Official details about Palm's Pre smartphone are out. As rumored, it's price is set at $200, with a June 6 launch, placing it head-to-head with the expected release of Apple's next iPhone. And it looks like a battle that the Pre might lose.
The timing of the launch has obviously been carefully planned. With Palm busy refining its webOS software for months, its readiness will have been critical in deciding its launch date. Palm has also chosen to launch the Pre on a Saturday. That's the day most people hit the streets to go shopping, so it's a fairly smart move. Presumably a lot of limelight will spill Palm's way in the preceding week as the inevitable product leaks occur as well.
But the date is just two days ahead of Apple's Worldwide Developers Conference—the showcase event where everyone is expecting Apple to reveal an updated iPhone. Two days more press coverage for Palm ahead of the iPhone's launch doesn't sound like much. Speaking about the Pre's potential for success, Sprint's SVP of product and technology development Kevin Packingham noted in The New York Times "I'm pretty sure we'll know within the first week." But that first week of sales will be overshadowed by Apple's news—irrespective of whether the new iPhone is available immediately or not.
The price is also a major sticking point. The Pre relies on internal storage, with no SD card slot for expansion—much like the iPhone—so you're stuck with its 8GB of space. The iPhone 3G currently sells for $200 with 8GBs aboard, but there's also the 16GB model at $300. Speculation on the upcoming iPhone revision includes a rumor that the built-in storage options may expand to 16GB and 32GB—that easily surpasses Palm's offering. And that $200 for the Pre is after a $100 mail-in rebate, and comes with a two-year contract. The wireless Touchstone charging base, Palm's attractively unique add-on for the phone, costs an extra $70.
There are also multiple rumors that Apple may diversify the iPhone line, a move that could include the release of a lower cost model. And a separate thread of rumors suggests Apple may be in talks with AT&T to lower the monthly bill for its iPhone customers—in the interest of attracting more buyers for Apple, and to assure a continuation of AT&T's exclusivity deal. There's also talk of a lower price for the iPhone no matter if there's a low-cost release or not, and potentially even a pre-paid version.
To sum it all up: Palm choosing to launch the Pre at the same time as the updated iPhone, pitches it at the same price as the existing iPhone 3G. And Apple's new device is predicted to have slightly better specs, and possibly a lower price. Still, Palm's struck deals to sell the phone at Wal-Mart, Best Buy and even Radio Shack—which would give it access to a much broader audience than the iPhone. But add in Apple's chock-full App Store versus Palm's nascent webOS one, and it looks as though the Pre has an uphill battle.
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