Since the appearance of the iPhone, there has been an endless slew of iPhone imitators. The phrase “iPhone killer” was coined, a true testament to the power of the iPhone. None of those phones have come close to beating the iPhone for a variety of reasons, mostly because they were simply inferior devices. There is an upcoming contender however, the Palm Pre, which looks to be even better than the iPhone. Let me boil it down to a couple of points here.
- It has a qwerty keyboard. Though this doesn’t differentiate the Pre from the various other iPhone competitors, it is a major selling point, and something that makes it superior to the iPhone.
- It has removable battery. That’s right, you won’t have to go back to the store to get your phone physically worked on just because the battery is getting old.
- The “Touchstone”. Put simply, this is the first commercial use of wireless charging I’ve ever seen. You place your Pre on the Touchstone, where it sticks thanks to magnets. The phone is then charged wirelessly through the surface. Pretty cool
- “The Gesture Area”. The bottom part of the phone is a black surface which essentially acts as the multitouch mousepad for your phone. While the screen itself is still a fully responsive touchscreen (supposedly moreso than the iPhone’s), the gesture area allows you to control just about everything with one hand. This is especially helpful when dealing with things at the top of the screen.
- The Pre’s webOS is “absurdly slick”, performing zooms, transitions and fades with zero lag or stutter.
- All applications can be open and running simultaneously. You’ll never have that slowdown when switching between applications because the Pre is fully capable of running them all at once.
- “Cards”. When you want to switch applications, the interface zooms out to a deck of “cards”. Unlike the iPhone, these aren’t just thumbnail snapshots of the application, these are actually fully interactive live applications which can be individually flipped and manipulated.
- Content Aggregation. The Pre uses their “synergy” software to basically compile your contact information from a number of sources. It can recognize and grab all the contact information about the same person from sources like facebook, gmail, and outlook, combining them into an infostack for that person. It does all this while cutting out any duplicate information. If this technology works they way they say it does, you’ll never have to enter any new contact information into your phone.
- They use this same aggregation technology to pool instant messaging programs together. You can have a consistently threaded conversation which moves through sms, aim, gtalk and plenty of other services.
- Universal search. The Pre has a search function which will initially search through all your applications, and if it doesn’t find anything there based on your terms, will sift through default sites like Google and Wikipedia.
Why It Won’t Win
So as far as the technology goes, it looks to me that the Pre is the first legitimate challenger to the iPhone. It has an answer to all the iPhone’s key selling points, and it has a few new selling points of its own. But unfortunately, the Pre is not going to “beat” the iPhone. It doesn’t matter if it’s a technically superior device. The iPhone will not be taken down by a single competing device because the iPhone is a part of Apple. This is the genius of Apple. They’ve created an impenetrable “Apple Universe.” There’s iTunes, the premier online music service, which works only with iPods and the iPhone. ITunes, iPods, and iPhones are all designed to integrate wonderfully with Mac computers. If you wanted to, you could rent a movie exclusively from iTunes, then stream it exclusively through your Apple Tv, directly to your television set. Or your Apple Cinema Display. Almost all of these products are exclusive to Apple, and they allow for very little competitor penetration.
The second, and equally powerful weapon Apple has under its belt is its chic factor. Apple products are constantly growing in popularity because they’ve established themself as the “cool” technology company. You’ve seen the “Buy a mac” ads with Justin Long and John Hodgman. Mac’s are cool and young while PC’s are outdated and boring. A macbook is the cool laptop to be carrying around, and the iPhone is an equally cool device. The Palm Pre could be better in every respect on paper, but it could never beat the iPhone. The Pre is just a phone, the iPhone is a whole company.