The iPhone’s chubby, less attractive cousin

Palm made its final grasp for relevance earlier today with the launch of a new operating system and device. The Palm Pre looks as if it has been defined by the iPhone. In fact it reminds me of when I was younger and would go out with my friends. I or my friend would find a young woman that he was attracted to and the other one of us would have to keep the woman’s less attractive friend company.

Palm Pre JPG

The phone has a lacquered plastic look and a flush fitting touch screen (hmmm where have I seen this before)? Where the Pre moves away from the iPhone template in looks is in its curves and a slider keyboard (think smartphone love handles) giving it a fuller profile. There are no surprises in the phone specification and from what I can see on the Palm website and blog Mac users don’t seem to be given any sync love by Palm (they need to check out Nokia’s approach).

The iPhone’s influence can be felt beyond the product design: the webOS seems to be similar to the web application vision that Apple rolled out with the first version of the iPhone, the difference being that EVDO provides a faster pipe than EDGE. Palm has also launched the device as a carrier exclusive with Sprint, in an obvious parallel with Apple’s AT&T tie-in.

Like the iPhone, the Pre has a unique benefit. The Pre’s answer to visual voicemail is an integration of IM and SMS in the same threads that extends one of the best things about the Treo range, this is something that Nokia has experimented with in Nokia Chat (along with location data). I used to love the way SMS were handled in strings like IM so it made sense to put both of them together.

Probably the cleverest piece of design in the Pre is the phone’s charger which operates by magnetic induction (just like my magnetic toothbrush).  The ultimate arbiter of the device’s success will be the market and I think that boils down to people being able to accept the Pre for its kooky self rather than comparing it to the iPhone.