How Apple failed to lay the smackdown on the Palm Pre

The new iPhone 3GS... does it have enough to best the Palm Pre?
The new iPhone 3GS... does it have enough to best the Palm Pre?

Apple's latest update for the iPhone drew the mandatory whoops and cheers for the crowd that seemed to not care that Steve Jobs was being replaced by Phil Schiller, and the iPhone 3GS seemed to satisfy their thirst for ever new iPhone innovation.

The main thing that Apple surely wanted to do was send a message to the world that the Palm Pre, which launched in the US at the weekend, was not going to be the best device on the market. However, it seems that while the iPhone 3GS is good, it's just not good enough to beat the Palm Pre.

The first thing that disappointed was the lack of real innovation. While the iPhone 3.0 OS update was a good move, we saw that months ago. We cooed over the application integration with add-on devices. We aahed at the in-app micro-payments. We gasped (well, sort of were mildly amused) by the MMS and copy and paste.

But today, there wasn't anything that made us feel that we've moved into a new age of mobile phone innovation the way we did with the Palm.

Most people will be placing the devices side by side and ticking things off a list to see which has the best features. Well, in terms of the things it can do, the iPhone is currently light years ahead with an App store of 50,000 choices, and one that will only get bigger.

Pre does more

But the Palm Pre brings more than that, something that a lot of people think is more important. Its touchscreen is more responsive, and there's no murmurings that the iPhone 3GS has improved on that front.

And in terms of functionality on the business front, the Palm Pre Synergy system is one of the best out there, with the ability to sync so much into one contact base.

We certainly expected there to be some kind of chat integration like the Palm Pre has in the new iPhone, and we thought that background running would be made into a bigger deal after the Palm Pre made it look so easy.

The processor on the new iPhone must be better, as the whole system is apparently more powerful and faster. But we doubt it's better than the Palm Pre's 600MHz Texas Instruments OMAP3 processor, or else surely Schiller would have made more of a song and dance about it.

Multi-touch is still arguably better on the Palm, and once again, it seems Apple hasn't changed anything there on the hardware side.

And even the camera upgrade: both the Palm Pre and the Apple iPhone 3GS have a similar 3MP camera with auto-focus and multiple focal points. The iPhone might have a few more features in terms of video recording, video editing and features like Auto macro, but is this enough to draw people away who are looking seriously at the Pre with its array of functionality?

Dual success

In the real world, the Palm Pre and the iPhone will both end up being successful. The iPhone will be the winner in terms of sales simply because of the head start and legions of loyal followers it has built up, and also the sheer weight of people that will be entranced by the depth of the App Store and the new add-ons.

However, those that pick up both the Palm Pre and the Apple iPhone 3GS, weigh them up for a few minutes and choose one must surely be likely to stick with the Pre, with its physical keyboard, Synergy system, responsive touchscreen, depth of contact integration and simple pleasing feel in the hand.

The iPhone does have one vital trick up its sleeve in the UK though, and that's the fact it has a release date of 19 June. The Palm Pre might have made it out to the US market, but it hasn't even been whispered as getting a definitive release in the UK, and that's where the iPhone will make its headstart.

Well, that's assuming O2 hasn't upset hordes of Apple iPhone fans by locking them into 2 year contracts and not letting them upgrade without paying a vast amount of money, that is. It will certainly be interesting if the rumours that O2 is picking up the Palm Pre in the UK are true, as we'll get to actually find out which phone the public favours in real time.

So it's not hard to believe that the chaps are Palm are rubbing their hands together with glee when they watched the keynote speech at the WWDC 2009 and didn't hear those magic words: "And one more thing..."

Gareth Beavis
Formerly Global Editor in Chief

Gareth has been part of the consumer technology world in a career spanning three decades. He started life as a staff writer on the fledgling TechRadar, and has grown with the site (primarily as phones, tablets and wearables editor) until becoming Global Editor in Chief in 2018. Gareth has written over 4,000 articles for TechRadar, has contributed expert insight to a number of other publications, chaired panels on zeitgeist technologies, presented at the Gadget Show Live as well as representing the brand on TV and radio for multiple channels including Sky, BBC, ITV and Al-Jazeera. Passionate about fitness, he can bore anyone rigid about stress management, sleep tracking, heart rate variance as well as bemoaning something about the latest iPhone, Galaxy or OLED TV.