I have a guilty secret to confess: I’ve been secretly hoping that one of the zillions of so-called “iPhone killers” might prove to be. After all, if the rest of the mobile industry continues to crank it crummy wannabes like the BlackBerry Storm or the Samsung Instinct, Apple will have far less incentive to actually take their own product to all-new heights of greatness. Apple makes awesome stuff, but they make even more awesome stuff when threatened.
And so it was that I was very heartened by the announcement of the Palm Pre at the Consumer Electronic Show. If you haven’t had a chance to read up on the phone, I highly recommend that you do. It’s small, relatively sleek, has a nice keyboard, and it’s got the best UI for a mobile phone that I’ve seen outside the iPhone. And for some tasks (app-switching, most notably), it’s already better.
Now, have no fear, I have absolutely no intention of buying a Pre. The music syncing looks suspect, there’s no video support of any kind for the version set to launch this year, and I don’t need a full keyboard to be happy. All that, and it’s going to be Sprint-exclusive, and I travel enough that a GSM phone is pretty much a necessity for me.
I am excited that the Pre is good enough to actually make Apple work hard, particularly on the software front. The Palm Web OS has a clear point of view, an attractive look, and some genuinely innovative features, such as the gesture bar and the very cool “wave” application launcher shown above. The Pre cribs a lot from the iPhone — not to mention OS X’s Expose feature — but it brings these ideas together in a way that even Apple hasn’t yet.
And the good news is that now Apple has a reason to go beyond the interface created for OS X iPhone 1.0. I wouldn’t be even slightly shocked if we see an Expose for iPhone update in firmware 3.0, or even before. And Apple needs to get more serious about rolling out the multitasking Push API it promised last July.
Kudos to Jon Rubinstein and Palm for pulling off a far better phone than I thought them capable of. It’s the first serious mobile platform that’s even coming close to besting the iPhone (sorry, Android), and it’s clearly going to have a life beyond its initial release. And hey — it’s got cut, copy, and paste!