Palm Pre vs iPhone 3.0: A Feature-by-Feature Comparison

The Palm Pre is going to be a hot item when it launches this summer--possibly hot enough to tackle the iPhone. One reason it's gaining so much traction is that the Pre's features weren't designed to compete against the current iPhone, but the next generation. And today Apple took the battle to Palm, with an updated software package that's designed to fight right back.

Search. The first feature people wondered about was the Pre's "Universal search" function. This is a single search bar that allows keyword hunts in "web and user’s applications, contacts, and dialing information," as well as web pages. Current iPhone software has no search functionality other than a search bar within Safari. But iPhone 3.0 brings Spotlight--almost directly from OS X it seems--to the iPhone, with searching within Calendar items, iPod tracks, Notes, contacts, web pages, email headers (but not message bodies) and applications. This last is pretty powerful, since the Spotlight UI is accessed quickly by a gesture from the home page, letting you navigate to an App easily if you had, say, 100 apps installed.

Multiple activities. What some call multitasking, Palm calls "multiple activities," Apple calls it background-running apps. In the press event to announce the Pre, Palm splashed this feature as a direct snub at Apple--the current iPhone firmware forbids it. Even Apple's "push notification" feature, a half-way house for background apps, was mentioned months ago, then disappeared totally. But iPhone 3.0 will bring push notifications, and Apple was careful to explain why there's no background app-running: battery life. Apple's said it had tested running background apps on BlackBerrys, Windows Mobile devices and so on, and in every case "stand-by time dropped by 80% or more." That's a deliberate snub right back at Palm, especially since Apple qualified it by saying an IM app running push only reduced the iPhone's stand-by time by 23%.

Navigation. Palm's Pre has full GPS navigation functions, with turn-by-turn directions--but it's an extra, coming from Sprint Navigation and powered by Telenav. The current iPhone specifically excludes turn-by-turn navigation, effectively shutting off full GPS functions. Firmware 3.0, however, does allow it, with a single condition: "bring your own maps." That's pretty much an open door for third party developers (even big names worried about losing market to smartphones) to get in on the iPhone nav goodness.

Calendar syncing. The Pre uses Palm's Synergy to link up Outlook, Google and even Facebook calendars to one location, whereas iPhone 2.0's Calendar app is more than a little limited--you can't even invite meeting requests from the phone. The new firmware adds support for Exchange, CalDAV and .ics formats for subscribing to different calendars, and it'll let you create meeting invitations. CalDAV is supported by Google Calendar, Yahoo Calendar beta and others, making it a now potentially fully-synchronized Calendar app.

Camera. The Pre has a 3-megapixel digital camera with an LED flash light, but strangely the jury's still out on whether it'll support video recording at launch--some think that will be added later. The iPhone's 2-megapixels seem puny, and it can't record video. We're pretty certain that Apple omitting info on this today means the next-gen iPhone will have hardware and software to rival or surpass the Pre--plus it's a relatively easy hardware upgrade in a new device.

Stereo Bluetooth. The Pre has A2DP, the current iPhone doesn't. Apple said today iPhone 3.0 will support stereo bluetooth, and that the feature can even be "unlocked" on current-gen iPod touches.

Copy and Paste. The Pre has it and iPhone 2.0 doesn't, but iPhone 3.0 has a fab copy-paste function that lets you copy text almost from anywhere to anywhere, and comes with a neat "shake to undo" trick. Apple's been holding off on this basic option until it's absolutely nailed it.

What's most interesting is that Palm had to pull together a whole new piece of hardware to tackle the iPhone, but most of Apple's response has been achieved in a firmware upgrade. Of course a new iPhone is due around July, which dovetails with iPhone 3.0's "Summer" launch schedule. It seems the battle is on.

[via Palm, I4U, PreCentral]

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20 Comments

  • misty m

    palm pre here i am!! i was thinking of buying a iphone, many of my friends say palm pre is pretty good some features that iphone dont have, i will DEFINATELY BUY IT! i'm with sprint so i dont have to switch, better plan too :))

  • misty m

    palm pre here i am!! i was thinking of buying a iphone, many of my friends say palm pre is pretty good some features that iphone dont have, i will DEFINATELY BUY IT! i'm with sprint so i dont have to switch, better plan too :))

  • misty m

    palm pre here i am!! i was thinking of buying a iphone, many of my friends say palm pre is pretty good some features that iphone dont have, i will DEFINATELY BUY IT! i'm with sprint so i dont have to switch, better plan too :))

  • misty m

    palm pre here i am!! i was thinking of buying a iphone, many of my friends say palm pre is pretty good some features that iphone dont have, i will DEFINATELY BUY IT! i'm with sprint so i dont have to switch, better plan too :))

  • misty m

    palm pre here i am!! many of my friends say palm pre is better than iphone, i will DEFINATELY BUY IT!

  • misty m

    palm pre here i am!! i was thinking of buying a iphone, many of my friends say palm pre is pretty good some features that iphone dont have, i will DEFINATELY BUY IT! i'm with sprint so i dont have to switch, better plan too :))

  • misty m

    palm pre here i am!! i was thinking of buying a iphone, many of my friends say palm pre is pretty good some features that iphone dont have, i will DEFINATELY BUY IT! i'm with sprint so i dont have to switch, better plan too :))

  • misty m

    palm pre here i am!! i was thinking of buying a iphone, many of my friends say palm pre is pretty good some features that iphone dont have, i will DEFINATELY BUY IT! i'm with sprint so i dont have to switch, better plan too :))

  • Peter Stern

    One important thing that was a big factor in my decision to get the Pre instead of the iPhone was the Gmail thing... let's face it, Gmail's integration with Google Calendar is incredible for being a free service. The fact that the Pre will basically recognize contacts across gmail, facebook and phonebook is pretty incredible and hugely useful. This, to me, is the single most important thing about the phone... its OS. (Not to mention that for $99/month, I have unlimited EVERYTHING with Sprint... on AT&T, that gets me unlimited minutes only... $50 more for unlimited text and the data... which adds up to about $600 in yearly savings).

    That's why within a week, I'll have one in my hands.

  • Mark Sigal

    @kit, not to parse your words too finely, but underlying what you are saying is an important distinction. There is product marketing and there is product design/management. The former is associated with style and message; the latter is associated with skin and bones. There are a lot of folks who mistakenly confuse Apple's vast product marketing skills with somehow being the IT; whereas my experience is that consumers don't embed themselves this fully unless the IT is baked far and wide within the product. Apple and iPhone/iPod touch has good looks, but the key point is that those looks aren't merely skin deep.

    @noah, we obviously have very different circles then. that said, I don't doubt that there are developers interested in android, just communicating my direct circle and my sense of relativity to freight train that is iphone/ipod touch.

  • Overton Loyd

    >>Apple's been holding off on this basic option until it's absolutely nailed it. aaaaaarrrrghhhhhh!!! If they don't release this function ASAP, I'm buying a Pre. What is there to nail??? Copy/paste worked FINE on every Palm device I ever owned.<<

    You're right Copy/paste DID work fine in my old Treo, but that was the problem. It felt like "work".
    I traded for an iPhone because that little device feels like "play", with a little fun and ease thrown in.
    The App Store alone provided so much fun and ease that I didn't mind waiting half a decade for them get their Copy/Paste up to user/ease standard. Not to mention the awesome power of "Spotlight".

    As an artist myself, I'm pretty familiar with the creative process. There's something to be said for taking one's time to transform a basic mundane function into an extraordinary cutting edge innovation.

  • Timber Kirby

    I too, was an avid Palm Treo user until the iPhone came along. Because of its user interface I used a fraction of the pro ported feature list. With the iPhone I now have a truly user friendly "pocket rocket" that makes daily business tasks a joy. The comparisons above commenting that Apple keeps adding to a feature list that others have had for ages tickles my funny bone no end. Let's see, Palm has been making Smart phones for many years. Apple has just recently entered the phone "business" and has just about made the playing field "level" in that short time. Thank you for the good laugh and please, keep comparing Apples and Oranges (or Palms in this case).

  • Susanna Schick

    iPhone 3.0 has a fab copy-paste function that lets you copy text almost from anywhere to anywhere, and comes with a neat "shake to undo" trick. Apple's been holding off on this basic option until it's absolutely nailed it.

    aaaaaarrrrghhhhhh!!! If they don't release this function ASAP, I'm buying a Pre. What is there to nail??? Copy/paste worked FINE on every Palm device I ever owned.

  • Kit Eaton

    @Mark. Nicely argued point, and it's echoed elsewhere on the web. But I think it's a more sophisticated synthesis than that: the iPhone's cachet, the App store, Apple's "chic", the pricing--perhaps more than most cellphones it's the mix that makes the iPhone "tick." @Jorge. There's no real "should have been there" argument. That's like saying my car should've had an electric motor option because the maker could've worked hard enough to slide one in there, but didn't, ergo they're lazy. The iPhone, like it or loathe it, redefined what it is to be a smartphone. Microsoft tried it years ago, but failed to capture the "wow" factor. And you're forgetting one amazing thing.... I used to update my cellphones yearly to get a new one with improved functionality. It was expensive, but I'm into tech. Now Apple's effectively giving you a new phone every twelve months or so, without requiring you to buy new hardware. Of course Palm can do that too (as One Awake has noted, people think there's been improvements to the Pre's firmware that add in extra functions).

  • Jorge Avila

    What I like about Palm is that its giving a true and valuable set of functionality, making it a good offer from the beginning, Apple in the other hand already charged quite a good amount for an initial set of functionality, and year after year gives you the idea of a great update that in reality is a whole set of basics that should have been there from the start...

  • One Awake

    Navigation is not "an extra" on Sprint. It is included in Sprints current data plans (as well as MMS). We do not know if At&t will charge for Turn-by-Turn Navigation on the iphone. Palm did say webOS is open source, I am sure dev's will make other GPS app's for the Pre. The Pre does have video recording, in a leaked document (found over at precentral.net), the specs show video at 30 FPS. Pre's universal search allows you to search within messages, 3.0's spotlight does not. the Pre allows for the integration of Facebook, Gmail, Exchange, contacts, etc, into one. As well as searches for duplicates, 3.0 does not. I will take true Multitasking over "push notifications" any day.

    @ Mark Sigal

    If features weren't so important, why do so many iphone owners swear by the "app-store"? FYI, Palm intends to get the market share back it lost to Rim several years ago, the leaked Sprint document shows the target market is hi-end business customers. Getting current/ex iphone owners will be a bonus. Saying very few dev's are chomping at the Pre, and interjecting YOUR beliefs and opinions, is subjective.

  • Mark Sigal

    While feature by feature comparisons are nice, trust this. Customers don't buy features. They buy outcomes.

    Apple's advantage with iPhone/iPod touch has never been about having the deepest feature set. It's been about end to end user experience, integration across hardware, software and service layers, and leverage, lots of leverage.

    Mobile will be won or lost as a platform play around who secures the hearts/minds of developers and builds the biggest ecosystem. That is why Microsoft won the PC wars and that is how Apple intends to be #1 in the mobile device/mobility wars.

    Very few developers I know are chomping at the bit for either Android and Pre, which is absolutely no knock on either device. It speaks to the goodness of the leverage, installed base and reach that Apple has created.

    I firmly believe that the lion's share of the market when evaluating purchasing decisions are going to segment into: those that are loyal to price/carrier; those who need a real keyboard; and those who are focused on breadth/depth of apps available.

    The margins favor the latter two categories, which today at least, means Blackberry and iPhone/iPod touch (30M devices, 25K apps, 800M app downloads, $1B revenue momentum on App Store).

    For Pre to even be relevant in the discussion, it's going to come down to building a developer ecosystem, something that I blogged about in:

    iPhones, App Stores and Ecosystems
    http://bit.ly/Hre72

    Check it out if interested.

    Mark