Palm (PALM) has come up short in its attempt to dethrone Apple’s (AAPL) iPhone as the best smartphone on the market, according to four early reviews of the Palm Pre, which goes on sale Saturday.
- It’s “an elegant, joyous, multitouch smartphone; it’s the iPhone remixed,” Pogue says.
- It’s “a beautiful, innovative and versatile hand-held computer that’s fully in the iPhone’s class,” Mossberg pens.
But ultimately, people only own one phone at a time. And for several reasons the reviewers point out, the Pre is not as good as Apple’s current iPhone. Nevermind Apple’s new iPhone, which the company might unveil Monday.
The Pre’s flaws, according to reviewers, include a lame app store, bugs, tiny keyboard buttons, flimsy hardware, and poor battery life. Especially sad: The Pre will ship with an app store containing about a dozen apps. And for now — but not forever — it’s tied to Sprint Nextel (S), a distant no. 3 in subscriber count after Verizon Wireless (VZ) and AT&T (T). That means it has a lower built-in audience than even phones like Verizon’s relatively crappy BlackBerry Storm from RIM (RIMM).
The good news is that Palm has, thanks to its corral of ex-Apple staffers, designed one of the best mobile phones — hardware and software — on the market. (We’re very excited to try it out.) It can fix some of its problems, such as the bugs, app store, etc., with software updates and developer relations. And given how large (and complicated) the mobile market is, there’s plenty of room for more than one platform. But it’s still not getting the “better than iPhone” stamp from anyone. And we certainly wouldn’t line up to buy one this weekend until we’ve seen what Apple announces next Monday.
All this means the Palm Pre might eventually be considered commercially successful — especially by Palm’s low bar — and the feedback could help Palm build better future devices based on the webOS platform. It might be enough to keep Palm’s juices flowing. But it’s probably not going to blow the doors off.