As you may know, I initially resisted buying the original iPhone because it did not have a physical keyboard, and I jumped on-board the Palm Pre because of the keyboard.
However, when the iPhone 4 was about to come out, I had a change of mind regarding the keyboard limitations because of the apps that were available for the iPhone iOS, which were not available on WebOS for Palm.
Now that I’ve had the iPhone 4 for several months, here are my comparisons of the iPhone 4 vs. the Palm Pre, in both hardware and OS/apps.
First, the hardware:
To start, as you can see below, there is a big difference in size between the two devices. I personally like the smaller footprint of the Palm Pre. It fits nicely in my pocket and the rounder design feels better in your hand. The new iPhone 4 is very industrial in design and does not feel comfortable in my hand when making calls. Even the older iPhone design felt better when holding. Here my vote goes to the Palm Pre for better feel and smaller footprint.
As you can see from the photo above, the keyboard makes the Palm Pre thicker. However, the thickness actually feels better in your hand when you are calling. The iPhone is actually too thin and doesn’t feel natural in your hand. It’s also perfectly flat (unlike the older iPhones) and is actually hard to pickup from a flat surface.
Otherwise, the iPhone does feel like it’s better in quality, whereas the Palm Pre feels a little bit more cheap plastic-like and somewhat more fragile like parts are going to fall off. Both phones have a power button around the same top area and easy to access, and both have a “home” button which are both easy to press. The other buttons (volume, ringer off) work the same way but the iPhone buttons feel more solid.
The speaker on the Palm Pre is on the back, while the speaker on the iPhone is on the bottom. The iPhone speaker seems to work better. Because of the overall design, solid feel, and the better speaker, I’ll give the overall hardware quality to the iPhone.
Separate from the rest of the hardware, the iPhone 4 screen image cannot be beaten by any other mobile phone. It’s amazingly sharp and bright. It’s simply beautiful to look at. If you click on the photo above, you’ll see a larger version but it’s still hard to see the big difference that you can see in real life. Hands down, the iPhone display is superior.
Next, the camera.
Both the Palm Pre and the iPhone 4 have decent cameras with an LED flash. Here are comparison pictures in daylight conditions from both cameras. Click on each of the pictures to see the full resolution versions. All of these pictures are untouched original versions straight from the devices.
Upon close inspection, you can see that the iPhone does have better resolution. Take a close look at the thin phone lines and you can see a slight difference. Also, note the big difference in color saturation of the sky and the color of the brick building.
The iPhone lens seems to be wider because I had to get closer to the building to get a picture that was similar to the Palm Pre.
Although not entirely scientific, my subjective determination is that the iPhone camera is better, not just in resolution but in quality. I like that the lens is wider so that I don’t have to go as far away to get my shots. Another big difference is the LED light will come on during video recording on the iPhone, whereas that option is not available on the Palm Pre.
At this point, you’re wondering about the front facing camera on the iPhone that allows you to do FaceTime video chat. Well, I used it once when I first got the phone, then never since then. For me, I don’t want anybody seeing me when I’m making calls in my underwear or picking my nose. But if this is important to you because your parents want to see your kids, this could be a killer app for you.
For recharging, of course the Palm as Touchstone, which is a wireless charging dock, which sounds great but sometimes your phone isn’t placed correctly and it doesn’t charge and you find your phone dead in the morning. The iPhone has a physical dock which works just fine for me. This is a wash in my mind.
Finally, comparing battery life, the Palm Pre’s battery life is sub-par and it often will not last me the entire day without needing a charge. The iPhone 4 on the other hand, has a really long battery life and with moderate use, will easily last the entire day with plenty of juice to spare. The iPhone 4 wins this contest hands down.
It’s really not completely fair to compare the older Palm Pre to the brand new iPhone 4, but clearly, the iPhone hardware is superior. Even though I like the feel of the Palm Pre in my hand, I’m going to have to give the hardware fight to the iPhone 4.
Next time: Software – WebOS vs. iOS