Wednesday, October 14, 2009

HOUSE DIVIDED! Palm Pre vs. HTC Hero!

Those who follow me on Twitter know... I'm a Palm Pre fanboy.

My wife?  A bonafide iPhone fan.  Try as I might to explain to her why the iPhone is worth leaving, ultimately it was Benjamin Franklin who made the strongest case: thanks to Sprint's low rates and their Any Mobile, Anytime feature, we were able to dump our landline for good and save over two grand over two years. Not chump change.

Casting aside my strong recommendation that she get a Palm Pre, my wife instead opted to get the HTC Hero.  The reason?  She actually wanted a virtual keyboard, because it would be the closest thing to her precious iPhone.  The Palm fanboy in me was disappointed, but the geek in me was overjoyed.  And hey, with Sprint's 30 day return policy, if she didn't like  the Hero, she could switch to the Palm Pre, a phone she already knew well...  thanks to yours truly never shutting up about it! 

So how did the HTC Hero fare against "The Pre-cious?" Read on to find out.


A few days in, and I can already tell you:  these are two *very* different phones, each filling a different niche. On one hand there's the HTC Hero, running on an already established, maturing Android platform.  Much like the iPhone, it's essentially a platform for running apps (though unlike the iPhone, in an open, unrestrictive way).  

On the other hand, there's the Palm Pre, with its revolutionary, yet unproven webOS.  The apps aren't there quite yet, but at its core is an already robust operating system that allows for running multiple processes simultaneously in real time.

HTC Hero gets in the first few punches

Having played with the HTC Hero after a couple days I can tell you I'm very impressed. I had a reeeeeal strong bias against it from the outset because of my loyalty to Palm, but it certainly made me a little green with envy on multiple occasions...

Build Quality
While I think the Palm Pre may be a smaller, more attractive device, but there's no question the HTC Hero is built better. There's no moving parts, it has a glass screen (that's supposedly smudge resistant but it ain't all that great), and generally better quality feel to it. 

Features the Pre doesn't have ...
I'm not talking about little things. I mean BIG things like visual voicemail, video recording, voice memo, and expandable memory (up to 32 gb... it comes with only 2 gb, though. Pre has only 8gb). Palm has publicly stated the Pre will get both video recording and visual voicemail in the future, but seeing them on my wife's phone really made me want them NOW.

Apps, apps, apps...
The Android OS has had time to cook... over a year now. So it's had time to build a sizable app store... almost 10,000 apps! And good ones, too. There's an app called "Barcode Scanner" which allows you to scan the barcodes of things in the store so you can look up online reviews of them, etc. Just tonight, I played fuckin' DOOM on her phone. Just like on the PC! Remember that game?! I was overjoyed to see RoboDefense, a game much like the iPhone's Field Runners.  Let's not forget they have a fully functional DataViz Documents to Go app for editing Microsoft Office files. Really, really cool stuff! ... Except for one thing... no screen shots of apps in the Android Market. What's up with that?!

Meanwhile, the Palm Pre's App Catalog is still in beta, with about 150 apps. I know the apps will come because webOS is so easy to write for, but I was kinda jealous.

BUT... even with all of that said, I'm not giving away my Palm Pre anytime soon. Why?

Palm Pre responds! 

** WebOS: **
This is by far the best operating system I've ever seen on a phone. While HTC did their best to make the Hero display multiple widgets, (EDIT: and holding the home button DOES pull up a list of active apps), it's still nowhere NEAR as elegant or effective a solution as on the Palm Pre. Now... webOS DOES take some getting used to: you actually have to TRAIN yourself to use Universal Search and leave multiple apps open at the same time (your initial instinct is to close 'em when you're done). But once you do that, you'll swear by it. Nothing comes close. Not the iPhone, not Android. To ME, this is the most important thing because no matter what I'm doing on my phone, I use this OS all the time. Put simply, it just WORKS.

I always HATED the virtual keyboard on the iPhone. HATED IT! I could never hit the keys right, and the autocorrect was way too intrusive. The Palm Pre has a REAL keyboard. Reviews complain that it's small and cramped... and this was my initial reaction when I first got it. But after 2 weeks or so, I got really fast and accurate... more so than I ever could on the iPhone.  That said, the HTC Hero's virtual keyboard isn't bad... in fact I think it would be slightly BETTER than the iPhone's if it wouldn't lag from time to time. But...  after I got back to typing on my Pre I arrived at the same conclusion: fuck virtual keyboards! Nothing beats tactile. (** And by the way, someone's already made a virtual keyboard for the Palm Pre also... so you get BOTH kinds now, whereas iPhone and Hero are always stuck with virtual only.)

Faster processor:
Burden the HTC Hero with too much stuff, and it'll lag on you. The Pre can get quite laggy too, but overall it's definitely snappier, and updates have made it faster and more stable. ... And that's running MULTIPLE things at once.

The Hero's screen may have 0.1" on the Pre's, but 65,000 colors vs the Pre's 16 MILLION? Child, pleez.

Both use Webkit browsers like the iPhone, and while the Android browser has the great text re-wrapping feature when zooming in and out, the my Pre's browser is simply smoother and faster than my wife's Hero.  In the browser games, speed and smoothness are the trump cards.

Touchstone charger:
This is just an accessory, but the fact that I can just set my phone down on the charger without fumbling with wires is much cooler than I ever anticipated. Really. If you get a Pre, get one of these things.

No Knockouts... Judge's decision!
I'll sum it up like this: all the cool stuff I liked about HTC Hero reminded me how young the Palm Pre is. Clearly, webOS needs to continue to grow and more apps need to come out.  Buuuuuut, playing on the Hero reminded me of how amazing the Palm Pre ALREADY IS.  Being used to the Pre's fluid multitasking abilities, the Android OS seemed primitive to me, despite HTC's bang-up job with their Sense UI.  It really comes down to this: what kind of smartphone customer are you?  What would you prefer... a phone with a more mature app store but primitive (IMHO) OS, versus a phone that's a little green in the apps/features department but has an OS that blows all other phones out of the water?

For me, I chose the latter.  As I said, webOS just works.  The apps and features are coming in, too.  As of this writing the Palm App Catalog is nearing 1000 apps.  Is the Pre perfect? Hell no. Battery life sucks, and I really do miss some features like visual voicemail, etc. But I've enjoyed the hell out of the Palm Pre, and I love how Palm has continued to update it regularly.

  ... You'll make the right call. ;)

For your reading pleasure, I archived my tweets about the Hero when I was first playing with it...  just like on Twitter, the oldest tweets are at the bottom. (Sorry, I ain't reversing 'em!)  Enjoy!

Having owned a Palm Pre tho I can really tell a difference... WebOS UI is so much easier and more fluid than Android at this point.

This keyboard is driving me crazy, tho. Gave me flashbacks to when I had the iPhone! LOL

Finished setting up wife's calendars on HTC Hero. Shows mult calendars like Palm Pre, syncs slightly faster. But no week view or attendees.

Gotta say... the Flash integration in my wife's HTC Hero's browser is pretty sweet. Can't wait 'til Palm Pre gets it!

Setting up my wife's calendar on her HTC Hero. Functional, but rather limited and cumbersome. Already appreciating my Palm Pre more and more

IMO, I gotta say: OVERALL, I'm liking this HTC Hero. Would I recommend it over the iPhone? Absolutely. Over the Palm Pre? Not so fast.

Yep! But no true multitasking and this darn virtual keyboard on HTC Hero are the deqlbreqkers. For ME, it's a Palm Pre! ;)

Twitter widget on HTC Hero doesn't seem to have conversation tracking. Missing Tweed already. ;)

Playin on my wife's HTC Hero. Very nice device, but the keyboard would drive me bananas. Wife's not so sure about it, either. Growing pains.

HTC Hero Android 1.5 is awesome... but Palm Pre webOS 1.2 is even better. ;)

I still favor Palm Pre's REAL keyboard, but for a software kb, I think HTC Hero trumps iPhone: less intrusive w customizable autocorrect.

Another observation: HTC Hero's 65,000 colors are no match for Palm Pre's brilliant 16 million colors.

One last point: HTC Hero DOES do background processes, but doesn't multitask nowhere NEAR like Palm Pre. Still have to close out of apps.

I'm appreciating my Pre's UI more. The Hero's UI can get quite busy.

ARRGH!! HTC Hero has Shazaam. Dammit I wish webOS had that app!

Scroll speed in HTC Hero's browser absolutely spanks my Palm Pre and wife's old iPhone 3G. But again, load time can be slow.

RT @SandynLos: I would definitely get an Android phone if I didn't have the Palm Pre. I love webOS. <-- AGREED!

HTC Hero doesn't seem to have all the lag I'm reading about. But we haven't loaded any apps or songs on it yet. ;)

Ugh. My wife has duplicates, triplicates, and QUADRUPLICATES of some of her contacts on her HTC Hero. Eesh... :-/

After several tests, it's clear my Palm Pre's browser is faster than wife's HTC Hero, BUT I LOVE how her Hero parses text w zoom in/out!

My wife's 7 pages of HTC Hero's Sense UI are completely full now and I must say it's lookin' cluttered. Where the hell is universal search?!

HTC Hero's OS much more utilitarian and "tech" rather than simple and fluid like the Pre's. I'm favoring the latter right now.

HTC Hero's contact handling NOWHERE NEAR matches Palm Pre's synergy for linking accts / ease of use, BUT... it lets u choose which Facebook friends 2 add.

One thing's for sure: my Palm Pre's web browser runs circles around my wife's HTC Hero... more to come. This is a geek's dream come true LOL

HTC Sense UI on Hero is nice, but I can tell you right now the Palm Pre's UI and multi-tasking is WAY more elegant and easier to use.

Thus far I'm seeing my wife's HTC Hero very different from Palm Pre. Pages of widgets not quite multitasking, but cool nonetheless.

Didn't like the haptic feedback on the HTC Hero's virtual keyboard, though: vibration was delayed. Pretty sure it can be shut off. (Edit: It can!)

My wife does not like the Sprint HTC Hero's brown/bronze color at all. Wanted the white color seen on Euro Hero.

Very 1st impressions: HTC Hero feels good in hand, virtual keyboard is actually pretty nice: very smooth, with great unintrusive autocorrect.

Holding them side-by-side, HTC Hero feels more solid than Palm Pre, but slightly clunkier, definitely non-descript appearance.

Awesome! My wife dumped her iPhone for the HTC Hero! We decided to check it out for 1-2 wks. If not all that, she'll go Palm Pre.

So my wife checked out the HTC Hero. It's VERY nice but I still think my Palm Pre wins the day. Details to come.

About to head to Sprint to check out Palm Pre vs HTC Hero for wife. But I'm still clutching to my "Precious," the Palm Pre!


    1. I must say that I really enjoyed this reviews. Granted it's not super professional like Engadget, but I really enjoyed it.

      Look for my blog coming soon where I will be reviewing all the audio apps on the Palm Pre and their functionality both on the go (walking, train, etc) and in the car with bluetooth audio.

      Might be too niche of a market, but it will be my first time doing such a project.

    2. Couple of questions for you re: things that annoy me about my Pre:

      1) Can you switch days between calendar events faster than on Pre?
      2) Can the Tasks/TODO application create repeating entries?
      3) Can you set alarms on a Task/TODO entry?
      4) When you're creating a calendar entry, and you want to enter it for next Tuesday, does it give you a view that lets you easily identify next Tuesday?
      5) When you enter a phone number in the dialer, does it (in real time) match a name from your contacts?

      Other questions that I have after having seen reviews of the Hero:

      1) How is the facebook/twitter integration? I see the people app showing lots of information - including alerting you when someone has had a facebook/twitter update. Does it work well?
      2) How does multitasking work? I know you mention that it's not "real" multitasking. How do you put an app in the background and how do you return to it?
      3) How do you like "scenes"?

    3. Hi all! Thanks for your feedback.

      1) Switching days in calendar events is faster on the Hero than on the Pre. But be warned there's no weekly view, you can't select which calendars are visible (they're ALL shown), and you can't see attendees. (At least, I haven't found a way to do it yet).

      2-5) I don't know yet but I'll look into it. Entering tasks is very similar to Pre.

      Other questions:

      1) Facebook on Hero is nice, but now that Facebook has released a better mobile site on the Pre, the point is moot in my book. If it's notifications you need, then the $1.99 app Friends Flow fills that gap rather nicely.

      I was disappointed by the Hero's native Twitter app. It looks pretty, but has very limited functionality... think Twitter mobile web and you wouldn't be far off.

      2) Multitasking on Hero: You can flip through 7 pages to see your widgets. But if you tap into any of them to open the actual APP and then want to do something else, you'll have to CLOSE out of it and open another (ala iPhone). So while it CAN run multiple WIDGETS as well as run background processes, it's nowhere near as nice as the Pre's cards method of switching between apps. It's effortless.

      3) Scenes are great in concept, but:
      ... I didn't appreciate too much of a difference between them, and
      ... Switching between scenes takes about 10-20 seconds. Meh.

      I actually think the PALM PRE could take the concept of "scenes" even further... opening/closing GROUPS of apps that can remain be used simultaneously. For example "WORK" scene would open Email, SMS, Tasks, Calendar, Memos, Quick Contacts, and Calculator with a single tap! ... See why I like the potential of this OS so much? ;)

    4. Actually you can multitask with apps in Android. Your supposed to hold the home button and all the running apps are shown then you select which one you want to use. You can also download for free a task killer and take it even further by manually killing running apps as you see fit

    5. This comment has been removed by the author.

    6. Great review, even though it has a bias towards the Pre, it was still a fair and great rundown of what each phone can and can't do.

      I have gone from Palm 650, to Centro to 755p. I am so ready for a new phone. My Sprint contract ended in August, and with the announcements of new phones to release soon I just don't know what to get.

      I am leaning towards the Hero, but the processor speed urks me. Since they announced The Moment, that has faster processor and physical keyboard, AMOLED screen and 16M colors. that made me put the hold on the Hero. Im still torn though.

      Pre vs iPhone vs Hero vs Moment. iPhone is my last choice due to being on ATT. What to do!

    7. Well, I WOULD give Samsung Moment my full recommendation but there's two things I see right off the bat:

      1) Doesn't have the awesome HTC Sense UI. Just a bare-bones Android device.

      2) I used to think I liked landscape keyboards until I discovered how hard it is to type with one hand! You'll almost always need two.

    8. Dan:

      Awesome review that you gave here, even if it is slanted towards the Palm Pre. I'm an old Palm-guy from way back and I so want to switch to the Pre, but I am reading these blogs, reading some of the posts from, and elsewhere and I am highly concerned about build quality (some people are writing in and saying that they've returned their Pre's up to... not joking now... 10 TIMES!). Others have stated that they've had to turn into their own IT department in order to use it ("The Pre, however, has been nothing but work for me since I got it. It's a continuous struggle for us non-developers to figure out how to do all the things necessary to get simple apps that I assumed would be in a legitimate app catalog, not a beta, and not one so insignificantly small.
      I hate to admit that I'm totally lost, but I am, and despite some of the advantages of the Pre, I believe I made a huge mistake in purchasing the Pre instead of an iPhone.").

      I want to get this thing, but I don't want to have a high-maintenance phone. I want to turn it on, I want to make calls with it, I want full Microsoft Exchange (Entourage via my Mac) syncing, surf the web (freaking cool webOS interface!), keep up with social networking, and text with a full keypad. I want the promises that Palm offers, and I want to see them succeed, and I am willing to do my part to help them, but I do not want to sign up to a medium-to-longer term problem.

      Dan, have you read these posts to this forum?
      Could you please offer any comments that you'd care to?


    9. Hi Joe,

      Thanks for reading. Let me start off by saying I bought my Pre on launch day (6-6-09), so it's one of the older builds. With few minor exceptions (see my post on simple fixes for the Palm Pre... ), it has not let me down. And I'm being as genuine as I know how in telling you it's the best phone I've ever owned.

      Regarding the forums. Yes, I've been there quite a few times, but I would take those posts with a heaping helping of salt, for three reasons...

      Naturally, people writing in those threads are going to be unhappy. Put it to you this way: during my training as a pediatrician, I became terrified that when I had a kid I would most certainly have one with a rare disorder. Why? Because I saw them all the time! When I came out of training into the real world, I was reminded that those conditions were, in fact, rare. The same applies here... the majority of Pre owners are happy with their phones, and as I mention in my simple fixes article, I think return rates could be even lower if owners were better educated on these fixes.

      2) I'm highly suspicious of people who report exorbitant numbers of Pre's returned. As much as I love this phone if I was past Pre #3 I'd strongly consider moving on to another device. I've acted as "tech support" on Twitter long enough to learn that when people say they've gone through this many Pre's, they're either:

      a. in over their heads (or as my cousin likes to say, "tech-stupid", or

      b. LIARS. I've expose enough of these on Twitter to substantiate this.

      At the bottom of my "Simple Fixes" article, I have links to tech websites who report on the more realistic return rates for the Palm Pre. Those range anywhere from 2-11%. Not bad for a first generation device. In fact, one of those articles points out that the iPhone 3GS (a THIRD generation device) has a return rate of 7%.

      Hope that helps...