HOUSE DIVIDED! Palm Pre vs. HTC Hero!
Those who follow me on Twitter know… I’m a Palm Pre fanboy.
My wife? A bonafide iPhone fan. Try as I might to explain to her why the iPhone is worth leaving, ultimately it was Benjamin Franklin who made the strongest case: thanks to Sprint’s low rates and their Any Mobile, Anytime feature, we were able to dump our landline for good and save over two grand over two years. Not chump change.
Casting aside my strong recommendation that she get a Palm Pre, my wife instead opted to get the HTC Hero. The reason? She actually wanted a virtual keyboard, because it would be the closest thing to her precious iPhone. The Palm fanboy in me was disappointed, but the geek in me was overjoyed. And hey, with Sprint’s 30 day return policy, if she didn’t like the Hero, she could switch to the Palm Pre, a phone she already knew well… thanks to yours truly never shutting up about it!
So how did the HTC Hero fare against “The Pre-cious?” Read on to find out.
A few days in, and I can already tell you: these are two *very* different phones, each filling a different niche. On one hand there’s the HTC Hero, running on an already established, maturing Android platform. Much like the iPhone, it’s essentially a platform for running apps (though unlike the iPhone, in an open, unrestrictive way).
On the other hand, there’s the Palm Pre, with its revolutionary, yet unproven webOS. The apps aren’t there quite yet, but at its core is an already robust operating system that allows for running multiple processes simultaneously in real time.
HTC Hero gets in the first few punches
While I think the Palm Pre may be a smaller, more attractive device, but there’s no question the HTC Hero is built better. There’s no moving parts, it has a glass screen (that’s supposedly smudge resistant but it ain’t all that great), and generally better quality feel to it.
The Android OS has had time to cook… over a year now. So it’s had time to build a sizable app store… almost 10,000 apps! And good ones, too. There’s an app called “Barcode Scanner” which allows you to scan the barcodes of things in the store so you can look up online reviews of them, etc. Just tonight, I played fuckin’ DOOM on her phone. Just like on the PC! Remember that game?! I was overjoyed to see RoboDefense, a game much like the iPhone’s Field Runners. Let’s not forget they have a fully functional DataViz Documents to Go app for editing Microsoft Office files. Really, really cool stuff! … Except for one thing… no screen shots of apps in the Android Market. What’s up with that?!
Meanwhile, the Palm Pre’s App Catalog is still in beta, with about 150 apps. I know the apps will come because webOS is so easy to write for, but I was kinda jealous.
BUT… even with all of that said, I’m not giving away my Palm Pre anytime soon. Why?
Palm Pre responds!
** WebOS: **
This is by far the best operating system I’ve ever seen on a phone. While HTC did their best to make the Hero display multiple widgets, (EDIT: and holding the home button DOES pull up a list of active apps), it’s still nowhere NEAR as elegant or effective a solution as on the Palm Pre. Now… webOS DOES take some getting used to: you actually have to TRAIN yourself to use Universal Search and leave multiple apps open at the same time (your initial instinct is to close ’em when you’re done). But once you do that, you’ll swear by it. Nothing comes close. Not the iPhone, not Android. To ME, this is the most important thing because no matter what I’m doing on my phone, I use this OS all the time. Put simply, it just WORKS.
I always HATED the virtual keyboard on the iPhone. HATED IT! I could never hit the keys right, and the autocorrect was way too intrusive. The Palm Pre has a REAL keyboard. Reviews complain that it’s small and cramped… and this was my initial reaction when I first got it. But after 2 weeks or so, I got really fast and accurate… more so than I ever could on the iPhone. That said, the HTC Hero’s virtual keyboard isn’t bad… in fact I think it would be slightly BETTER than the iPhone’s if it wouldn’t lag from time to time. But… after I got back to typing on my Pre I arrived at the same conclusion: fuck virtual keyboards! Nothing beats tactile. (** And by the way, someone’s already made a virtual keyboard for the Palm Pre also… so you get BOTH kinds now, whereas iPhone and Hero are always stuck with virtual only.)
Burden the HTC Hero with too much stuff, and it’ll lag on you. The Pre can get quite laggy too, but overall it’s definitely snappier, and updates have made it faster and more stable. … And that’s running MULTIPLE things at once.
The Hero’s screen may have 0.1″ on the Pre’s, but 65,000 colors vs the Pre’s 16 MILLION? Child, pleez.
Both use Webkit browsers like the iPhone, and while the Android browser has the great text re-wrapping feature when zooming in and out, the my Pre’s browser is simply smoother and faster than my wife’s Hero. In the browser games, speed and smoothness are the trump cards.
This is just an accessory, but the fact that I can just set my phone down on the charger without fumbling with wires is much cooler than I ever anticipated. Really. If you get a Pre, get one of these things.
No Knockouts… Judge’s decision!
I’ll sum it up like this: all the cool stuff I liked about HTC Hero reminded me how young the Palm Pre is. Clearly, webOS needs to continue to grow and more apps need to come out. Buuuuuut, playing on the Hero reminded me of how amazing the Palm Pre ALREADY IS. Being used to the Pre’s fluid multitasking abilities, the Android OS seemed primitive to me, despite HTC’s bang-up job with their Sense UI. It really comes down to this: what kind of smartphone customer are you? What would you prefer… a phone with a more mature app store but primitive (IMHO) OS, versus a phone that’s a little green in the apps/features department but has an OS that blows all other phones out of the water?
For me, I chose the latter. As I said, webOS just works. The apps and features are coming in, too. As of this writing the Palm App Catalog is nearing 1000 apps. Is the Pre perfect? Hell no. Battery life sucks, and I really do miss some features like visual voicemail, etc. But I’ve enjoyed the hell out of the Palm Pre, and I love how Palm has continued to update it regularly.
… You’ll make the right call. 😉