Opinion – The Palm Pre– An iPhone Killer?

On January 28, 2009

Over the past year, we have seen a series of well-known cell phone makers taking a stab at releasing what the tech world refers to as “iPhone killers.”  Apple has been forgiving, refraining from commenting on the many failed iPhone killers that companies have tried to release in 2008.  Of course, with the massive iPhone sales, and the immense popularity the handset enjoys, it is not necessary for them to even mention its success and its rivals’ (if they can even be called that) repeated downfalls.  It is undoubtedly understood.  One would think that after so many failed attempts, cell phone companies would just hang their heads low as they go back to their high-tech, yet seemingly inadequate labs and give in to the iPhone’s widely recognized awesomeness.  Yet now, barely into 2009, we see another iPhone killer on the horizon, which, though it still awaits public and intensive scrutiny, looks quite nice.     

At the 2009 CES, the public was once again on its toes, seeped in anticipation, pondering how the new challenger would contest the iPhone’s throne.  And, more importantly, if it had a good chance of succeeding.  Looking back at the previous challengers, we can determine to a degree what might cause the Palm Pre become victorious, or to fall harder than the rest.  Yet, if truth came to be told, Apple might just have dug the iPhone’s grave.             

One cannot deny the fact that Palm has over two years’ worth of mistakes on Apple’s part upon which to build and optimize the Pre.  As a matter of fact, many of the features it promises to have upon launch overshadow the iPhone’s most prominent assets.  One of these includes the processor and overall speed of the device.  According to Palm, the Pre is already four times faster than the iPhone, and they’re just at an optimizing phase at the moment.  Apple failed to introduce a faster OS (or copy/paste) when it launched the iPhone 3G, which was its opportunity at a rebirth, if you will.  Not many cell phone companies have as successful a cell phone as does Apple, so many of them are not given the chance to re-launch a cell phone with guaranteed success, as Apple did.  Conformity kept Apple from delivering a mind-blowing OS, which is what everyone was expecting, due to Apple’s history of releasing better, faster, improved versions of their products.  Instead, what was released was a shiny, two-color option plastic version of the iPhone, with a few added features, none of which, apart from the App Store, were what the public really wanted.  Even the faster 3G speed was just a matter of hardware upgrades, very minimally software-related.

The Pre’s App Catalog seems more promising than Apple’s App Store, due to its significantly less stringent restrictions.  Applications that made use of GPS and the iPhone’s integrated iTunes App were denied the right to be available through the App Store.  These were major setbacks, as the iPhone’s 3G speeds would have allowed it to integrate GPS seamlessly, and the positioning technology it already has would have made the GPS extremely precise and effective.  As for the iTunes-related applications, developers couldn’t get too creative, since applications that incorporated the iTunes Store and the iPod itself were taken out of the equation indefinitely by Apple.  Though these primarily included games, they caught the public’s attention with innovative streak and new tech appeal.  The App Catalog, however, seems to allow any and all applications that prove themselves useful and worthy enough for the avid Pre user to be downloaded through it.  That is to say, less stringent restrictions on the App Catalog make the Pre an attractive choice for hardcore cell phone users who look to their phones for absolutely everything they need to do on a daily basis. 

What about music? Multitasking? As of now, there is a huge potential for the Pre to match up to Apple’s iPhone in terms of a music player, as the interface demonstrated at CES 2009 seems very promising, with touch controls and brilliant artwork display to rival that of the iPhone’s.  Palm also commented on the Pre’s multitasking capabilities, which may allow around 15 applications to run on the Pre at the same time.  This also allows a wide arena for real-time server updates and for other business-related functions.  Push, anyone?  A fully functioning video camera, which is virtually nonexistent on Apple’s phone, also promises to make its way to the Pre.  Apple has not even whispered about doing something along those lines.

But can the Palm Pre really knock the iPhone off its pretty white dock?  Luckily, Apple has some strong foundations on which to defend itself.  iTunes is one of the most successful digital music stores and programs in the business, and the ease with which iPhone users can organize all their information, including photos, contacts, music, video, e-mail, by connecting it to iTunes lets Apple have plenty of room to defend itself.  Also, as I mentioned before, the fact that Apple is known for its constant product upgrades gives it plenty of time to redeem itself.  If in 2008 the iPhone 3G wasn’t that beacon of light everyone was expecting from Apple, maybe 2009 will bring something new, and strong enough to claim an irrefutable victory over the Pre.

These are just a few of the attributes that give the Pre the right to wave its shy victory flag a little more strongly than the past iPhone competitors’.  For the sake of protecting my iPhone from further scrutiny that only seeks to dethrone it from its much respected rank in the cell phone market, I will hold out for what 2009 may mean for its future, as Apple takes time to correct its mistakes.  Now the only thing left to do is sit back and wait to see if the Pre lives up to its current hype, or if it is just another phone.