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The Palm Pre or the iPhone: Which one's right for you?

We could argue all day about which of these red-hot handsets is the best smartphone of all, but here's a better (and more practical) question: which one is a better fit for you, personally, the Pre or the iPhone?
I've spent quality time with both phones (although not the latest iPhone, the 3G S), and overall, they're two of the best smartphones I've ever tested. So, which one is better? The truth of the matter is that they're each aces at different things—and by the same token, each phone has its weak points.Rather than plow through each and every Pre and iPhone feature to render an absolute verdict (that's been done to death, anyway; click here for a selection of exhaustive reviews), I've ticked off a series of key smartphone functions that'll appeal to different people. I'm not picking an overall winner, and note that I've tipped the Pre for half of the categories listed below, the iPhone for the other half. Take a gander and focus on the activities that matter most to you. Once you've gone through the list, hopefully you'll have a better idea of which phone is better suited to your needs and wants. (And if you have any questions about the Pre or the iPhone—any of them—post them in the comments and I'll get back to you.)And here we go …The (tactile) typist: Palm PreThere's no question that tapping on the iPhone's virtual glass "keypad" takes getting used to—indeed, I've met plenty of peeps who've never warmed up to it. If you're dead-set on an actual, physical keypad, then the Pre is for you. Yes, the Pre's keypad is tiny, but after several days of use I can attest that it's surprisingly easy to use—the domed keys are actually quite prominent, with a nice rubberized feel. The app addict: iPhoneThis one's pretty much a no-brainer for now. With a year's head start on Palm, Apple's App Store is packed with upwards of 50,000 apps, while the Pre's skimpy App Catalog only has about two dozen choices—and Palm has yet to distribute the WebOS SDK to the developer community at large. Until Palm steps up its game, the iPhone reigns supreme as far as apps are concerned.The gabber: Palm PreThe wide, flat iPhone has always been a bit awkward to hold up to your cheek during voice calls (the speaker often ends up an inch or so above my ear), while the smooth, rounded Pre makes for a far more comfortable fit. Then there's the fact that the Pre can automatically (and seamlessly) grab contact info from all your Facebook and Gmail pals, and you can search for contacts right from the dial pad screen. Finally, there's the issue of Sprint's network versus AT&T's—and while signal strength always depends on your local coverage area, it was a joy to chat with friends on the Sprint-powered Pre in my Brooklyn living room without hearing them shout, "What? You still there? Hello?" (And yes, I now own an AT&T iPhone 3G).The videophile: iPhoneThe Pre has a video player, all right, but picture quality on the new Palm phone looks a bit washed out compared to the warmer, deeper color on the bigger iPhone display (or at least, that's how it looks to me). The Pre also seems to chug a bit when it's playing videos, with a occasional stuttering and significant lag whenever you tap the display to bring up the player controls. And while, the iPhone gets access to thousands of downloadable movie rentals and TV shows on iTunes, the Pre's library of video content—even with the streaming snippets of news, sports, and entertainment (plus a few dozen streaming movies) on Sprint TV—is comparatively meager. (Now, if Amazon were to allow "On Demand" movie and TV downloads on the Pre, then we'd really have something.)The multitasker: Palm PreThe Pre's coolest feature by far is its ability to run multiple apps at once, and the new WebOS uses a brilliant interface for swiping between open programs—basically a "deck of cards" that you can shuffle and tap to open. Want to close an application? Just flick the card up and away, and the app flies off the screen with a cool "whhpt!" sound effect. I love it—and it's something you can't do on the iPhone, which forces you to quit one application before switching to another one.The music lover/podcaster: iPhoneThe iPod interface on the iPhone (and the iPod Touch, for that matter) is one of the best in the business, complete with Cover Flow, EQ settings, a scroll bar for "scrubbing" through tracks, "Genius"-generated playlists, and native support for podcasts. The Pre's music player is solid in its own right—I like that you can flick through a row of album covers to see which tracks are coming next—but with no EQ settings or playlist support (beyond tucking all your podcasts into a "Podcast" playlist, if you sync via iTunes), and no scrolling progress bar, the Pre's player falls a bit short.The e-mail/messaging addict: Palm PreThe iPhone's gorgeous Mail app was groundbreaking back in 2007, but the Pre one-ups it with its unified messaging inbox, not to mention native instant messaging and threaded SMS/IM conversations, plus presence indicators baked into the contact list. The Pre does Exchange, as does the iPhone, but it also offers handy e-mail and IM notifications in an unobtrusive window along the bottom of the screen. I can't believe Apple hasn't copied the Pre's notification system for the iPhone yet.The navigator: iPhoneBoth the iPhone (well, the 3G and 3G S models, anyway) and the Palm Pre come armed with GPS and Google Maps, while the Pre ships with Sprint Navigation with turn-by-turn directions. But the iPhone's Google Maps interface is a bit slicker than the Pre's, with the ability to search your contacts directly within Maps and pull up different sets of directions depending on whether you're driving, on foot, or taking public transportation. The iPhone also does Google Street View, while the new 3G S will come with a digital compass that'll orient Google Maps in the right direction. So, which phone is right for you: Pre or iPhone? Or neither? Let us know.The Apple iPhone 3G S will be available June 19 on AT&T for $199 (16GB) or $299 (32GB), while the 8GB iPhone 3G is on sale for $99. The Palm Pre is on Sprint for $199 (8GB only). Note that all prices require new, two-year contracts, and existing subscribers must qualify for a subsidized upgrade.
Correction: As many of you have pointed out, my original post listed the wrong capacities for the new iPhone 3G S; they are (of course) 16GB and 32GB, not 8GB and 16GB. Sorry for the goof.
by : Ben Patterson: The Gadget Hound

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