Dear Palm, it's just not working out.

Folks, I couldn't take it any more. Today I wiped my Palm Pre and bought an iPhone.

Believe it or not, this actually has nothing to do with my utterly nightmarish experience of trying to get my applications into Palm's app catalog, and everything to do with the fact that the phone is just a constant pain to use.

This should be obvious, because my complaint about Palm's developer relations is that they are setting up a closed ecosystem, and Apple is even worse than Palm in that regard. (And while Palm is also slow and unresponsive to respond to developers, Apple is, again, even worse.)

So why would I get an iPhone? Because it's an appliance that just fucking works.

I have a list of 30-ish reports of more-or-less irritating bugs that I encountered during my first week of using the phone that I back-channeled into Palm via several of their developers, but most of those bugs were tolerable. The deal-breaker bugs are as follows:

  1. I still can't reliably sync my phone to my Mac.

    Now, I have to say that since the last time I publically bitched about this, the developers of Missing Sync really stepped up: I've been exchanging emails with a couple of the Missing Sync developers for months now, doing tests and sending logs and trying out alpha versions, sometimes several times a week. So I really appreciate the effort they went to to try and diagnose the bugs that I was experiencing. But, the bottom line is, it still doesn't work. The only reliable way to sync the phone is to manually do "desktop overwrites device", which means I can't actually edit contacts or calendars on the phone, ever.

  2. Peformance is a joke.

    Seriously, it's comically bad. The speed of this phone is truly pathological. It's horrible across the board, but some of the most egregious examples:

    • If the Calendar app is not running, it takes 10-15 seconds to get from "I clicked on the Calendar icon" to "I can see today's events". And then, switching from the display of one day to the next takes 2+ seconds (and it doesn't buffer swipes, so you have to keep trying). It's embarassing when I'm talking to someone and they ask me about availability and I have to say, "I'll tell you in a little while, once my phone wakes up."
    • If a call comes in, the phone starts ringing, and I can answer and talk to the caller, but most of the time it takes another 10 seconds before the Phone application's UI comes up! So if it's from the front door and I have to press a button to buzz someone in, I have to either hope the app starts responding before the caller hangs up; or I have to slide out the physical keypad and pray that it buffers the keystroke. Trying to answer the door feels like a game of whack-a-mole.

    • If I want to take a photo (for example, of the license plate of a hit-and-run) getting from "I clicked on the Camera button" to "I have taken a photo" takes almost 20 seconds. If I want to get all the way to "I have reviewed the photo, and can tell that it came out ok", that takes more like 40 seconds.

It seems to me that the only way this phone is going to be usable is for it to get literally 10× faster across the board. There was a speed improvement of maybe 10% between WebOS 1.0 and 1.2.1, so I think it's safe to assume that they've already picked the low-hanging fruit. I don't expect the performance of this phone to be even remotely suitable for every day use for at least a year. I figure it's going to either take a substantial amount of work on the lower levels of the OS, or they're going to have to throw Moore's law and new hardware at it... and the recently-announced Pixi is clearly not the hardware that's going to be 10× faster.

So even though I hate Apple's developer-hostility, and even though I hate that now I'm giving money to AT&T, and even though AT&T's network is way less reliable in San Francisco than Sprint's, and even though I absolutely despise the iPhone's on-screen keyboard... at least now I have a phone whose software actually works.

I thought about trying out an Android phone, but the reality is that the most positive review I've ever heard about Android was damning with faint praise along the lines of, "it sure does show the potential to someday be an iPhone competitor." Also, you have to surrender all your data to the Hivemind to use one. At least an iPhone will actually sync with the computer on my desk.

Sorry, Palm. I tried to root for the underdog, I really did.

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Please enjoy (what has been retconned to be) jwz mixtape 080.

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Current Music: as noted