

To root access to the phones, you have to crack/jailbreak them. My friend will cry out that Palm supports it, but I find his claim of 'support' dubious. It's allowed, sure. But I wouldn't call it supported. Maybe if they'd allowed a built-in option, I'd consider that. I will say that I do appreciate that Palm does seem to encourage their hacker community; or at least doesn't try to thwart them like Apple seems to. Half-credit to Palm on this one.

On providing an SDK, I can only scoff. Apple came out and said "web apps!", and most people said "meh. We want the goods!" So Apple put out Cocoa Touch after cleaning it up for public consmption (i.e. Support). Palm saw the flack that Apple was taking and did just about the only non-stupid thing possible: prepared their SDK to release soon after their phone shipped. Well, I suppose you can't really call four months 'short' when you've seen your competitor lambasted for that two years earlier... Apple did Palm's market research for them!

On Apple's handling of the App Store, I can say that I appreciate some parts of it, but the sometimes arbitrary-seeming rejections and delays and perpetual periods of "in-review" really bother me. I won't say any more about that because this territory has been well covered by people much more qualified than I. I do wish Palm success with their official store, and am happy for the unofficial one. I just hope that Apple doesn't attempt to take Palm to court over any number of Patents, Trademarks, or Copyrights. That would just be petty and stupid.

Now, don't get me wrong, I think the Pre is a great phone/platform. Having applications built in HTML, CSS, and Javascript is a wonderful model, and makes the phone nicely hackable. It can also run bash scripts, and I've heard that someone's compliled Perl for the Pre as well. These things are great!

My friend also assures me that the Pre is unbrickable. No matter how badly he should bork his system, it's easily recoverable.

Though, despite the Pre and iPhone supposedly having similar processing hardware inside, the iPhone is by far better performing and smoother. Whenever I manipulate the Pre, swipes and gestures lag, and the associated reactions and page transitions stutter. My friend claims not to see them, but I can't not see them. These have gotten better with successive updates from Palm, but it is noticible and distracting to me.

One final dig on the Pre, though. There is one feature that the Pre has that the iPhone never will: you can slice cheese with it!

Now, I haven't mentioned any Android phones (aside from the Droid's spectacular build-quality fail) or Blackberry. The reasons are simple: I don't know any Android owners, and Blackberry owners just say "I love it.". I always see iPhone owners (and my friend with the Pre) showing off the cool things that we can do with our devices. We're filled with such techno-joy that we want to spread the good word! My fellow iPhone owners and I often stop for impromptu gatherings to share our news of cool apps. I just don't see that from Blackberry owners.

Maybe if Apple starts to drop the ball with the iPhone, or the other platforms make a huge leap forward, I may make the jump. Right now, the Pre is the top of my list of iPhone alternates, but right now it's not a close second.

"Obey your Technolust..."


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