The Palm Pre created a huge splash when it was unveiled at CES earlier this year. At last, people thought, a worthy competitor to the iPhone was upon us. The Pre, of course, is scheduled for a release sometime in the second quarter of ’09. This means a late June launch at the latest, and according to recent reports, a mid-May launch at the earliest. But despite generating an impressive amount of hype and interest, recent data suggests that the Pre might not sell as well as some might have imagined.
Changewave recently conducted a study of 4,292 potential smartphone buyers, and found that only 4% of respondents expressed interest in purchasing a Palm Pre in the next 6 months. In contrast, 37% of respondents expressed plans to purchase a BlackBerry device, while 30% of those polled indicated that they were planning on purchasing an iPhone.
Someone once said that research studies are like perfume. Nice to smell, but dangerous to drink. So while the above data shouldn’t be looked upon as being conclusive, the results should nonetheless be worrisome for Palm executives.
It’s not about the UI anymore
From the video footage we’ve seen, the Palm Pre looks slick as all hell. It’s super responsive, can multitask, has a multi-touch screen in addition to a pull out QWERTY keyboard, and a new and intriguing OS. That said, the basic UI of the Pre isn’t revolutionary. It won’t attract eyeballs in the way the iPhone first did when it was unveiled in 2007. It’s now 2009 and people are used to touchscreens. Multitouch doesn’t blow people away anymore. Android and the BlackBerry Storm have been on store shelves for months now, and what was exciting and new in 2007 has become commonplace in 2009.
The Smartphone battle no longer hinges solely on the UI. Nowadays, what you can do with a smartphone (music, movies, apps) is what drives sales. In that respect, the app store for the iPhone is already off to a commanding, and perhaps insurmountable, lead.
Why people switch carriers
People love cool phones, but they don’t switch carriers for a phone that just looks “pretty cool.” They switch carriers for phones that blow them away, that offer them something they’ve never seen before. Phones that provide a new level of functionality that was previously unheard of is what motivates people to go through the hassle of switching phone carriers. We’ve looked at over an hours worth of the Pre in action, and while Cards is cool, as is the integration of social networks and calendars, that’s not enough in the minds of consumers to blow them away.
Motley Fool sums it up aptly when it writes:
Therein lies the difference. The iPhone was bigger than AT&T; the Pre is apparently smaller than Sprint.
By all accounts, the Palm Pre looks to be a great device, but is it that fundamentally different from what Apple, RIM, and Google’s Android already offer? Couple that with the fact that the phone will be tied to Sprint, and it’s hard to believe that the Pre will really offer much of a challenge to Apple.