Should Original iPhone Owners Ditch Apple for a Pre?

By  |  Friday, June 26, 2009 at 12:09 pm

Palm Pre vs. ApplePreThinking has noticed that Sprint is running ads for the Palm Pre directed at the earliest of iPhone adopters–the folks who bought first-generation iPhones two years ago, and whose contracts are therefore starting to end. (Or will be in a few days–next Monday is the second anniversary of the iPhone’s introduction.) The ads correctly point out the Pre’s multitasking and Sprint’s all-inclusive $99 service plan as reasons to consider a Pre. They also mention Sprint’s 4G network, which is a tad odd given that the Pre doesn’t support it.

The ads inevitably bring to mind Palm investor Roger McNamee’s amazing prediction that “not one” original iPhone user would still be using an iPhone within a month of the AT&T contract coming to an end. Sprint will presumably be quite happy if even a smallish percentage of first-gen iPhone owners switch. But would doing so be a rational move?

Sure, for some folks. I’d at least consider the possibility myself if I had an old iPhone and my obligation to AT&T was nearing its end.

Here are the major arguments for the Pre:

The form factor. It’s all a matter of taste, but if you find the iPhone too big (and some folks do) the Pre’s smaller, more phonelike dimensions may please.

The keyboard. Also a matter of personal preference. But if you’ve been using an iPhone for two years and still don’t like its onscreen keyboard, it’s time to move to a tiny-plastic-keys one like the Pre’s.

Multitasking. Once you’ve tuned in Pandora on the Pre and then hopped into another application, it’s hard to go back to the iPhone’s singletasking world.

The social network integration. In its current form I don’t think it’s a huge deal, but the Pre does things like sync with your Facebook friends and meld IM with SMS. The iPhone doesn’t.

Service costs. Sprint does indeed charge a hundred bucks for unlimited voice, data, text messages, and GPS navigation; AT&T wants $160.

The Sprint network. Maybe. I haven’t spent enough time on it to form a real-world opinion, but most of the AT&T customers I know are at least somewhat disgruntled with the company’s data service, and most of the Sprint ones are more upbeat.

And here are the major arguments for buying an iPhone 3GS:

The third-party apps. Of which there are 50,000 versus the pittance that has arrived for the Pre to date.

The larger screen. It makes reading text on the iPhone meaningfully easier than on the Pre.

The entertainment features. Apple’s on-phone iTunes Store and iPod media player add up to a much richer experience than the Pre delivers.

Video recording. The 3GS has pretty good video capture; the Pre doesn’t do video at all yet.

Memory. The top-of-the-line 3GS has four times as much storage as the Pre; the base 3GS costs the same as the Pre but has twice as much.

GSM. You can use an iPhone in most of the world (as long as you’re willing to pay through the nose for AT&T roaming charges); the Pre is U.S-only.

The health of the iPhone platform. You know that it’s going to be aroumd for a long time, and that the best is probably yet to come. I’m impressed with the Pre and want to see Palm flourish, but as a brand-new platform from a company that’s faced more than its share of challenges, the Pre and WebOS are a gamble in a way that the iPhone isn’t.

As usual with any gadget as personal as a phone, it’s hard to boil down pros and cons to a checklist. The iPhone and Pre have distinctly different personalities, and preferring either one over the other is equally permissible. So here’s another way to look at it: Happy first-generation iPhone owners who want a new phone should probably buy a 3GS. And unhappy ones should look at the Pre, at least. (As well as other contenders such as T-Mobile’s upcoming myTouch 3G and the BlackBerry Bold; the latter is probably the best smartphone AT&T sells that isn’t an iPhone.)

Of course, my thinking here is merely speculative, since I never owned a first-gen iPhone and therefore don’t have to make this decision. If you are an original iPhone owner, would you consider buying a Pre?

 
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23 Comments For This Post

  1. Dave Zatz Says:

    I’m going from iPhone v1 to iPhone 3GS (as soon as the shipment gets in, maybe next week) because the iPhone will sync Yahoo contacts and shoot video. Palm doesn’t have Yahoo Synergy or video recording. Yet? In Palm case, it might be OK to telegraph their moves. I’d wait as I’m ready for something new. But without confirmation or even a hint, I’m making the leap.

  2. Kevin G Clark Says:

    I’m excited with the Palm Pre. Because I live in Canada, I’m holding out til Verizon offers the phone. (Verizon has a one-fee, anytime roaming program for Canada). I don’t use a cell phone a lot – but want to get more active on Twitter / FB posts/ LinkedIn/ etc. (promoted by a friend in the Bay area) to build my Public Relations business. The battery life and ‘ability to shoot video’ would be welcome updates to v.2.0. By this time, I’m sure there will be a ton more aps as well.

  3. ediedi Says:

    I wonder how may of the original iphone owners will switch to… ipod touches.

  4. Bob Stepno Says:

    Thanks for reminder to check out Pre/Sprint. I haven’t gone iPhone because AT&T doesn’t reach a Virginia town I visit. Verizon does; I don’t know about Sprint. Also wonder how well Pre syncs with OS-X calendar & addressbook, and how well it uses old Palm things. My PalmTX still has e-books etc. inherited from my Jan.2000 PalmV and the 2003 Treo 180 that I abandoned when I moved to a “no T-mobile” zone.
    Video idea: A Pre app to link to a Flip and upload to YouTube?

  5. Chad Fikes Says:

    I’m a 2nd-gen iPhone owner (and previous Palm Treo and Blackberry user) and I must say that I was not too impressed when I finally got my hands on a Pre this week. Physically it feels inferior. I don’t have big hands, but I found the physical keyboard horrible – nowhere near as good as the Blackberry. I can live with the iPhone keyboard. I also wonder what is the advantage of multi-tasking when all of your apps slow to a crawl? For what it is, the iPhone is a stable and far superior product – in my opinion.

  6. sfmitch Says:

    iPhone owners tend to be very happy. They would be among the hardest customers to attain.

    I would add to your list of reasons to buy the 3GS:

    A huge universe of accessories. iPod Speaker docks, cases, extra power solutions, FM transmitter solutions, charging solutions, car accessories, Nike+, Car integration, Home stereo integration, etc. This is a huge benefit.

    Apple Stores / Geniuses. Got a problem with your Palm Pre? Who you are going to for help? Sprint – hah? Cell phone stores stink. iPhone owners can get quality, free assistance with their iPhone.

    iTunes – Music (DRM or DRM-free), podcasts, videos (rental or purchase TV or Movies), iTunes U, Playlists, Genius, etc. If Apple decides to stop letting Palm hack their way into iTunes compatibility it’s going to make the Pre a lot less desirable and force Palm to cobble together a media solution.

    Mac Synching – not being able to sync to a Mac is crazy. Not everyone’s lives revolve around social networking. I want to sync my phone to a desktop client on the Mac. The Pre is a non-starter for me because of this.

  7. brock Says:

    I am an original iPhone user. Switch to the Pre? Are you nuts? The only advantage that I agree with is the monthly unlimited price. All the rest of the “advantages” you have laid out pertain to those that have never owned an iPhone.

    Just like people that use Macs and the OSX operating system, once you’ve had a taste you don’t really ever consider going back.

    I will upgrade my iPhone with another iPhone.

  8. Marek Says:

    edledl hit the nail on the head: if original iPhone owners switch to anything, it will be an iPod Touch + (unnamed cellphone x). Switching to a Pre means losing whatever investment you’ve made in the App Store. That could be a significant chunk of change, depending on your level of addiction.

  9. Jocca Says:

    No thanks. I suffer from stiff thumbs and I cannot afford to waste them further by typing on those ridiculously tiny physical keyboards that Pre or blackberries offer. Physical keyboards are not ideal on tiny gadget like phones. I am sticking with the more versatile and less straining iPhone keyboard which also allows me to input Chinese text very naturally. I am afraid Palm is wasting its money trying to lure many iPhone users over because I am not seeing this happening soon. Most of the first generation users I know are getting the 3G S. Personally, I have already moved over to the Verizon MiFi 2200 system and find it extremely useful for my aging iPhone 2G. It is now surfing the web at 3G speed courtesy of Verizon. When my 2G phone goes, I think I will continue on with the next iPhone which by that time will surely have morphed into something even better.

  10. Kubricklove Says:

    I would really like multitasking, and I really don’t like AT&T. I like WebOS, but in the end my desire for multitasking and my distaste for AT&T were not enough to sway me. So I switched form my first gen iPhone to the iPhone 3GS. So far I have no regrets, well, maybe another two years stuck with AT&T stings a little.

  11. Vito Positano Says:

    Hi Harry McCracken,
    The answer is “no.”

  12. joecab Says:

    “Service costs. Sprint does indeed charge a hundred bucks for unlimited voice, data, text messages, and GPS navigation; AT&T wants $160.”

    Huh? Where is this fee from? It’s not the monthly fee, which is like $60-70. And I don’t recall any onetime fee costing this much.

    Add to the Pre’s minuses its battery life. Google what people say about it; that multitasking comes at a price.

  13. mark Says:

    I only see two reasons to switch. Apple will never add a physical keyboard to iPhone, and AT&T will never match Sprint’s lower prices (assuming I needed texting).

    For everything else, I have more evidence that Apple (and its App Store) will provide equivalent solutions before Palm (and its App Catalog) provide the many things the Pre is missing.

    So since I don’t prefer a physical keyboard, and cost is the key driver for me, the answer is “no.”

  14. Beavis Says:

    aaaaaaaaaaaaaah…nope.

  15. Justin Says:

    Just to let everyone know the Pre (and all sprint phones) roam seamlessly on verizons network, some phones even have an option to force roaming (haven’t found it on pre yet) so if you live or are traveling in a fringe area you don’t switch between weak home and strong roam. Roaming is free to the customer and data roaming is included. As far as sprints network as a 10 year VZW subscriber I can say I have coverage everywhere I did before and data is better. Glad I shed $50 a month in cost for a family share, for what seems to be an equally good network (when roaming is factored in) .

  16. Wodster Says:

    “Apple will never add a physical keyboard to iPhone”

    I’m still surprised I haven’t seen someone make one that attaches to the dock port, seems like an obvious accessory, one that you could carry in your briefcase or purse for those times on the road when you want to do some serious typing, but wouldn’t get in the way the rest of the time

    Either that or a bluetooth one that you wouldn’t even have to physically attach, doesn’t that make a lot of sense?

  17. John Says:

    iPhone 3GS vs Pre? Is this a joke? A week ago I upgraded from the first gen iPhone to the 3GS. The 3GS is fantastic. It is not just that it has great features but they work well together and they are fast. Google Maps is now pretty amazing. You open it, click for your location, enter a search string and in seconds you get the result. It saved my bacon when I was rushing to the airport and needed to find a gas station to top off the rental car.

    The Pre may have a smaller outline but it is thicker. The iPhone slips nicely into your pocket. Also, the new oleophobic screen is amazing. You have to try it to understand but your finger just glides across the screen and any fingerprints you get disappear with a quick wipe of a soft cloth. Amazing.

    One more, speculation but it looks like Apple at least partially waterproofed the iPhone. There is a video of a guy who accidentally dropped his phone into the pool while taking a video and the it kept working. Kind of like those old Timex commercials with John Cameron Swayze.

  18. Jim Gibson Says:

    As a former long-time Treo user who bought the version 1 iPhone, I was quite curious about the Pre. All questions were answered, though, once I got my hands on it. Compared to the iPhone it feels cheap and plasticy. The smaller size is a negative in my book, with the screen feeling undersized and the keyboard impossibly small. I went out that same day and pre-ordered a new iPhone 3GS and I’m very happy. The Pre’s multitasking was its most inviting feature to me, but I have been noticing that there is much online discussion of the Pre’s short battery life. The suggested work-around to get through a full day is to shut almost every feature down. I had been wondering whether Palm had figured out some way to defy the laws of physics that all battery using devices are subject to. It looks like they did not.

  19. Susan Says:

    I’m a happy original iPhone owner who is now an ecstatic iPhone 3GS owner. The new iPhone rocks! It’s so much faster; yes, the “S” IS for Speed! The iPhone is so much more than a phone—it’s a lifestyle (just so Apple!).

  20. Justin Says:

    One of the things I love about Apple fans is the loyalty to any product no matter how flawed. There was an article in the paper last year about issues with Apple products, and the summary of the article was that no matter how bad the products were, people still displayed an amazing loyalty to the company. People with multiple bad LCDs, Mac Book Airs that died 2 and 3 times, etc. Nothing phased them. Now loyalty is good, but blind loyalty is foolish. Apple is a company, it needs to produce a superior product, and the iPhone 3G/3GS is no longer superior against the competition. What was cutting edge 2 years ago is just ho-hum these days.

    What is funny is someone commented on the Pre battery life, which isn’t great, but…it’s apparently better than the iPhone, and also than the G1, or HTC Touch Pro.

    Also, he is incorrect. You don’t shut features down. There was an issue with the google/AIM messaging that will be patched. Who really uses IM anymore anyway except in specific instances. I do use Skype, but haven’t used AIM in a year. There was also an issue with Hotmail. As one of the few remaining hotmail users, this was the straw that broke the camels back for me, and I am now done with hotmail. Hotmail was never friendly to 3rd parties, even MS tried to discontinue support for outlook on it, and that is their own product.

    For everything else, I recommended turning GPS off, but I’ve seen no difference with it on, and it auto connects (turns on) when you open a GPS necessary program anyway so turning it off is really not a loss of function. Since the GPS doesn’t need time to load because it uses A-GPS to locate satelites almost instantly turning it off might save a little power, or it might not.

    You actually turn WiFi on the increase battery life. So again, not sure what you “turn off” that matters.

    I wish you could comment in more detail as to what you turn off, sounds like you are a dedicated Apple lover too me, who saw that you turn a specific feature off on some blog, and then reposted a myth.

    As far as the size, there is no doubt the Pre is more ergonomic, it feels nice in your hand opened and closed, it looks modern. The iPhone reminds me of my Dell Axim X3. Square and awkward. Yeah, 2 years ago it’s design was cutting edge, now it’s sort of dated.

    Keyboard? Hmm, a small physical keyboard that actually quite easy to use (and yeah, I haven’t figured out why yet, but I can type pretty well on it considering I came from an LG EnV and Voyager which have 2 of the biggest keyboards on the market). Sorry, the keyboard looks small but is pretty easy to type on.

    Finally, the Pre comes with a replacable battery, that cost $6.99, yes it uses the Treo battery that can be bought OEM for under $7. With a standalone charger you are out another $10. If the battery life is that bad, carrying an extra battery is an option, while the iPhone is not. Personally, my wife and I are getting a full days use out of a charge, possibly even 1.5 days with every feature but IM turned on. Is that bad for a smart phone these days?

    Oh, and is the iPhone thinner? I think it is 1/10 of an inch thinner. If that is noticeable to most people, then by all means point it out. But in reality it’s not a big difference.

    Overall, it always seems to come down to subjective factors with iPhone owners. “well my iPhone looks cooler” or something like that. Fine, but that doesn’t make it a better phone/lifestyle device.

  21. Kubricklove Says:

    @Justin
    The anecdotal evidence I have seen from my friends who have purchased the Pre, and from those who have written about their Pre experience suggest your experience with the Pre battery is unique. Even those who love the Pre admit to it’s abismal battery performance. As for your suggetion that people who use Apple products are somehow shallow, or that they suffer from blind brand loyalty, I’m sure there are people who will blindly buy anything Apple sells, but there are millions and millions of people who use all kinds of Apple products and to suggest that they all demonstrate this behavior is, at best, asinine. Stop lumping huge numbers of people into a single group. There are Apple fanbois, they are loud and annoying but they do not represent the community as a whole. While I realize it is easy to discredit Apples accomplishments by pointing at some of its’ rabid fanbase, it is a disengenous intellectual exercise.

  22. KubrickFails Says:

    Kubricklove or should I say AppleLove You are quite wrong,with the latest 1.0.3 update and the problem Pre had with the AimGoogle battery issue all solved Every Pre user that I know gets better battery life then Iphoney users. In fact as Justin said the Treo battery work on the Pre and are dirt cheap. Seido has a 1350mah battery that will fit it that you can get around $15 and they are making a 1500mah That wil double the usgae you get on your Iphoney.I see one guy even lies about the monthy costs of Apples and saying they are not that more expesnive then Sprint’s everything plan.They are eithr clueless or ying I do not care which as they are a fanboy of Apples so the answer is obvious for all.Most of the People in here are just fabricating things about the Pre to serve their onw Apple Zealot Agenda and they should be ashamed at theselves for lying to others.Well nevermind they are Apples Zealots they do not care if they do or say things that they know are not true.Apples Haters hate anything that doesn’t have an Apple Logo and are extremely bigoted and many would say narrowminded people.

  23. Kubricklove Says:

    @kubrickfails

    By calling the iPhone iphoney you give yourself away. I’ve been reading your comments on zdnet. It seems to me you are the worst of the fanbois out there, and that includes some of the Apple nut jobs comments I’ve been reading over the weekend. As to the battery issues with the pre, I did not say the battery life is bad, my friends who bought them at launch did. They are honest people who are not Apple users so I trust their opinion, and who cares if the battery life is bad, that’s just one problem with an otherwise great phone. This isn’t a damn religious war, they are phones. Some people need or like one type of phone, and others like or need a differnt type of phone. It’s really not that big of a deal kubrickfails. No need to get your nickers in a twist simply because people like iPhones.

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