This weekend, I entered my sixth month of Palm Pre ownership. Back in June, both James and I purchased a Pre and walked away with good impressions. It’s been a solid and fun ride so far, but I’m regretfully putting my Palm Pre on notice. I’m going to give the webOS platform another few months to mature. If it doesn’t happen, I suspect I’ll either eat the early termination fee or I’ll add a different phone entirely to my Sprint account. I like the device very much, but I’m routinely carrying two phones because the platform isn’t where it needs to be for me. Many Pre owners are thrilled with their Pre and I’m not suggesting they shouldn’t be. I’m looking specifically at my needs — and they’re not yet met with the Pre. Why is that?
The most glaring deficit is in the available applications. It’s not a question of needing 100,000 to choose from — it’s simply a matter of not having major titles available in the Application Catalog. I realize that Palm hasn’t yet opened up the catalog to everyone, so I don’t entirely blame developers. And I knew in advance that development would be slow for this reason. But I’m getting antsy and tired of waiting. Look at this way — can you name five webOS software titles from major third-party developers? I’m struggling to do so. Even lesser known “brand names” or “web brands” aren’t in the catalog yet. It seems that as each day passes, I hear about a great new app for iPhone or Android, but not for Palm. Recently we mentioned a few of these: Slacker, Photoshop, Remember the Milk to name a few just in the past week or two.
In many cases, I can use the Pre’s web browser to get things done without using a mobile application. Much of my online time is with WordPress, since that’s where this site is hosted. I’m not creating posts on my phones, but I’m reading — and responding to — comments, checking stats, scheduling posts and more. That’s doable in a small browser, but the WordPress iPhone client has me constantly carrying my iPhone in addition to my Pre. And that’s just one of many examples. The few Twitter clients for webOS are usable, but the ones for iPhone and Android are far better in terms of the user experience. Facebook is the same way — in fact, that’s a prime example. Until recently, the limited Facebook web client for mobiles was abysmal to use — I couldn’t even respond to a wall post or comment. It’s much better now, but Facebook on iPhone is where it’s at.
And about that webOS browser — it’s good, but it still needs work. Some of the basic functionality that didn’t work on day one still isn’t there. I still can’t tell where I am on a page because there’s no indicator. And when I try to read a reader comment here on the site, tapping the link to it doesn’t take me to the comment — it simply takes me to the post page where the comment is. I have to manually go and find it myself. Is it any wonder I just use the WordPress client for iPhone?
In any case, I’m committed to give my Pre a fair chance, given the known schedule and constraints. And I do love the hardware as well as the webOS UI. I’ll probably give things until February to sort themselves out. If I don’t see enough progress, I’ll very likely look at what Android 2.0 devices are available at that time. I doubt it will be a Droid though, as I expect even better devices in the first quarter of 2010. Android is far from perfect, but its maturity is happening far faster. And it’s a vicious cycle that puts Palm at a disadvantage — as Android gains market share and features, developers are far more likely to invest their resources in a bigger platform.
Think I’m being to hard on my Palm Pre? Let me know in the comments — just keep in mind that I’m speaking about my own needs. If a webOS device is meeting all of your needs, then you should be happy with your device. I’m not trying to convince you otherwise, nor is this a “jumping on / off the bandwagon” approach. Every one of us should be evaluating the mobile tools we use. If they don’t work, then seeking alternatives is what we should be doing.