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.

Tags: , , , , , ,

148 Responses:

  1. yan_1976 says:

    suck to hear about your experience with palm, i hope they fix all these issues though. (btw, my long term prediction is that nokia will buy them to replace nokia archaic symbian os which is impossible to develop for)

    oh and please please download my app, would love get your feedback on it:

    • charles_m_uk says:

      Actually, Nokia have already dumped symbian and are going with a linux distro, , so I seriously doubt they would consider buying palm..

      • Actually Nokia has not "dumped" Symbian at all.

      • yan_1976 says:

        show me an official announcement from nokia saying they are dumping symbian for N and E-series phones.

        maemo is for netbooks N900 only as far as i understand.

        • john_x says:

          They certainly aren't dumping Symbian, but we're definitely going to see Maemo on more devices than just the N900. And by this time next year it seems pretty likely it'll be the OS for their flagship devices, probably with it continuing to spread to lower-end devices as Cortex-A8 (or better) chips get cheap enough to put into those types of phones.

          As for netbooks? They're putting Windows 7 on them. Yeah, that got me off guard a bit as well, but I think the netbooks aren't from the "Maemo Devices" group, so I guess it makes sense (to someone).


        • cdavies says:

          Yes, yer man there is indeed talking bollocks. Nokia are investing a whole lot of money in fiddling with Symbian, and they aren't doing it for fun.

          While I've long since learned to interpret "Symbian is impossible to develop for" to mean "I'm a lousy developer who is afraid to learn new things", if you really can't handle it it seems QT is the wave of the future, so there's that to look forward to.

          • yan_1976 says:

            you wouldn't be a symbian developer looking for a job by any chance, would you?

            • cdavies says:

              Eh, I'm always open to interesting contracts. If you have something in mind, then I daresay you can email me through livejournal and I'll hand you my real email address.

    • kgelner says:

      Not Nokia, Microsoft. Microsoft will buy Palm out of desperation after one more release of Windows Mobile not cutting the mustard.

      Just like they bought Danger for the mobile expertise.

      • yan_1976 says:

        yeah right.. you do know WebOS is based on Linux, right? you do know about Microsoft and Linux history, right?

        • dr_memory says:

          Not that I actually think this will happen, but Microsoft did by Danger, and Danger's entire software stack is Java. So it's not like they're completely incapable of buying companies that use competitors' products.

          (...they're just completely unable to manage them once they've acquired them.)

        • kgelner says:

          I was going to say the same thing about Danger and Java, only more sarcastically...

          Yes I know WebOS is based on Linux. Microsoft would not buy buying them for the exact underlying technology so much as the ability to lift the UI, and API's wholesale without fear of patent claims or other legal bother. I am sure they feel they could replace the underpinnings with .Net without fuss though they might not even do that for a bit if they are really desperate to ship fast.

          Also as the other poster noted, the real question would be if Microsoft could manage this well.

          Remember your scoffing in about a year.

  2. allartburns says:

    I have a G1 and I'm pretty happy with it. I created a special, G1-only google account and limited what I sync to the hive mind. My OSX calendar/addressbook sync to the G1 just fine over the intercloudweb and I have much less trouble than I did with my old XV phone.

    OTOH, WindowsMobile does let you download/install anything you damn well please, and there are days I consider going back. Then I remember the Hell of Missing Sync and remember why it was I went to the G1.

    • supersat says:

      There's an option on the G1 to allow non-app store apps to be uploaded via USB.

      • jonabbey says:

        You can also download said apps directly from the web.

        Again, if you've ticked the 'please don't force me to use the store to get apps' checkbox.

        I like my G1 pretty fine as well, but I sure would like more RAM and a faster processor. I may have to upgrade when T-Mobile gets a faster Android out.

    • elusis says:

      What are you using to sync iCal with GCal? I've had no luck using CalDAV (it seems to only sync one way) and have gotten zero help on the GCal boards, the Apple boards, or the forum for Calgoo Connect, the one app I tried.

      It's the main thing keeping me from going for the G1. (And AT&T is the main thing keeping me from going for an iPhone.)

      • bluknight says:

        There's actually a hack to 'simulate' an iPhone that enables it. I've done the hack and seems to work. I'll try and find a good pointer for you.

        • elusis says:

          I'm so confused. Some people say CalDAV just works both ways, others say it doesn't, so do I need a hack or to buy software or just to hold my mouth different while setting it up or what?

          • bluknight says:

            CalDAV works fine -- it's the address book sync that's a pain in the tuchas.

            • elusis says:

              Wish I knew why I was only getting one-way functionality. I've seen articles elsewere complaining of the same thing but none that identified what the issue was. :-/

      • allartburns says:

        I just set iCal to sync with google calendar. There was a faq on it somewhere @ google or apple, it was pretty easy to set up.

        • elusis says:

          I've read the Google FAQ and done the CalDAV setup. It imported things from my iCal into GCal, but not vice versa, making it... less than useful. I've put up requests in both Google and Apple forums and have found no one even vaguely interested in answering my questions about it.

      • Using CalDAV here as well, and syncs both ways with the multiple calendars I have stored w/Google. Actually works significantly better in Snow Leopard, too.

      • pfrank says:

        I'm using Spanning Sync for this. It works pretty well for iCal and for keeping contacts synced between the goog and Address Book.

        • elusis says:

          I've heard good things about SS, but wanted to avoid spending money on software if there was a way to do it for free. :-/

          Calgoo Connect is free, but it destroyed my iCal - I keep 3 separate calendars on there, and CC tripled every single event even with the "avoid duplication" setting turned on. I put up a help request on their forum a month ago but no one has answered my inquiry.

          • pfrank says:

            yeah I was hesitant to pay for it, too. But I think it was worth it, since it just works and I almost never have to even think about it.

  3. ckd says:

    There is a way to not pay AT&T money and still use an iPhone, without being stuck waiting for the jailbreakers to find yet another bootloader security hole before you can update the OS each time.

    All you need to do is fly to Italy (or Belgium or Hong Kong or Australia) ($$$), buy an unlocked contract-free iPhone (€€€/$$$ as appropriate for your destination), plug in a T-Mobile SIM, put up with EDGE speed because T-Mobile's 3G uses a different set of frequencies, and hope your phone doesn't break because it'd need to go back to Italy (or wherever) for service. Sounds great, doesn't it? I can't imagine why people don't do it....

  4. duskwuff says:

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

    You'd think that Palm, of all companies, could have figured that one out, having put together HotSync for the Palm (which worked, at least most of the time, and was written well over a decade ago).

    • phil_g says:

      Palm seems to have decided not to have any of their software running on the users' desktops; they only sync to network services (and back up to Palm's servers, but that's not really a sync, because you can't edit the data that goes there), and they're continuing this cat-and-mouse thing with syncing with iTunes. My best guess is that they rushed to get the Pre out the door so they didn't spend time on a lot of things, including desktop software.

      I still like mine, and I chafe when I have to do things on other people's iPhones at work, but I have different tolerances and sensitivities than jwz.

      • jwz says:

        You must not be experiencing the level of slowness that I am. Either that or the way your tolerances differ is that you think it's ok for it to take 10 seconds to launch the calendar?

        • phil_g says:

          A bit of both. Opening the calendar on my Pre is more on the order of 5 seconds (plus the occasional random sluggishness that Pre seems to have for launching any app), but I've also just gotten used to waiting for apps to launch. I'm less pleased with the phone's lengthy booting process. So my speed tolerance lies somewhere between "5-15 seconds to start an app is tolerable" and "5 minutes to reboot a phone is ridiculous". Once apps are open, in my experience, they're generally pretty snappy (changing days, weeks, or months in the calendar is a notable exception), and I like being able to easily flip between running apps (not to mention having a physical keyboard).

          Like I said, my dealbreakers are not your dealbreakers, and I can't fault you for giving up on the Pre. I had hoped for more from it; now I'm just hoping it'll get better in the future and keeping my eye on Android.

          • radven says:

            One of the "Zen of Palm" competitive demos we used to do showing off against a Pocket PC was how you could reach into your pocket for your PDA and have your calendar up and displaying today's events before it was even in front of your eyes.

            The Pocket PC on the other hand took 5-10 seconds to launch.

            Palm used to ridicule that sort of performance. It is sad that is what they now deliver.


        • slashclee says:

          I've got a Pre that I picked up about two months ago, and my experience has been similar but not quite as infuriating.

          I have a dozen or so recurring appointments per week in my calendar. It takes about five or six seconds for the calendar app to come up, which is still much slower than I'd like, but nowhere near the ten seconds you quoted. Switching between days is usually very responsive for me, but sometimes I get a random delay of about a half a second.

          Reboot time is pathetic. I have no fucking clue how the Pre or any of the Android phones take so long to boot up. And the battery life is not great.

          However, the occasional slowness is something that I'm willing to put up with for now; it's certainly gotten faster for me since 1.0 (definitely more than 10%) and I'm betting they've still got some more big optimizations to implement. Also, the way webOS handles multiple apps just feels right to me. There's something really satisfying and cathartic about the flick-away gesture for quitting apps by throwing their "cards" off the top of the screen.

    • lionsphil says:

      Yeah, but the original PalmOS was actually a fairly nice embedded OS with a great development toolkit, not a "lol web is the next desktop" abomination of inappropriate and hideously inefficient technologies.

      It seems pretty evident that those competent engineers responsible for Palm's glory days have long since departed (or been kicked out).

      (That said, apparently Palm Desktop for MacOS was horrible.)

  5. tiff_seattle says:

    if palm would have waited a couple months more they could have gone straight to snapdragon and done away with all of the lag. i guess they didn't think they had enough time left to do that though?

    • tiff_seattle says:

      or the later nvidia chipset too

      • dr_memory says:

        The Pre was churned out in an amazingly short time after the Foleo near-death experience. I'm not surprised they weren't willing to spend an extra month (or six) trying to qualify a new hardware platform at the last minute: at the time the Pre shipped, Palm had literally no other revenue-generating projects in the pipeline.

        • tiff_seattle says:

          i think they were working on that general os concept for at least 3 years before the foleo was announced.

          • dr_memory says:

            Hm, my understanding was different: that most/all of the linux work being done at Palm up to 2007 was entirely for the QT-based platform that became the (never-shipped) Foleo, and that the "Nova" project (which became WebOS on the Pre) was bootstrapped pretty much from scratch after the Foleo was killed.

            I know one person who works there now; I'll see if I can get a clarification. The wikipedia articles on webos and the pre are useless.

            • tiff_seattle says:

              i was thinking of the rewrite they did of the original palm os. can't remember the name off hand, but they had emulators of it running a few years ago

              • dr_memory says:

                Ah, that was something completely different. That project was being done by PalmSource, who were bought by ACCESS, a Japanese cellphone software company, who eventually released it to a deafening lack of acclaim as the Access Linux Platform, and has so far not shipped on any retail phones in any country.

                WebOS and the Pre were done by "Palm Inc", formerly known as "PalmOne", who were the hardware portion of the original Palm Inc before it spun off PalmSource in what has to be a strong contender for the dumbest corporate reorganization in history.

                The number of dumb decisions made by the Palm(s) between 1995 and 2008 are really staggering.

                • jwz says:

                  I think that "to a deafening lack of acclaim" is my favorite sequence of words of the week.

                • jered says:

                  ACCESS are also responsible for that hideous monstrosity known as NetFront, which I would say feels like a browser from 1994 except that Netscape Navigator 1.0 worked better. I think Amazon shipped this crap in the Kindle specifically to dissuade people from using the "experimental web browser".

              • gregv says:

                I believe you're thinking of Cobalt, aka PalmOS 6. It did have a fully functional emulator (er, "Simulator") at one point but never shipped on a device. This was supposed to include the fruits of their BeOS acquisition as well.

                I don't think they shipped this off to Access, though I could be wrong. I think Access is working off Garnet, aka PalmOS 5 just like Palm was.

                Then there was Nova, their big Linux rewrite that's been supposedly coming forever. This may have included Foleo, but my understanding was that it was supposed to be their new smartphone platform too. There's still references to Nova in webOS.

                It didn't really become webOS until Jon Rubinstein joined in 2007 and revamped everything. Prior to that their planned next gen device still had a stylus, for example. So webOS in its current incarnation has only been in the works since 2007. It's also why everything seems a little undercooked, especially when it was first released, because it is. Palm as a company didn't have the luxury of waiting for it to mature more before release.

                I'm still happy with my Pre. I don't have the delays anywhere near as bad as Jamie's seeing. I used to sometimes hit a 10-20 second delay after entering/changing an appointment while the calendar display caught up, but that was fixed in the latest version. It still takes a second to swipe from one day to the next though.

                • dr_memory says:

                  ACCESS technically owns the rights to Cobalt, as they bought PalmSource lock, stock and barrel. But as far as anybody knows, ALP contains no code in common with Cobalt, which ceased development back in 2004 or so after PalmOne and the other major PalmOS licensees decided they wanted nothing to do with it.

                  My understanding, as above, is that Nova == WebOS and always was. It definitely was not the Foleo: that was entirely Hawkins' baby, and was based on a weird combination of standard ARM-linux and a WxWorks, none of which is in the Pre.

                  Your timeline is a little wonky: Rubenstein joined Palm in June of 2007; the Foleo was cancelled in September 2007 after he (and Fred Anderson) joined. I don't recall ever hearing any mention of "Nova" until after those events, so I feel pretty safe asserting that the project didn't exist until around or after the Foleo's death. (Anyone who worked at palm and wants to risk their continued employment for our edification is welcome to chime in here and correct me!)

    • blasdelf says:

      The 600mhz OMAP3 is more than powerful enough to get snappy WebKit running on — the same chip is in a fuckton of other recent devices, including the Droid, N900, OpenPandora, Touchbook, etc. The iPhone 3Gs uses a custom packaging that is its kissing cousin. What's more, the older iPhones were plenty snappy using 412mhz ARM11s!

      The Pre's software is the problem, not the hardware.

      • gregv says:

        Yes. Someone was looking through a rooted Pre and said it didn't even have an OpenGL driver. So at least part of it is that all their eye candy is being done on the CPU, which is why the animations are much choppier than on the iPhone. If they can offload some of that it should get better, though it obviously still wouldn't be as fast as native apps would be.

      • montoya says:

        The Pre's software is definitely written in a higher-level environment than the iPhone, with all that entails. The downside is, it's not as fast now as it should be. The upside is, in a couple of years when hardware is much faster, it's in a great position for the future. Yesterday's bloat is tomorrow's minimalism, after all.

        They just have to make it those couple of years...

        • radven says:

          On a mobile device that is running off of a battery, every CPU cycle you spend gets paid for in battery life. Even if future devices are "fast enough", high-level environments will still suffer in comparison.

          • montoya says:

            Well, sure, but even the "low-level" iPhone is basically running Unix, a one-time server OS, right? That's a fairly high level environment compared to something low-level like legacy PalmOS, and it's better because of it.

            It's possible the Pre is too high-level, but it's certainly not the case that the lower the better.

  6. violentbloom says:

    One of us! one of us!

    • obreerbo says:

      Indeed! "Come...join us...don't be afraid..."

      I would have to agree with what jwz says about the iPhone: "It just works." The UI took surprisingly little time to get used to, and it has those little touches of "politeness" that show some serious skull sweat went into the design.

      (AT&T? I'm not worried about them. I've been with AT&T since they were AT&T before they were Cingular. They like me.)

  7. So you did the deed. I didn't realize just how badly your phone was behaving. My battered Samsung, literally held together with scotch tape, actually works better.

  8. blasdelf says:

    I bought an iPhone and switched to AT&T just a couple weeks ago, largely for the same reasons.

    I'm starting to second-guess myself now with Verizon's Droid freshly revealed and coming out in another week or two. It looks like it fixes all the issues with the previous devices:

    • shipping the latest virgin Google build — no carrier or manufacturer fuckery
    • CPU + RAM as good or better than everything else (600mhz OMAP3 + 256mb RAM)
    • a capacitive touchscreen with 3x the iPhone's resolution
    • only a bit thicker than a current iPhone
    • a motherfucking headphone jack
    • nice hardware (landscape) and software (portrait) keyboards
    • 16gb of built-in flash AND a micro-SD slot
    • a camera that they made a cursory attempt to make decent (a flash!)

    And it appears that Google has steered Verizon away from their usual habit of stuffing cocks into every orifice!

    Now the only problem will be the Android software — the spartan builtin apps, the craptacular APIs, and the abysmal/non-existent third-party apps.

    • mackys says:

      > And it appears that Google has steered Verizon away from their usual habit of stuffing cocks into every orifice!

      Oh, just wait until you see what it costs in up-front purchase, and what the monthlies are. I can almost guarantee that it'll make even the iPhone look cheap in comparison.

      • blasdelf says:

        You're right, Verizon could fuck themselves (as is their way) by trying to sell the thing for $500. The Android software/ecosystem will only improve substantially if Verizon sells a shitload of these to normal people.

        Verizon does have unlimited data/txt at price parity with AT&T's plans, it's just not obvious because they promote their ridiculous nickle-and-dime 75 megabyte plans for marginally less.

    • cdavies says:

      Yeah, but then again Palm has all the same problems with craptacular (or mostly just plain missing) APIs, abysmal apps and shitastic software on board.

      I was quite excited about android before I actually played with it. Even with Google's billions behind it, it really doesn't seem to be going anywhere. Of course, Motorola are on board. Their whole strategy involves flinging a whole load of underdone spaghetti at a teflon coated wall. I predict disappointment all round, and more exciting losses for Motorola.

      Maybe one day Android will be something other than version 0.0.1, but that day isn't today.

    • curlyeric says:

      UI/UX is everything on a mobile device, especially a phone.

      The difference between features and reality is why Apple is crushing the rest of the market. Maybe the driod will finally give them a run for their money, but I seriously doubt it.

    • down8 says:

      This is something I can't understand... how I could just ki-

      Er, what is the problem with Android applications. I have want of nothing on my G1. It's either the marketing hype telling ppl Apple has the most "apps" - which they buy into - or that I am blind to the possibilities. Most the "there's an app for that" items are stupid, or reek of laziness/stupidity. Many programs could be better, but I don't see a gaping hole every time I open my G1.

      I only miss CarRec from my WinMo days (way more cabs than Apple has apps), but "Mileage" was close - until I lost all my years of data (imported from CarRec) in a wipe of my phone (since it didn't store data on the SD card).

      Also: fanboy "boo to iPhone, yay for Android!" I didn't expect jwz to be justifying jumping on a trend. It's OK to want to be one of the cool kids, but just admit it. ;^)


  9. Well, at least we'll get a whole new flood of AT&T-directed vitriol out of you now.

  10. bifrosty2k says:

    For all my technolove, I don't get "smart" phones.
    I even bought a "smart" phone and I still don't get it but I don't really care because I bought the phone because it works the best as a phone.

    It is Ironic that the phone comes with MySpace, Twitter and Facebook apps...

    It is also ironic that my phone works where the iPhone, G1 and a few other Droid phones don't work at all - in the web2.0 datacenters.

    • caphector says:

      Just to point out; iPhone does not come with Facebook, Myspace, or Twitter apps. You have to buy them from the App Store to get them.

      • obreerbo says:

        "Buy?" Facebook's app was free. TweetDeck was free.

        Yes, you have to download them, but you certainly don't pay to do so.

      • pushupstairs says:

        the Facebook and Myspace apps are free. Twitter apps range from free to not-free, but several good ones are free (Twitterific, for example).

        know what you're talking about before talking about it.

    • taffer says:

      I still have a regular crappy dumb phone (in fact, I seem to have downgraded recently to an even crappier, dumber phone... Samsung U410; its Bluetooth "support" doesn't extend to file transfers, making the camera entirely useless instead of mostly useless).

      I want a smart phone, probably Apple's, but it's more like an awesome hand-held computer that just happens to also work as a phone. Or a Nintendo DS with useful apps instead of just games.

      All the stuff you'd normally carry around in one handy package. Phone, MP3 player, GPS, notepad, cheap camera, look up reviews/restaurants/etc. at your convenience, etc.

      My biggest objection is how we're getting raped on data/voice plans by Rogers here in Canada; I'm hoping that the upcoming competition from Telus and Bell will open things up a bit, but I'm not holding my breath. All three charge for receiving text messages… and all their existing products/services are so similar to smacks of collusion.

  11. romanticboy says:

    you can use tmobile too, but at 2G speeds. Everything must work just fine because their authorized dealers use them.
    also it voids the warranty.

  12. charles_m_uk says:

    If the pre is anything like the android the main reason for the slowness of the device straight out of the box is that they are shipped with a lowly class 2 microSD (2Mb/s) but for about £15 you can get a larger class 6 (6Mb/s). This almost totally eliminates the lag with opening / closing / buffering of programs.

    I totally agree with you on Apples attitude towards developers; it really does stink.

    I would go for the HTC Hero at the moment, but some other pretty looking androids are on the way though.

    • jayp39 says:

      I would assume that someone like jwz would have already upgraded the microSD card, but if he hadn't that would be good to know.

    • fixedd says:

      Uuuuh... Android doesn't store apps on the SDCard and it doesn't use it for swap. The only way this would make ANY difference was if the app itself were reading/writing to the card.

  13. jmtd says:

    Welcome. The biggest disadvantage of the iPhone is having to withstand random attacks from people merely for owning one (example). But you are probably thick-skinned enough for that not to be a problem.

  14. I was thinking of getting a Pre. I played with a Pre in a shop this weekend (it just came out here), and found that it was disappointingly sluggish, sometimes taking seconds to respond to a touch. I suspect Apple may have had a point in restricting multitasking on phones.

    • lionsphil says:

      The idea that a 500MHz processor is somehow inadequate for multitasking fills me with sad.

      • The fact that each task involves a desktop-grade HTML layout engine and a JavaScript virtual machine probably doesn't help.

        (Which is another place where Apple wins: by having apps which are compiled to native code.)

      • grahams says:

        Implying that clockspeed is useful processor performance metric "fills me with sad", whatever the fuck that means..

        • lionsphil says:

          Would you prefer bogomips? :P

          Yes, it's an ARM, that's not comparable to CISC chips, I'm not allowing for how many ticks an instruction lasts, for pipelining, for caching, yawn. You could run a multitasking GUI on a 12MHz ARM250, for crying out loud (Acorn A3010, for reference). This is such an order of magnitude higher that frankly, yes, I'm going to use it as a rough metric. Get over it.

          • jered says:

            The issue with multitasking is largely the a) small working memory footprint (the iPhone has, what, 32 MB of RAM?) and b) battery life due to not being able to sleep the processor. Item a) is relevant here.

            • lionsphil says:

              Yes, but 32MB would be...well, if not plenty, at least adaquate, if they didn't need each application to be it's own web browser.

              (Wikipedia actually says 256MB.)

            • rodgerd says:

              If you could have a multimedia, multitasking operating system on a 7.14 MHz 68000 in 1985, with 512 KB of memory, I don't see why 32 MB and half a GHz is inadequate now.

      • cdavies says:

        It makes me sad too. I sweated some small amount of blood to make software fast on a 240Mhz chip, and use much less RAM than it did before. I should have just said fuck it, throw hardware at the problem. That's what every other fucker in the industry seems to have done. I blame Linux.

        I can't buy a new phone now, 'cos then I'd have a phone that has more MIPS than the machine that runs my source code repository, and that would just be embarrassing.

    • It's all about control. Windows Mobile multitasks, Android multitasks, S60 multitasks, and they all manage processes and RAM (with varying degrees of success, ahem, WinMo.) If Apple let everyone just keep things going all the time, sure, that'd be bad, but I think kineticfactory nailed it, and I don't think their integration is working out all that well. Something tells me that they can improve the speed of task switching significantly with a little more RAM.

  15. korgmeister says:

    Well, thanks for that update. You've now killed all my buyer's regret for getting an iPhone instead of a Palm Pre. Right in the face.

    Of course, that little voice in my head will probably say "You should have got a blackberry, dumbass!".

    I'd love the iPhone to itty bitty bits if it weren't for
    - Having to use iTunes, which is a godawful piece of software.
    - The PDA functions being arbitrarily gimped, presumably because someone at Apple doesn't want it to be a PDA.
    - The phone parts generally being hellaciously unintuitive.

    I really should just jailbreak the thing, really.

  16. revsphynx says:

    Maybe I'll get bashed for this, but having used an iPhone, a Blackberry, and the old version of the PalmOS (but not the Pre), I'm still happy with my WinMo phone.

    Sure, to get apps that do roughly the same thing as iPhone apps I have to hunt over the web, but if I find one I like, I don't have to worry about Apple or AT&T (or in my case, Verizon) telling me I can't have it. True, Verizon did some dong-sucking with crippling the GPS, but they seem to be realizing that when people can get a stand-alone GPS for under $100, they aren't going to pay $10 a month for their horrid navigator.

    • jkonrath says:

      Given the way the Zune HD handles apploading, Microsoft's recent hard-on for app stores, and the upcoming release of Windows Mobile 7, I'd safely wager that the days of side-loading your own apps onto your WinMo phone may soon be numbered.

      • revsphynx says:

        I dunno, I kind of doubt MS wants to do anything that would hurt WinMo sales. Given their limited market share, they just can't afford it.

        Though with the series of horrid decisions they've made with Windows Mobile so far, you could be right.

    • jwz says:

      Windows: "Sewer rat may taste like pumpkin pie, but I'll never know."

      • revsphynx says:

        They certainly have caused a lot of bad will. If I had been told I'd be defending MS 7-8 years ago when I got my first PalmOS smartphone, I would have laughed.

    • montoya says:

      WinMo gets bashed a lot, but it doesn't totally suck. Its multitasking and notifications are worse than the Pre's, but better than the iPhone's. Its browser is better than Lynx at most pages. And it is the most open platform out there.

      Other than that, though, it's only nice if you're trapped in 2002.

  17. xephyr says:

    Thank you. I had seriously considered getting a Pre, but your earlier escapades cooled my jets a bit. This post has put me over the line. I'll wait to see what Verizon's Android looks like, but I suspect an iPhone may be in my future, as well.

  18. rexroof says:

    After having a Palm Pre since launch day I recently had mine replaced due to hardware failure. I was hoping to run the new phone clean with no software restores and without syncing it back up to Google and Exchange. Due to time and technical constraints, I went ahead and let it download its backup from Palm and re-sync with Google and Exchange. This phone is a LOT faster. I'm guessing this is just something about it being a new phone and eventually the new one will get as slow as the old one was. It seems incredibly short sighted that the Pre has no way to clear off old text messages. Even if you swipe and delete a conversation, any new SMS from that contact brings back the entire history, going back, seemingly, forever. I can only guess what other caching it happening that is never being purged.

    I purchased a new Macbook Pro last month and it came with an iPod Touch. I have to say, after using the iPod touch interface, the Pre feels like I'm sticking my finger into a bowl of jello.

    • jwz says:

      They definitely run faster immediately after a reboot. Presumably Java is to blame, somehow.

      • dse says:

        WebOS 1.0 to 1.1 had a *lot* of memory leak issues, especially if you ran homebrew apps. I believe shitty JavaScript code is at least partially to blame there. That's why a reboot (or a restart of Luna) "fixed" things.

        WebOS 1.2 seems to have improved those somewhat. And yes, I can only say "seems".

      • rexroof says:

        agreed. This phone that I'm using now is markedly faster than my previous phone, though. reboots or no. I'm assuming that eventually it will bog down.

        one downside to note: palm didn't back up my web bookmarks. totally weird.

    • rapier1 says:

      I've not had that issue with the SMS. When I delete a text from my ex I definitely do not see it again the next time she decides to 'just chat'.

      • rexroof says:

        If I delete individual messages, they're gone. If I swipe and delete an entire conversation, it is hidden until that person messages me again, then the conversation history shows back up.

  19. Honestly, this sounds a lot like you're talking about the T-Mobile G1, at least regarding performance.

    The OS is great, SDK is great... but yeah, it's just too slow to respond on the average.

    Not gonna do an iPhone though, there's just too many other drawbacks for me.

  20. "Because it's an appliance that just fucking works."

    Yes. That's why I've got one too.

  21. This is like China going from the "austerity program" to "socialist market economy".

  22. fantasygoat says:

    The iPhone has a lot of flaws, on purpose, but it is well integrated into OSX so you don't have to fuck with it a lot. That, at least, is nice.

  23. john_x says:

    So, after posting here a couple weeks ago (re: Nokia N900/Maemo5: ), I've managed to get my hands on a pre-release N900. I've been pretty impressed with it for the most part for day-to-day phone use. It seems to manage multitasking well and even when you run enough applications that it forces some to be stopped and swapped out, switching apps still doesn't take more than a second or two. The keyboard isn't very fun at first, though I say this coming from a Zaurus background, but once one gets used to it, it's plenty fast and everything is placed fairly logically. I really haven't tried syncing it at all, but people have apparently had good luck with syncing it against servers/services that support exchange sync. I'll try that soon enough I'm sure.
    Anyways, if you have any way to get your hands on one (to play with) without parting with $550 first, it definitely seems worth trying out. Honestly, I wasn't expecting it to be this good...


    • dse says:

      My N810 is somewhat usable but sluggish. They better have done some performance work on Maemo 5 and/or beefed up the N900's hardware considerably.

      • john_x says:

        I've got an N800 as well, and I can say the difference is pretty much night and day. Going from Maemo4 on an OMAP2 to Maemo5 on an OMAP3 is just night and day. This is a *serious* hardware improvement and the software is definitely optimized to take advantage of it. If you're going to stick with the N810 for web surfing, do yourself a favor and install the "Tear" web browser: (and you might want to go into Control Panel->Memory and turn on swap as well). I was quite happy with my N800's performance, up until about October 9th, but now I'm just totally spoiled.

  24. rjb45 says:

    You musy have gotten a BAD unit! I have had NONE of the problems that you described, but then I am just a user, not a developer. Missing Sync, which I used with my Treo, works great syncing iCal and Address Book. I can sync with it without plugging in via WiFi. I load my music via USB. The camera is up and running within 3 seconds. Agenda, PhotoDialer, Evernote, SplashID, Mileage Monitor, Pack 'n Track, are very useful and great programs for what I do. I'm not into games, so I can't speak about them. In general, the Pre is outstanding! The only thing I would change is the screen size. I would like a larger screen. Just got the HTC Hero for my wife and it, too, is great. Again, I think you have a problem with your phone.

    • jwz says:

      I have a friend with a Pre who experiences the same problems that I do. Lots of people online report horrible performance.

      It's the software.

      • rapier1 says:

        It likely is the software but I've also had a good experience with mine. I don't know if its software plus different usage patterns, software plus different hardware sub revs, or some other unholy combination of fuckery. However, I'm leaning more towards software + something to explain your abysmal experience with it.

      • mcg says:

        You failed to mention all the problems with the Pre hardware. Poor reception, crap build quality of the sliding keyboard, won't come out of headphone mode, horrible battery life, etc....

  25. mooflyfoof says:

    I know you've already gotten a lot of responses to this, and my input may be irrelevant because a) you already bought an iPhone and b) we're at different points on the user spectrum. (I too want a phone to "just work", but I'm not a tinkerer and don't plan on ultra-customizing it or writing apps or even really needing to sync it to my desktop.) BUT -- I've been doing a bit of research on phones these days and have found a few that look good so I'd be happy to share the fruits of my research.

    My criteria? Must have a physical QWERTY keyboard (hate hate hate touchscreen keyboards), be reasonably small, have the standard smartphone apps (email, IM, calendar, web browser), and a GPS would be nice too. No AT&T because I've heard so many people bitching about AT&T's service that there's no point in going with them if I'm not getting an iPhone. I've personally already drank the Google kool-aid so it would be nice if things synced to my gmail and gcal, but I've heard not-so-great things about Android phones and honestly? Might be more phone than I need. Plus they seem to be on the expensive side.

    I'll be waiting till after Nov. 2 -- when a bunch of new phones are being released -- to make a final decision, but here's what I'm looking at right now. (Disclaimer: I've never actually played with any of these)

    Sprint --

    LG Rumor 2
    - The specs are pretty good, but the reviews aren't so great

    Samsung Exclaim
    - Better than the Rumor 2, but still not awesome

    Verizon --

    Samsung Rogue
    Excellent reviews - this one looks promising

    LG enV Touch
    - People seem to be quite happy with this phone - another promising one

    T-Mobile --

    Samsung Gravity 2
    Reviews: - decent
    - Relatively uninspiring reviews

    So basically, it seems like Verizon has the best phones. I'll probably be getting either the Samsung Rogue or LG enV Touch. Oh, and all these phones are under $100, with a 2 year contract of course. No clue how much their plans cost yet, though.

    Sprint, Verizon, and T-Mobile are all releasing new Android phones (with physical QWERTY keyboards) in the next couple of weeks. In case you're curious:

    Motorola Cliq from T-Mobile. People are nerdgasming about this one.

    Motorola Droid from Verizon. Don't know much about this one aside from everything it can do that an iPhone can't.">Samsung Moment from Sprint. Apparently this has a 50% faster processor than the other Android phones out there, including the Cliq.

  26. wesswei1 says:

    Wow! Man, that's just too bad! You're one of my favorites and I really like to hear what you have to say.

    I've had an awesome experience with the phone. You're probably right, it could stand to run much much faster, but it was literally just released. When the iPhone was released, I remember a hell of a lot of bugs. Not to mention the closed access to developers. I think Palm is changing daily in their interaction with developers, perhaps because of dealing with you? and not realizing who you are...

    Anyway, I tried the iPhone before the Pre was released and the planned obsolescence business model and HORRIBLE AT&T service in New York keeps me locked to either Verizon or Sprint. I'll duke it out with Sprint and the Palm Pre and hopefully things get better. The hardware can certainly handle the software--we just have to perfect it.

    Good luck with all your prospects!


    • jwz says:

      Sure, the Pre is brand new, it was rushed to market, and blah blah blah. But it doesn't really matter to me how bad the iPhone was two years ago -- I just want a phone that works. Today, tomorrow, and probably most of next year, that phone is not the Pre.

    • radven says:

      Planned obsolescence?

      My two year old first generation iPhone has gotten huge increases in functionality via free software updates. No other phone company has ever done such a good job in continuing to support old hardware. Apple win.

      • spoonyfork says:

        I had my original 2G iPhone through iPhone OS 1.0 to 3.0 and was amazed at how much value Apple added over the upgrades. They really delivered on the promise increasing/improving the functionality of the phone over time. This is very forward thinking and I hope other gadget companies take note. The only reason I replaced the 2G with the 3GS was because I wanted the forthcoming augmented reality apps. :D

        As a testament to the long tail value of the iPhone is the resale value. I was able to get $200 for the 2 year old iPhone 2G on eBay. I'm thinking not many other mobile phone devices can claim a resale value like that... and certainly not after 2 years.

  27. Replace "PalmPre" with "T-Mobile G1" and you have my problem. I fought getting an iPhone since it was first released and I generally consider myself a decent fan of Mac products. I couldn't justify the higher bill and I didn't want to spend so much money on a new phone.

    I gave the G1 six really solid months of use, but the software was so slow and buggy that I couldn't do basic functions, let alone any neat stuff that comes with owning a Smartphone.

    I've had an iPhone since the 3GS came out. do not want anything else ever.

  28. rapier1 says:

    Honestly, I've not had the same experience. For example, it takes 5 seconds for the camera to start and 3 seconds to cycle between shots. Starting the photo application does take longer than I'd like but only around 8 seconds. The calendar - which I admit doesn't have that much in it (maybe 3 a day if that) - swipes from screen to screen in a second. I have had issues with the phone app (which is funny considering that its a fucking phone) when someone calls me and I have to swipe up to unlock the phone. I found just sliding the phone open is a hell of a lot faster though. Obviously I'm not saying that you aren't having these problems or that you are exaggerating. Only that this seems to be a YMMV sort of experience - which, for an appliance, isn't really acceptable.

  29. curlyeric says:

    I broke down a month ago and got an iPhone 3Gs because nothing else came close. My last attempt was a Nokia... Ugh, that's a masochists dream phone.

    The only item on there that's slowish is the camera. On my 3Gs it takes about 15 second to snap the first shot ( from locked to shot ) and then a second or two for successive shots.

    Otherwise the device *just fucking works* there is a vibrant application market and vendors actually design sites for the device. If you form over the $$ for MobileMe then you also get seamless and nearly realtime syncing of contacts and calendars.

    I would say it's weakness is AT&T, but I have yet to experience any of the problems in my area.

  30. lostlogic says:

    I'm still a Pre person. Honestly it sounds like you never were. The fact that one of your major complaints about a cloud connected device was that it wouldn't sync with your desktop ical and mail applications shows that. I also did an experiment promptly upon reading his post and discovered that you at least doubled your perception of how long it takes to take a picture. I was able to go home screen to picture taken in < 8 seconds. Your complaint about the answering lag is totally legit, but honestly not that big of a deal in my personal experience. It also sucks that you gave up before the new policies that Galbraith et. al. are working on for app submission went into effect.

    • jwz says:

      Their new policies won't make my phone go faster.

    • I'm still a Pre person. Honestly it sounds like you never were. The fact that one of your major complaints about a cloud connected device was that it wouldn't sync with your desktop ical and mail applications shows that.

      Wow. Thanks for convincing me never to get a Pre.

  31. montoya says:

    So I don't disagree with you that the phone is unfast, but your problems sound vastly worse than what I've encountered. I have no idea why, and I'm hoping it's not just inevitable aging -- was yours acceptably fast at first?

    Anyway, it sucks that it's unusably slow for you. I would have a hard time going back to an iPhone from the Pre; there's so much UI elegance in the Pre -- its notifications, its multitasking, its use of the gesture area for back/forward in all apps -- that the iPhone just feels clunky in comparison. Plus the iTunes dependency, which fuck iTunes. Plus ATAT, which ditto.

    But of course none of that matters if the phone doesn't work for you...

  32. krick says:

    ...and the Blackberry wasn't an option because....?

    • jwz says:

      I've never heard anyone say anything good about them except "it works great with Exchange".

      • krick says:

        I have a Blackberry Curve 8330 on Verizon and I love it. Before the blackberry, I had a Palm TX (along with a separate Nokia phone). The thing I hated most about the Palm was the lack of a keyboard. Writing with a stylus sucks. Honestly, I have ZERO complaints about the Curve.

    • arkanoid says:

      Because there is really nothing good in BB except "fortune 500 companies use it".

  33. arkanoid says:

    Try HTC Hero. It beats shit out of iPhone - it can do everyting iPhone can, but does it better and unlike iPhone it is not a castrate.

  34. etfb says:

    Very grateful to you, jwz (can I call you Mister Jay-Dub? No? Never mind then.) for going through all the pain, Jesus-style, to deliver us mortals from evil. I was all bouncy for the Palm Pre when I saw it, but your horror stories made me reconsider. A week ago, when I had a chance to upgrade, I went conservative and picked a Nokia E71, which is a tidy little phone without bells and whistles, but with the ability to Just Work. Not going to get into iPhone (I'm not that much into organised religion) and Android is a little too much like the joke about Linux Airlines (everyone runs out onto the runway with their arms out making "zoom! zoom!" noises) so I think I made the best choice for me.

    Couldn't've done it without you!

  35. xtat says:

    I can't help but think you'll have the same experience on the iphone. I've had android, iphone, n70 or something, and the palm, and they all seem to be equally terrible.

  36. siraris says:

    I don't know what Pre you were using, but I just tried both the calendar and the camera. The calendar takes 3 seconds to load, and is instantaneous to swipe between days. The camera app takes 3 seconds to load as well, although I much rather would have had a button on the physical phone itself to bind a quick launch to.

    I agree the phone is a little sluggish, but your numbers are totally overblown. It takes at most 12 seconds to open the camera app, take a pic, and then open the album to view it, not 40.

    Hopefully the hiring of Matthew Tippett to develop a proper GPU API will solve most of the issues with snappiness, and also allow for the implementation of Flash.

    • jwz says:

      There is only one Pre.

      Many other people experienced the same level of delays that I did.

      Try it again after you haven't rebooted the phone in a few days.

      But whatever, I don't care any more. I'm very happy with my iPhone. It just works, it's always fast, and I don't have to have arguments about why my phone is insanely slow while some random guy on the internet says his phone is slightly-less-insanely slow.

      • romanticboy says:

        Perhaps some enterprising person could make an app that reboots the phone after X hours, after a certain idle time period, and only if the sms or email composition or other apps are not open.