Until now, AT&T has been exclusive to the iPhone in the US, however Precentral notes that an article in Business Week reports that Verizon is "warming to the idea" of an Apple partnership. Part of the appeal could be a smaller, less expensive model, "described by a person who has seen it as an iPhone lite". If Verizon ends up getting an iPhone, it could close the door for the webOS Palm Pre to join the biggest CDMA network in the US, once Sprint exclusivity ends.
The network previously balked at distributing the iPhone, but "has no animosity towards Apple". Also notable is that some of Palm's latest offerings, including the Treo 800w and Treo Pro have been declined by Verizon, which may not bode well for the Pre.
Palm's latest marketing reported via the official Palm Blog is clearly aimed away from the suit-and-tie and towards the hipster crowd, and looks like their efforts may pay off. Writer and comedian Molly McAleer gave an enthusiastic (and humerous) endorsement of the Pre today on her blip.tv series, The Molls Show. Other marketing endeavors in the entertainment industry include Howard Stern, who ended up giving the nod to the Blackberry Storm, the Jimmy Fallon show and plugged by Angelina Jolie on the set of her new film.
"Palm Pre is sponsoring this episode...They came and showed it to me, the Palm people, and I fell in love with it," she begins (we should add that although we can't confirm Palm brought her a Pre or sponsored her, they still benefit from the endorsement regardless).
A blog post from a source "deep within Sprint / Nextel customer care" helps to answer some questions about the upcoming Palm webOS handset. The rumored May 17 release date is fast approaching and the formal Q2 cutoff date is just nine weeks away, so we are bound to see new info as time goes on. The post covers many familiar topics, including the upcoming touchstone line of accessories, webOS name, Cards, Synergy and more. More novel information is summarized below:
- The backup service will automatically (or manually) back up account settings, downloaded applications, calendar and contacts, but not individual files (such as inbox e-mails).
- webOS will create a "Palm profile" during setup, which will allow downloads from the App Catalog, software updates, and remotely restore or wipe information.
- The device will require a data plan, even if you are an existing customer (Simply Everything or Business Essentials data plan). The Pre phone will not have a "phone as modem plan" option.
- Sprint-specific apps: The Pre phone will not support Sprint Music, Sprint PictureMail, or Sprint Digital Lounge.
The Pre may still be at least a few weeks away, but photos via Twitpic by Laurence Toney (@lo_toney), a busy VP of Product and Marketing at Cake Financial, shows the new webOS device running a YouTube app, composing an e-mail, and compared to an iPhone in size, reports Everything Pre and a forum member on Precentral.
The photos have since been removed, but one can guess that the device is outside the hands of Palm employees, a rare occurrence. The last time the device was spotted was at a crowded public event in San Francisco and in the possession of Ludle International, a Chinese accessory manufacturer.
The device is bound to pop up here and there as time progresses, but the latest sighting raises a number of questions: For example, could lo_tony be a Pre beta tester? (we all remember Jim Van, an alleged beta tester who discussed the Pre via Twitter). Also, how does the YouTube app on the Pre perform relative to the iPhone counterpart? And did he make calls on the device, and if so what were his impressions of it? (the signal strength in the status bar looks good). It also looks to still have the original screen protector on, visible in the first pic. What do you make of the latest sighting?
While Sprint employees are well into their Palm Pre training, AT&T unveiled their own training program for the new webOS handset, albeit of a slightly different nature. Precentral reported on a leaked internal memo from AT&T to employees designed for them to bone-up with a slew of anti-Pre talking points. The iPhone provider will also be holding some in-store seminars to make sure the points stick. Looks like they're taking the Sprint exclusive smartphone seriously and bringing out the ammunition ahead of the rumored May 17 release date.
A few points are summarized below:
- The iPhone is thinner, lighter, made of metal and glass and available in black and white; The Palm Pre is available in black and plastic only.
- The iPhone has over 25,000 apps, while the Palm App Catalog is "unproven" and the Pre has a limited 3D gaming experience.
- "Touchscreen control gestures not intuitive" on the Palm Pre, while the iPhone has a "Patented multi-touch screen".
- The Pre has no GSM capability and has "limited wifi access" (cannot connect to AT&T wifi hotspots)
So the Pre is being knocked mostly for being a new, non-GSM phone. Also, putting down the Pre's touchscreen capabilities pretty much goes against the ongoing patent dispute between Palm and Apple. True, it won't work overseas, but a GSM version is coming later, maybe even on AT&T once Sprint's contract is up. Flash could also be Palm's not-so-secret weapon against the iPhone when it comes to games.
It also leaves out a lot of innovation such as synergy and cards, plus the Pre is smaller and weighs virtually the same, two grams more than the iPhone. Sure, the Pre is limited to 8GB, but the iPhone doesn't exactly qualify as ample space for media junkies, either. What do you think, would this affect on your next smartphone purchase or would someone you know be sold by the comparison?
Meanwhile, Sprint rolled out new Palm Pre web advertising today, notes EverythingPre, and should take some attention away from AT&T for now. Ads in newspapers and e-mails have already been in circulation for some time.
The guys over at Fox News got a hold of the Pre a couple of weeks ago and had some very nice things to say about it.
I'm happy to report that all the hype from the gadget shows is true. Palm's got a winner on its hands and Apple's got a challenger for first place among smartphones.
Now if I could only develop my first app...
Palm's webOS handset continues to make the celebrity rounds, recently in the hands of Howard Stern, Jimmy Fallon, and passed among film stars at this year's IFC Spirit Awards (although U2 and Stern both ended up with RIM). The LA Examiner reports that Angelina Jolie is the latest superstar to sport the Palm Pre (rumored to release May 17), while working on the set of her latest movie, Salt. Apparently she is a gadget fan, often visiting sites such as Brighthand, Gizmodo, and Engadget, and was able to secure an early evaluation unit from Sprint. One of the production assistants was able to have a chat with her, and reports:
"I asked her how she likes the phone...she went on about it for two minutes. She basically said she likes the software better than the iPhone, she likes the thumboard for texting (although the keys aren't big enough), and thinks the screen is beautiful but can be too easily scratched."
We're hoping she'll let Brad try it out for a second opinion. But besides the smaller centro-like keys (still widely preferred over a soft keyboard) and non-scratch resistant screen (also noted at a recent Pre appearance in China), celebrities seem to be giving universal praise for the Pre. But will that be enough for Palm? Douglas McIntyre, an analyst for 24/7 Wall Street thinks not. In a recent article titled "Twelve Major Brands That Will Disappear", Palm appears as #10 on a list of companies that will vanish by 2010.
"Palm has been at death's door for some time", he states. Even though prospects have improved recently with the annoucement of the Pre, recent studies indicate that almost no iPhone or Blackberry users would be willing to make the switch.
Sprint is continuing to roll out the ads featuring the Palm Pre, most recently PalmWebOS received an e-mail declaring the new webOS handset "All the rage" (see below, left). The e-mail invites recipients to share the hype via Facebook, Twitter, or "whatever". The previous e-mail that Sprint sent out focused on mobile applications. But will it be enough to keep Sprint users hyped up about the Pre?
In another marketing move, Gearlog reports that a pricey new print ad for Sprint has appeared on the back cover of the Wall Street Journal (see above, right). The Pre was previously featured in the Sunday New York Times. The large, colored ad reportedly cost $264,000 to publish, and is designed along the same vein as Sprint's latest TV commercials, featuring a slew of statistics and a blue bird associated with Twitter. The ad comes exactly a month before the rumored May 17 release date (with shipments expected to arrive a day before).
With a recent appearance of two Pre phones at a public event in San Francisco, more people have been the lookout for the device outside the confines of Palm employees. PalmInfocenter reported on couple of photos showing the Pre alongside an iPhone and Palm Centro. The interesting part is that the photos were from Ludle International, an electronics accessory manufacturer in China. Because the screen is black, it's possible that the phone is a dummy unit, but with manufacturing being ramped up, it isn't unreasonable to consider that other companies have received working units.
The photographer states that the plastic screen is more susceptible to scratches than the iPhone, reports BGR, and the back, although a fingerprint magnet, is less susceptible to scratches. Let's hope he didn't put a set of keys to the Pre intentionally to test that theory! In any case, better put aside some spare change for a screen protector.
So with all the commercials and hype, will the Pre be all it's cut out to be? Discussion after the break.