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Something to think about... / blog
Palm Pre is beating the iPhone at its own game

Written by on January 16, 2009

The last thing I expected to happen this January was to see a product from Palm that would be really impressive. But the unexpected sometimes happens, and the new Palm Pre is very cool - especially from an interactive design perspective.

Palm presented their new Palm Pre at a keynote earlier this week (see video below), and even at the start you knew something special was going on. You could see it in their faces. They had made something they were really proud about.

And the Palm Pre is impressive.

Apple revolutionized the ease-of-use of Smart phones, which before the iPhone was severely lacking. But Palm has now taken that to another level. They have made an interaction concept that is more powerful, yet easier to use than both the iPhone and the Android.

While there are many similarities with the iPhone in terms of the interface, there are a number of new things that really makes a difference.

First of all is the mode-free approach. All other smart phones (except Windows Mobile) puts you into a "mode", where you have to complete one thing, before you can do something else.

This is especially noticeable on the iPhone. You cannot, while writing an email, switch over to the browser (or another email), to check something. But you can do that with the Palm Pre. This is an exceptionally important element to having a smooth workflow.

The mode-free approach also extends to other uses. On other Smartphones you are either sending an SMS, or an instant message - but never both. On the Palm Pre, you can send out an SMS, receive an GTalk reply, respond using your AIM chat, and get a SMS in return. And it is all been treated as a single conversation, in a single view, and in a single interface.

No other companies allow such fluid interaction between many different sources. Not even on the desktop.

Another thing, which the Palm Pre does well, is that there is a very short distance to anything. The number of steps required to do things have been reduced to near nothing.

This is mostly due to heavy use of gestures. There will be a bit of a learning curve, and there is really no secondary navigation to help you if you get stuck. IPhone users are probably not going to have a problem picking up on it, nor will the new generation. But us "old people" will experience some confusion at first.

But, just as the iPhone made everything much easier by introducing gesture based interaction, so will the Palm Pre. The initial learning curve is simply just something to get over with. It will be well worth it.

And finally, the always-annoying notifications have been put in their place. When you are notified of something, the notification is not locking your screen. Instead it shows you the event, but allows you to complete whatever you are working on before you have to take action on it.

All in all, the Palm Pre looks very impressive. I don't think it will have as much of an impact as the iPhone; it will just be one of the many choices. The iPhone still leads the pack, mostly due to its integration with iTunes and the App Store.

The Keynote

(via Palm)

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Thomas Baekdal

Thomas Baekdal

Founder of Baekdal, author, writer, strategic consultant, and new media advocate.

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