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
- 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
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.