So shortly after crowing about how cheaply I was getting cell phone service, I’ve sailed headlong into the rocks of an $80 a month smart phone plan. In spite of all the Android buzz of late, I went with the Palm Pre.
As I’ve posted before, I used to be a big Palm enthusiast but switched to Windows Mobile about five years ago. Palm seemed to be falling apart, and Microsoft seemed about poised to do great things. I was wrong — at least about Microsoft. Windows Mobile is powerful, but it’s not enjoyable. I think that user experience has been prioritized somewhere below an integrated nose-hair trimmer, and I credit Windows mobile with turning me from an engaged mobile enthusiast into a passive mobile user because of its stagnation.
It’s refreshing to be a Palm user again, with the Palm Pre bringing back the elegance and simplicity of those earlier devices combined with the modernness appropriate for the years that have elapsed since then. Palm’s webOS, the underlying Pre operating system, is beautiful. It also gets updated, unlike Windows Mobile. If something doesn’t seem quite right with webOS, there’s at least hope that it will get fixed with a simple, over-the-air and in-place upgrade.
The Pre itself is also an example of first-class industrial design. It feels good and looks good. Contrast that with the Motorola Droid, which is truly ugly. Maybe they thought the boxy form factor would go with the robot branding or something. The Cylon monotoning, “Droid” when you turn the thing on is pure cheese. The Nexus One looks more promising, though.
Aside from things I’ve already mentioned, here a few other things that make me happy about the Pre and webOS:
- Synergy – I’m pretty careful with keeping contacts and email organized, but Synergy changes the game. It does the consolidation for you so you don’t have to be so, um, anal.
- Multitasking – Of course, Windows Mobile can do that just fine, but webOS’s card view makes it so simple to work with.
- Touchstone – The Touchstone charger is great — no cable to plug in, not even a dock. You just set your phone on it and pick it up fully charged later.
- Ares – The online IDE that is in beta right now is pretty impressive. I’ve been doing a little development, and dropped Eclipse like a rock when Ares showed up. Ares, like webOS, is simple and elegant. Maybe a little too simple right now.
And a few things that need improvement:
- Missing apps – I need a reader for LDS scriptures, a decent place to put my passwords, and a way to sync my “to do” list to a desktop machine (preferably to Google tasks, though I’m not sure if they have an API yet).
- Smoothness – The iPhone is soooo smoooooth in its operation. The Pre lags a bit sometimes.
- Bedroom manners – Although the Touchstone charger is great, it sometimes doesn’t behave nicely on your nightstand. The screen turns on or the “charging” tone rings during the night.
- Dev confusion – While I think Ares is a nice step forward, it has been hard to really learn WebOS development. I’m a software engineer, doing causal exploration of the SDK, and sometimes things just seem disjoint. I think I read somewhere that Palm changed the development model late in the game, and sometimes the documentation seems fragmented and the examples possibly obsolete. The one webOS book’s reviewers say it is all about the old model, so it is almost unusable.
So… Why didn’t I just get an iPhone? I could probably come up with some good rational reasons, but the biggest ones are more emotional.
- As I said, having had such a great experience with Palm in the past, the Pre makes me feel warm and fuzzy.
- iTunes… no thanks.
- I’m an anti-herd kind of guy. If everybody is doing something (namely, buying iPhones) it makes me want to do something different. Yes, totally irrational.