Why iPhone users won’t flock to the Palm Pre come June

Fri, Mar 6, 2009

Analysis, Featured, News

Palm investor Roger McNamee recently stated that when the phone contracts of the initial iPhone owners expire this summer, they’ll all be jumping ship for the Palm Pre – which should be shipping by then.

“”You know the beautiful thing: June 29, 2009, is the two- year anniversary of the first shipment of the iPhone. Not one of those people will still be using an iPhone a month later. Think about it – If you bought the first iPhone, you bought it because you wanted the coolest product on the market.  Your two-year contract has just expired. Look around. Tell me what they’re going to buy.”

First of all, this statement belies a common misconception about Apple owners – namely that their purchasing decisions are fueled by and are a function of their desire to be “cool”.  While these customers undoubtedly exist, the iPhone has sold millions of units simply because its feature set leapfrogged all other competing smartphones in one fell swoop.  Think about it – the iPhone was unveiled more than two years ago, and competitors are still struggling to play catchup.  Apple doesn’t create hype to sell products.  Rather, the ingenuity of the products themselves create the hype.

Second, let’s assume for a second that Apple users are as ‘cool consious’ as McNamee implies.  Why, then, would they purchase a Palm Pre when the iPhone is still the yardstick for ‘cool’ in the smartphone market.  Sure, the Palm Pre has gotten rave initial reviews, and it may very well prove to be a slick device, but the majority of this hype lies solely in the domain of the geeky who actually pay attention to what happens at CES.  The reality is that the average iPhone user probably has never even heard of the Palm Pre.  Also, keep in mind that as slick as the Palm Pre appears to be, it doesn’t really offer anything that new that will impress users to the extent that they’ll drop their AT&T iPhone plans.  Sure, it has a qwerty keyboard, but if that was such an essential feature for users, then they would have presumably have already switched to another phone.  What are you left with?  Palm Cards?  MMS?  Cut and Paste?  All cool, but features like cut and paste aren’t enough to sell a phone.

The iPhone is essentially a software platform, and as users inevitably become more tied to the content it holds, whether it be games, music, or movies, it’s extremely unlikely that a significant portion of iPhone users will all of a sudden decide to jump ship and sign up for a new 2 year contract with a different service provider.  Signing up for a new phone in 2007 meant giving up your old phone.  Now it means giving up an assortment of software and media content, which is undoubtedly a harder sell for a company like Palm to make.

Quickly, there’s an old story about Boston Celtics legend Larry Bird competing in the NBA 3-point shooting contest in the mid 80’s that comes to mind.  In the locker room before the competition, Bird, ever the trash-talker, looked around and brashly asked the other competitors, “So which of you guys is playing for second place tonight?”  If you’ll indulge me and my basketball analogy for a second, the iPhone is currently the ‘Larry Bird’ of smartphones at this point.  Competitors are basically fighting over who’s going to win second place as the iPhone continues to nail shots from the corner with the multi-colored money ball.

Okay, back to reality.

Admittedly, the Palm Pre looks awesome, but implying that the Palm Pre will be an iPhone killer when it doesn’t even have a hard ship date is a bit delusional at this point.  McNamee, though, seems like a good guy and really seems to genuinely believe in the inherent quality of the Palm Pre, and that’s something you gotta respect in a time when most companies are churning out phones that are just “good enough.”  Palm, on the other hand, is actually trying to create a phone that is “better than”, and that can only be a good thing for the industry.  The Palm Pre may well prove to sell like hotcakes, but if so, it’s highly improbable that that’ll be the result of defecting iPhone users.

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35 Comments For This Post

  1. Ian Homer Says:

    I fancy my bets on Blackberry and Symbian enterprise users defecting to the Palm Pre. That’s where the big delta in user experience lies and if Palm get their marketing and partnerships right the Palm will go down a storm. I got my hands on a Palm Pre at Barcelona MWC and I was sold, but I don’t have an iPhone and I suspect iPhone users won’t see it as anything better if they already know and love their iPhone.

  2. Alfiejr Says:

    But the Pre has no ecosystem to support it. assuming it comes out more or less on time this year, with more or less the features Palm has promised, it still will have no Google world like Android will, no Ovi like Nokia phones will, no whatever the heck it is called like Win Mobile will, no crackberry Exchange fraternity like RIM does, and of course no iTunes/Mobile Me universe like the iPhone – which is far ahead of all the others.

    the smartphone a consumer buys nowadays is not just the handset, with its bells and whistles. it’s the entire package of integrated desktop programs and on-line services it is a part of. and Palm is just too small a company to put all that together on its own.

  3. Gareth Says:

    You forgot to mention that the Palm Pre has full A2DP Bluetooth for stereo streaming and file transfer which the iPhone does not. It’s also a multi-tasking device which Apple forgot about when building the iPhone.

    You can run multiple applications on the Pre such as loading email while navigating a web page. Forward text messages which the iPhone can’t do.

    There are a raft of features the Pre covers which the iPhone does not.

    Oh and full GPS and navigation instead of AGPS which we all know is pants.

  4. Drew Says:

    Oranges to Apples. Your comparing the iPhone to a phone that doesn’t have a ship date! If the Pre does come out in June, Apple will probably be shipping the next generation iPhone. Even if the iPhone doesn’t have A2DP, multitasking AGPS ect. the media hype for the new iPhone will still bury the Pre.

    Soooo tired of people crying about multi-tasking! You’ll be charging your Pre 3 times a day with all that important multi-tasking! But then were really getting ahead of ourselves, the Pre may never see a store shelf if Apple decides to enforce iPhone’s ‘200 plus patents’ or the new multi-touch patent.

    The only thing people will be ditching the iPhone for after the contract expires is a new iPhone.

  5. mark Says:

    Gareth: Comparing the yet-to-be-released Pre to last year’s iPhone is ridiculous. You’ll see in a couple of months.

  6. AdamC Says:


    My respects, an analyst was denied a Pre and yet you got the chance to try out one.

  7. ms Says:

    Re: the iPhone….”the ingenuity of the product created the hype”


    That’s the funniest thing I’ve ever heard. More like it’s easily 60-70% hype generated by media and fanboys. And other tech wannabe’s with nothing to actually report, so they create hype. How do I know? Because the hype is created months or over a year before the actual product is in anyone’s hands. And it spirals from there.

    Hype hype hype hype is definitely not created by the product itself.

    Honestly what a joke of a statement. I thought it was pretty much well known that Apple has this strange ability to command media presence, even to the point where they are credited with firsts that they completely didn’t achieve. Anyone know of mp3 players before the iPod? Much of the media didn’t despite that there were many great mp3 players developed earlier. Media have a very odd selective memory and credit apple where they don’t deserve it.

  8. sundene Says:

    The ingenuity of the product did create the hype.

    Sounds like “ms” has an axe to grind, though I can’t see why. Plain and simple, the iPhone works for many where the Blackberry or similar can be frustrating. As with most Apple products, the user interface is so simple that this in itself appeals to a huge number of diverse personality types and user needs. Sometimes hype is based on reality-if the iPhone and iPod were not quality products, they would quickly die out in favor of other phones or mp3 players. That they hold their market share speaks volumes.

  9. Brad Says:

    Yes, I remember MP3 players before the iPod. They had very little memory and used USB 1.1, so it took ages to put even one album on them. This made the large, bulky hard drive players even more useless, unless you left them plugged in for a weekend to move your music to them. Then along came iPod with fast firewire syncing and a small form factor in a hard drive player. After that it was feature upon feature and an elegant hardware evolution. You obviously don’t use Apple products. They spend a lot of time on how humans interface with electronics so that the experience is more natural and intuitive. It’s not all advertising and hype. It just isn’t.

  10. Anonymous Says:

    that is a terribly worded headline

  11. Sarah Says:

    MS – seriously. What have you been drinking? Like or hate the iPhone, but when it came out it was far far and away better than enything any of us had ever seen. The hype Apple got from it was totally deserved. I’m not saying Apple doesn’t have a media presnece and that so me products have been over-hyped, but the iPhone was not it. IPhone changed the entire mobile landscape. It brought real Internet to your cell. It brought real apps to the cell. It changed the game and made all the other handsets work 500% harder to catch up.

    I have an XP laptop, a blackberry bold and an iPhone. (the dual cells are because of work). Blackberry is still a great device, but still not as good as my iPhone (which is a crappy 2G version). I’m no Apple fan, but I am no dumb naysayer either.

    And no, I won’t be running out to buy a Palm Pre. It’s a hail mary from a company that burned out long ago. It may be a good device, but devices aren’t the solution anymore. It’s about way more, and for the foreseeable future, Apple keeps my business. Switching would be too much of a pain anyways.

  12. Sarah Says:

    And yes, I have typos. My Fujitsu keyboard jumps. But it’s been a good laptop overall.

  13. Evan Says:

    Excellent Larry Bird metaphor.

  14. Spork Says:

    I love all of the touted “IPhone” killers. Whenever anything like this happens it makes me think of things like 50Cent vs Kanye West in album sales…. it almost certainly seems to doom the IPhone killers.

    I myself am an avid WinMo user (HTC Touch Pro), but not for the same reasons someone may want an Iphone. There are some things that winmo does better than the Iphone(and I use them for business), but the minute I wouldn’t need those things I wouldn’t hesitate about getting an Iphone. It’s not because I think the Palm Pre is going to be a bad product, it’s because I have seen how Palm had rested on it’s laurels before and let it’s user base fall behind on Smart Phone Technology.

    The Iphone is definitely the yard stick of cool, and if that is where the Palm Pre wants to go then it is definitely a high hurdle to jump. I would hate to make that Joe Namath scale prediction and not be able to follow through, because when they don’t it will be thrown back in their face.

  15. Josh Says:

    Yeah…Bluetooth…more like Who Tooth. Nobody fucking uses Bluetooth. Its completely pointless as nobody is zinging songs to each other. Its for IT nerds that masterbate to ascii text portraits of women.

    Apple didn’t need to hype this. Every good and usable product built its own hype. If Palm doesn’t understand this (and they don’t), they better get cracking. As I don’t think anyone knows or remembers that Palm exists anymore.

  16. John C. Randolph Says:

    There are a raft of features the Pre covers which the iPhone does not

    When will you understand that it’s not about checking off the boxes on the features list? My old Sony-Eriksson phone did all kinds of things that I never used. I use those same features on the iPhone. Try to figure out why that is.


  17. SheVegas Says:

    The iPhone is a portable computer with phone capabilities and an all inclusive data plan. The simplicity of the OS is the key.

    Expect Apple to drop a new phone by summer, standard apple performance and spec increases.

    And one last thing! Sweet lens with supported video recording.

  18. Lets clear this Says:

    People please stop the fanboyishm and see the advantages on pre as they are. yes i have an iPhone, good lets go.

    Pre features that make me switch are:

    -multitasking (yes it’s something that really really should be in iphone).
    -synergy (from all the videos it seems really awesome).
    -C/P (not to have is just ridiculous)
    -MMS (yeah i want to send these to my friends who dont have anything better).
    -GPS (yes,sir).
    -FLASH adobe FLASH real FLASH(no apple will not have it anytime soon, because it would be a threath to their appstore).
    -camera flash
    -yeah the qwerty (yeah i want one to make things more robust and easy. if you cant figure the advantages, then your not worthy of qwerty).
    + many many more that i really dont even care about. yeah there will be an appstore and other apple like crap.

    Now to all the people who still think that aplle is suing palm for multitouch, it’s not. palm has way too great patent arsenal for apple to stand a change + apples multitouch patent isnt what most of you think it is.

    Im going to get pre, and if it lives to everything i seen from the videos and seems to have a future after one month of release, im going to say goodbye to my diePhone

  19. redcard Says:

    Lets clear this, you are clearly stupid and can’t think rationally, and you type like a monkey

  20. Spork Says:

    @ Josh

    On Bluetooth, I think you are wrong about bluetooth. While not everyone uses all of the possible bluetooth profiles, there are many that are useful and you don’t have to be a tech geek to appreciate them.

    Some that I have a hard time without is PBAP, LAN, HFP (all used with my vehicle, Honda/Acura OEM Nav system), and SYNCH, and DUN for my laptop.

  21. Lets clear this Says:

    @redcard. Lol, i thought it was obvious im not a native english speaker. Let’s see you try my language 🙂 Well i might be stupid, but i bet you understood some of my bad english, that i made my stupid, unrational brain learn amongst 2 other languages.

    Anyway you leave me wondering, what was so stupid and unrational about the features that i see valuable?

    I guess the features i mentioned hit your fanboy mindset a bit too hard?

  22. holajavier Says:

    lets be clear is on track. it’s funny how people can make arguments dismissing something they have little or no knowledge of. i agree with others here it’s not so much about the device itself, but most of the advantages of the pre is the os that it runs on. the one thing that will define palms success will be if they can excite the development community which will however ultimately follow adopters.

    while i think roger mcnamee is wrong he’s absolutely genius. how better to get the word out about a platform you feel is better (as do i) than pit it against the obvious market leader. you may introduce the phone to people who may have otherwise never found it. at this point for palm, it’s about creating buzz and any attention and press is good.

    that said, what was palm thinking about announcing a device 6 months before it’s ready for release? well at least in the detail that was given at ces. congrats palm, way to cut into your own sales! can you say osborne effect?

  23. Petr Says:

    You are right, that Palm pre will not catch on with the vast majority of iPhone users. However, not for the reasons given… But for the mere fact that most iPhone users are walking around with their heads up in their arses, playing the “Anything Apple= Uber cool” card. Regardless of functionality… Branding rulez!

  24. Rimantas Says:

    So, Petr, if iPhone is such a lame device and users are such morons, why does Roger McNamee even talk about this phone?
    iPhone is cool _because_ of the funcionality. It is not about _what_ it can do, it is about _how_ it does what it does.

  25. Neil Anderson Says:

    Functionality trumps features. And the iPhone has both in spades.

  26. Digital Mercenary Says:

    Flash….what a crock! I hate Flash on my computer and I would hate it even more on my iPhone. Sorry, but I consider the lack of Flash to be a feature.

  27. Model Trains Says:

    Digital: What?!?!? Flash has really revolutionized the internet and it is very wide spread. I design in flash every day and people really seem to love it, what exactly is your problem with it?

  28. Spork Says:


    While the Iphone is great because what it does do, it does very well, and very easily….. let’s not try to hide that Apple definitely try to play up the cool factor. Justin Long… phooey. Actually Justin Long is just a small piece of it, but a big piece of their marketing. The product really speaks for itself.

    Now, if I could get some tethering (something like WMWifiRouter would be nice), MMS, Flash, Office (not sure if it does this yet or not), and freed from the closed apple development and release system (I really wouldnt be into Jailbreaking), and a CDMA version (I have a plan with Sprint that is almost impossible to beat (500 anytime minutes, unlimited nights and weekends starting at 7, unlimited data, unlimited texting, unlimited MMS, free sprint to sprint, for $30 a month), then I would buy one.

  29. Bill Says:

    My Treo died after 4 months of use, and Palm wanted $100 just to look at it, plus more for a repair. Fortunately ATT sent me a refurb, just like 4 of my other 5 friends with a Treo. Palm quality sucks and support is rotten. My iPhone works just fine. Exchnage gives me mail. calendar and contacts, but my partners with Blackberry’s only get mail. IT said it will cost $20,000 to buy the server software [or hardware] to get full Exchange function from a Blackberry. That’s the “RIM tax”.

    Anyway, I Jailbroke my iPhone and now have GPS navigation with voice prompt [called xGPS 1.2, for free], and downloaded a multitasking app, although who really needs to do several things at once on a phone. iPhone is fast enough to pick up the pace one at a time. Also, multitasking is gonna eat up that battery. Good luck with your Palm Pre. It will work for about 4 to 10 months and you’ll need a new one.

  30. Steve G Says:

    I’m another iPhone owner that won’t be giving up their iPhone any time soon.

    The reason my wife and I have iPhones is not because they are cool but because they do what they do really well. Of course they are not perfect (no MSS, crap camera, no video recording, no cut and paste, apps crash a bit) but what it lacks in features it makes up for in usability.

    The other thing is apps – the sheer volume of high-quality apps fulfilling every trivial task, and the ease of finding and installing them.

    I won’t be swapping my iPhone for anything Palm anytime soon, that’s for sure. I’ll be doing what most other owners will be doing. Waiting for the next iPhone!!!

  31. SD Says:

    In India there is very less awareness about Palm’s new Pre OS but people here love their iPhone including me and I don’t think they will let go their “useful” iPhone anytime soon.

  32. jon Says:

    to the douche that said Pre multitasking will kill Pre´s battery: guess what, all the recent and not so recent symbian phones from Nokia, Samsung, Sony Ericsson, have the same 128mb of RAM as the Iphone, however they multitask wonderfully, managing to run 20 or more 3rd party apps at the same time, and guess what, even so, battery liffe is BETTER than the jesusphone LOL

    meanwhile, wait for the (cra)push notifications…LOL

  33. jon Says:

    Apple has to deliver, not with another hardware revision, but with the rumored “iphone 3.0” firmware…is there that they can answer the Pre, Android, Symbian, etc…the existing hardware is enough for much more, like the jailbreak scene shows over and over

  34. mikhailovitch Says:

    The Pre looks very good, potentially the first serious challenger to the current generation iPhone.
    Palm’s problem is that they will be competing with the NEXT generation iPhone, which, if you go by Apple’s track record with the iPod, will probably head off in directions that none of the competitors who’ve been struggling so hard to catch up will have even thought of.
    Remember, this is Palm’s umpteenth generation smart phone. It’s Apple’s second. Who has the most potential for improvement?

  35. steviefresh Says:

    the iphone is great but not perfect… the pre shows flaws in it (no multi-tasking and ABSOLUTELY a horible phone). that being said, the iphone brought the smartphone to next level. one thing it has right now that isn’t out there and no one seems to address is HTML email. its nothing like reading an email on a blackberry or palm. With a large screen for viewing attachments, it is an unbelievable as a business device (not to mention bus apps, full color calendar, exchange email / full color calendar sync, the ability to use the phone as a flash drive, and the BEST web browser). and at the same time it is the best as a multimedia device (games galore, pandora / aol radio, great pucture app, ipod, videos, youtube, headphones with mic and ability to pause/play and seek tracks) – what other phone can match. To say its overhyped is a joke!! HOwever there are a lot of things its capable of that they are holding back on and its really really frustrating (landscape text/email, copy / paste. background apps, video, camera zoom). good far far outweighs the bad, otherwise no one would put up with POS phone service.

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