Pre Eve: An Early Christmas for Palm?

As the sale date for the Palm Pre approaches, the smartphone received mostly positive — and in some cases glowing — reviews solidifying it as a viable iPhone challenger. Plus, beyond the feature comparison, competitively priced service plans from Sprint make the Pre a more affordable alternative to the iPhone.

The sleek design and new operating system webOS are positioning the make-or-break Pre as the first viable competitor of the iPhone.

Industry watchers say key Pre features lacking in the iPhones include the pull-out keyboard, the capability to multi-task by having multiple applications open at once and a removable battery.

Also receiving kudos are the copy-and-paste function, universal search, over-the-air sync with Google calendar and Microsoft Exchange and iTunes music library synchronization.

On the downside, most pundits bemoaned poor battery life and took issue with the number of applications available at launch, though programmers with webOS experience have predicted a thriving developer and app ecosystem will take root.

Meanwhile, what may be lost in the analysis over form and function is how much the Pre will cost over the term of a two-year service contract — something that consumers are sure to have on their mind when the device goes on sale tomorrow.

At the outset, the iPhone and the Pre cost the same: the 8GB iPhone 3G costs $200, and so does the Pre with a $100 mail-in rebate. But the service contract from Sprint offers a better deal than that of the iPhone, which is sold exclusively through AT&T, said Peter Pham, CEO of, a site that helps consumers evaluate what monthly plans best suit their needs.

“You’re getting comparable features on both the Pre and the iPhone, but Sprint’s unlimited plan is $100 a month, while the iPhone’s comparable plan is $150 a month, so over the course of a two-year contract, it’s an extra $1,200, which is a big deal for most consumers,” Pham told

With Apple’s developer conference kicking off two days after the Pre goes on sale, all eyes will be on the two rivals as the summer smartphone smackdown begins.

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