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Palm Pre vs. Apple iPhone: How they stack up

The Pre smartphone player plays well on the Web

By , Network World
January 09, 2009 02:30 PM ET

Network World - Moribund Palm, in danger of becoming just a Windows Mobile running dog with lackluster handhelds, seems to have scored with its introduction this week of the Palm Pre 3G smartphone, powered by the new webOS operating system. But how does it stack up against Apple's iPhone?

View a slideshow where we pit the Palm Pre against Apple's iPhone 3G

For the Pre, Palm created a more capable Web browser than its previous offerings. And the company seems to have designed the phone to be smoothly and deeply integrated with the Web sites, data and applications mobile users increasingly rely upon.

Overall, the Pre seems to be a match for the iPhone in many areas. The question is whether Palm's Web integration focus represents a "user experience" advance that can draw and hold end users.

"It's not an iPhone killer, nor a BlackBerry killer, but it doesn't need to be," says Avi Greengart, research director, mobile devices, for Current Analysis, who spent about an hour actually using a Pre. "It builds on Palm's heritage of building the best personal information management devices. And they're extending this beyond a single data store, to all the places [on the Web] where you have information, like LinkedIn or seven different e-mail accounts."

The Pre's new operating system is the basis of a user interface that matches the high standard set by Apple's iPhone, according to Greengart. "They didn't take an existing mobile OS and [rework it to] make it touchable," he says. "They designed it from the ground up knowing that you'd be using a finger. They did a very good job with the UI."

The phone and software were unveiled at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas. Palm Pre (pronounced "pree") is due out by mid-2009 exclusively via Sprint, which has not yet released pricing for the phone.

Here are the basic specifications:

Comparing specs
  Palm Pre Apple iPhone
Dimensions 3.9” x 2.3” x 0.67” 4.5” x 2.4” x 0.48”
Weight 4.76 oz 4.7 oz
Display 3.1-inch touch screen; 320x480 pixel HVGA; vertical, horizontal modes 3.5-inch multi-touch screen; 320x480 pixel, 163 pixels/inch; vertical, horizontal modes
Web browser Unknown Apple Safari
Keyboard Slide-out full QWERTY Virtual QWERTY display
Cellular 3G EVDO Rev A UMTS/HSPDA and GSM/EDGE (multiple bands)
U.S. mobile carrier Sprint AT&T
Wi-Fi 802.11b/g 802.11b/g
Bluetooth Bluetooth 2.1, with EDR; And A2DP stereo support Bluetooth 2.1, with EDR
Memory 8GB; USB mass storage support 8 or 16GB
GPS Built-in Built-in
Digital camera 3-megapixel, LED flash 2-megapixel
Operating system Palm web OS Variant of Mac OS X
Price Currently not disclosed by Sprint Via AT&T with 2-year contract: 8GB model, $199; 16GB model, $299
Click to see: Chart comparing the specs of the iPhone and Pre

Several things stand out about the Pre, based on the live demos and reactions by bloggers and pundits.

Display: The Pre has a big screen: 3.1 inches, with 320x480 pixels. That compares to the 3.5-inch iPhone screen, also at 320x480. Apple touts the 163 pixels per inch of the display; a Palm PR spokeswoman had no details of the Pre's ppi number. Like the iPhone, Pre has an accelerometer and displays can switch from vertical to horizontal modes just by turning the phone.

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