Palm vs iPhone

Andrew Norman sent me this note earlier today, and it was just too good not to share with you. He makes his case on why Palm is still a choice over the iPhone. Do you agree or disagree with this assessment and perspective? The following words are Andrew’s…

Some of the reasons for disliking the iPhone, even some of the important ones, have gone away over time, such as the abnormally high price both of the software and the service, both of which have reduced drastically (and I’ll have to give props to Apple for reducing the price of iPhone 3G to $200). However, I have a few thoughts on the iPhone, and after reading them maybe you will see why I opted to go with Palm instead.

It seems that the iPhone 3G fixes problems that the first iPhone should never have had. It should never have been on a 2G network, as other smartphones have been on 3G long enough that the iPhone should have started out that way.

Something that I think is even more important than that, however, is that it should always have had an office suite. I think I read somewhere that the iPhone 3G is going to have this feature, but this is something that should have been present from the very beginning. I honestly think that a PDA that cannot edit office documents is nearly useless except as a phone. A Walkman Slider, a non-smartphone, can play movies, music, send and receive email, and even browse the web (though the mobile version), but cannot view or edit office documents, and I think that’s the most important difference between a Walkman Slider and, say, a Palm Centro or an AT&T Tilt.

I’m not about to say that the iPhone is stupid, but I think it’s not nearly as revolutionary as Jobs seems to put on, if at all. The biggest advantage that the iPhone has over other smartphones (by far) is Safari, but after the public release of Skyfire that will disappear. After that, the only clear advantage is people who prefer the UI. 3G, GPS, mobile email, and most everything that the iPhone boasts has been on other smartphones for quite some time.

One of the more subtle disadvantages, at least in my opinion, is that the screen is not pressure sensitive. Multi-touch screens are good at times, but I don’t want to be putting my fingers all over my PDA, getting it smudgy all day. I like to be able to bring my PDA into restaurants with me and not worry about getting it dirty, and I definitely like not having to wipe the screen off all the time. I’m not the only one that sees this need, either; Thinkgeek.com has developed a stylus that can be used on the iPhone for people who think the same way. With the pressure-sensitive screen, however, I can use either my fingers or my stylus, whenever I desire. There are times that I use my fingers, like if I’m just pulling it out for a second and putting it right back, and times when I decide to use the stylus, like if I’m editing a document. And call me crazy, but I’d much rather have real buttons instead of an on-screen keyboard (and I say that having tried the iPhone keyboard).

I personally decided to go with a straight PDA instead of a smartphone because I didn’t want to deal with service issues, so I decided to get a Palm T|X, and I am very happy with it because it does everything I need it to (of course, that means I get neither 2G nor 3G, but for my purposes that works fine). At the same time, I do not think it is in any way idiotic to get a smartphone, and sometimes I have seen some of the features of my friends’ smartphones and thought I would like them (especially my friend’s beta version of Skyfire, which will unfortunately not be released for Palm or non-smartphones).

Documents-To-Go may be a fairly simple office suite, lacking many of the advanced features of a PC’s full office suites, but it is incredibly useful and I think one of the most important features of the Palm. Editing office documents is, I believe, the most important feature of any PDA, even over email and webbrowsing. What’s the point of having a computer with you wherever you go if it can’t perform very basic computer tasks? The most commonly used applications on my Palm are its office suite and its pdf reader, two things that I desired more than anything to bring with me anywhere. Of the two, the first iPhone had only the second. I edit documents constantly, including .doc files and .xls files. I use .doc files for many, many reasons, including taking notes while shopping around, creating lists of movies I want to see that I add to whenever I hear of one or subtract from whatever I see one, making personal notes, or even just writing down detailed outlines for ideas I’ll have for school papers or videos that I’m making. I use .xls files to reference my bank account instead of carrying around a check register with me. I’m also looking forward to a good mobile version of Photoshop or an equivalent (though it may be out there already; I haven’t really looked yet). I’d love Adobe Premiere on a mobile device, but I also realize that that’s very unrealistic.

I hope that this is something that you enjoyed reading, and, of course, I hope that it did not offend you as an iPhone user, especially since I do not think the iPhone is stupid.