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Monday
Dec142009

Palm Pre vs Motorola Droid

Android and WebOS are both relatively new platforms. Android was launched in the second half of 2008 and WebOS was launched in the first half of 2009. Both platforms boast their open environment efforts over the locked down Apple strategy and both platforms have a lot to give. Both platforms offer a few things that even the great Apple can’t offer such as,  multitasking, Google Voice, and a physical keyboard. We are going to dive deep into both Motorola and Palm's flagship devices as both companies hope to swing the limelight back in their favor. The Motorola Droid on Verizon and the Palm Pre on Sprint. Lets take a look at both, a very very long look.

Check out the battle between the Motorola Droid and the Palm Pre after the break...

 

Phone

The most important part of buying a smartphone or any other phone is the phone itself and how well it works as a phone. Yes, (wow that sentence was fun) both devices work fantastic as a phone and both devices have their issues as a phone. Neither device has a physical 'Call' or 'End Call' button like we have seen on every other phone since the late 80's. A negative for some but for the rest of us, it means more screen real estate in a smaller package. As far as call quality goes both phones offer an above par experience when it comes to the network and the phone. The Pre is on Sprint which has a much smaller footprint in the United State so if you live in an area with poor Sprint coverage then you are probably out of luck. I found that the Pre can hold a call with perfect quality with even 1-2 bars of coverage. Sprint network quality is really good. The Motorola Droid is on Verizons massive network which right now is the current king of 3G coverage. The map is much larger but the call quality about the same as the Pre on Sprint. Both phones have a good quality speaker, connect calls quickly, and have very few dropped calls. The Droid's speaker is a little bit louder than the Pre's when on ‘Speaker Phone’ but both are loud enough to be satisfactory.

One area in the phone department where the Droid takes an edge, is on the amount of time you have to wait to actually get into a call. For some reason the simplest app on the Pre, the 'Phone' app, seems to have quite a bit of lag. The Pre's phone app takes 1-2 seconds longer to load then the Droid and it takes longer to switch between screens such as, recent calls, the dialer, and the contacts list. Also the Pre is lacking a favorites list which comes in handy when you have hundreds of contacts. When scrolling through the contacts list on the Droid it feels much smoother and has virtually no lag or skips. The Pre's contacts list within the phone app has quite a bit of lag and skips often. The Pre isn't completely out of it in the phone app though. There is nothing more rewarding than sliding out the Pre's small keyboard in portrait mode and typing a name to immediately get results within any part of the phone app. With the Pre you can basically start typing any time when in the phone app or on the home screen. When using the Droid you have to be specifically in the contacts list and either slide out the big keyboard in landscape or hit menu then tap search. Other than that the phone apps work as they should and both offer excellent quality calls as long as you’re in a decent coverage area.

 

Messaging

Next up is messaging. Texting is one of the most popular ways of communicating and both phones do it well. Aside from load times the Pre takes the cake hands down. The messaging app on the Droid is pretty basic allowing you to attach a picture and send it. You have a list of threads and can jump in and out of them quickly. Though simple, the Droid's messaging app is much faster and goes into and out of screens much quicker and without any hiccups. The Pre's messaging app is less responsive, however much more robust. As you well know the Pre offers both messaging and Instant messaging into one app. Something the Droid doesn't do. You can add AIM, Yahoo, and Google Talk messaging within the messaging app and if a contact you know exits something like AIM and jumps onto Google Talk, you can continue that same message thread with that person. Not only does the Droid not have AIM or Yahoo messenger support, but its Google Talk threads are listed in a separate app. Not quite has intuitive as the Pre.  Both options work but the Pre is much more integrated with multiple services.



Hardware

Before we get into the smartphone software lets discuss hardware. The Pre and Droid both have the TI OMAP 3430 which is also seen in the iPhone 3GS and have 256mb of RAM and 512MB of ROM. Other than their processing chip the Pre and Droid are two very dfferent beasts. The Pre comes with a 3.1 inch screen that is displayed in a colorful 24bit 320x480 resolution HVGA display. The Pre, because of its smaller screen and high color density, actually looks better than other phones with similar resolutions like the iPhone and G1. The screen is a plastic capacitive multitouch screen which has a bit of roundedness to it. The Droid has a 3.7 inch WVGA display at 854x480 Resolution. The Droid has a glass capacitive screen with multitouch (YES IT DOES HAVE MULTITOUCH) and is completely flat with a bezel around the screen that has about a 1mm lift. There is no doubt the Droid has better quality video playback when it comes to videos you put on the phone itself as well as videos streamed from YouTube. The colors are more accurate, sharp, and the videos are always nice and big due to the large screen size.

Build quality differs in a few ways. The Pre has a sort of bad rap for not so perfect hardware when it comes to quality control. The Pre's slider does have a bit of give and sometimes the plastic phone can feel clicky and loose when closed. The Droid on the other hand was built very solid and is made of not only plastic but metal as well. The build sort of reminds me of the Razr. The slide out keyboard is very solid and locks into place when fully open. When the phone is closed you really can't tell that it is two parts just by feel. The Pre is mostly made of plastic and does feel cheaper, but it is good enough for most.



OS Navigation

Navigating the hardware and software is very different on both phones. With the the Pre and the Droid, you can make general selections like apps, options, and/or notifications by just tapping on them via the touchscreen. The rest of the navigation for the most part is completely different. With the Pre, as we all know, you have an intuitive gesture area. Swiping back will bring you back to the previous screen within an app. Once you are at the very first screen in an app, swiping backwards will bring you to the card view. You can also swipe forward to do different things within certain apps. Example is the browser, you can use the forward button the same way you would use forward in a desktop browser. Other apps take advantage of the gesture area like 'Tweed' which allows you to swipe forward to begin a new Tweet. You also have the center card view button which only brings you in and out of card view which I personally find to be rather useless. The Pixi did away with the card view button and allows you to just do a simple tap on the gesture area to switch in and out of card view. You can also use the gesture area to bring up the quick launch by swiping up and holding your finger down or if you swipe up from the gesture area it will switch you to card view then open your launcher. Menus can be accessed within any app just by swiping down from the top left or top right of the screen or simply tapping the menu button at the top left or top right of the screen. Droid navigation is a bit more jumbled but does work.


The Droid also has a capacitive navigation bar underneath the screen, however it is not controlled by gestures. You have a four capacitive buttons which are laid out in this order: Back, Menu, Home, and Search.  The back button will bring you to the previous screen you were in on some apps but will bring you to the previous menu in others. This is a little annoying during day to day use. I am not always sure when I hit the back button if I am going to be brought out of a message thread back to the list of threads or if it will just jump me with the home screen. Depending on the app it acts differently.

Then you have the menu button which is extremely important to remember. In most apps and screens if ever you need some immediate options you can always press the menu button. The benefit of this is you can essentially add more options or preferences without making users have to switch to an options screen. The negative to this is that you don’t know what screen has menu options until you tap the menu button. With the Pre you always know if you need to change options or settings in any app you can just bring down the menu from the top left and go to preferences. That isn't always the case with Android. An example of this is on Twidroid, if you are viewing your @mentions and you hit menu button, you get the options for 'New Tweet or Jump to top', but when you hit Menu while viewing the standard timeling, you get the option for ‘New Tweet, Settings, Lists, and Refresh. A little confusing for some but definitely not a deal breaker. My father uses a G1 as his main phone and there have been times he couldn’t find a preference or setting screen and all he had to do was hit the menu button. The Pre keeps this simple by always having a menu on the top left of the screen.

Then you have the Home button which only has two basic tasks. Pressing the home button once no matter what screen you are in will always bring you to the home screen on the first page. If you press it and hold it for 1-2 seconds you will see the 6 most recent apps you have used allowing you to jump in and out of apps fairly easy. There have been the occasional times where I hold the home button and an app I just used isn't there but for the most part it works great.

The last capacitive button is ‘Search’. This button also holds two purposes. You tap it once and it brings you to googles search widget which allows you to universally search for contacts, emails, and apps on the phone or, just like with the Pre's universal search, you can jump to the browser to search if what you typed is not located on your phone. If you hold the button down it will bring up the Voice Search. Voice search works extremely well and is pretty accurate. Something the Pre lacks and hopefully will get soon. With voice search, 90% of the time it will take you straight to a google search in the browser unless you say a contacts name. Hopefully Google makes this more robust so you can search anything on the phone. Unless there is something I am missing?!?! Some people may wonder what the big deal is about the voice search/dialing. For me it is navigation. I use Sprint Nav/Google maps almost every day and the Droid makes looking up directions very easy. All I have to do is say: “Directions, Pizza Hut,” and it will bring up Pizza Huts closest to me in the browser. I tap on one and it loads the directions in the Google Maps app.

The Droid also has a 4 way directional pad with a select button located on the slide out keyboard. Aside from editing text or maybe playing some games this pad is basically useless. Tapping on the screen to get to a certain part of a sentence is just as efficient. The trackball on the G1, MyTouch, and Hero is a better alternative to touching the screen than the directional pad.

Just based on the sheer length of discussion about the OS navigation I think it is safe to say that WebOS is simple and works. Android's navigation is great but definitely takes a lot more getting used to.

The rest of each phones hardware. With the Droid you have a volume rocker on the right, a normal 3.5mm headphone jack, a power button on the top right and a camera button on the lower right. On the Pre you have the same 3.5mm jack, a power button at the top right and the center card view button. Slight advantage goes to the Droid for having that camera button since it does come in handy from time to time. Now how do you type on these phones?



Keyboard

Both phones have a hardware keyboard which sets them apart from the all-powerful iPhone. So which keyboard is better? It really all depends on your personal preference. The Pre has a portrait slider that can seem a little cramped but once you get used to it you can fly. The Droid has a landscape slider that can seem a little too spread at times but once you are used to it you can fly. Neither keyboard is the best at what it is. For example the portrait keyboard the Blackberry Bold/Tour has is the one to beat in the portrait department. As far as landscape QWERTY goes, the Droid's keyboard is not nearly as good as the TouchPro 2 slider and personally I don’t think it’s even as good as the G1 keyboard. Though Motorola did away with the chin that the G1 had, there is still a 4 way directional pad to the right of the keyboard which causes your right thumb to stretch farther than your left while typing. Both keyboards require a little bit of attention while typing because there isn't a whole lot of difference in feel between the keys. I find myself being able to type just over 40 words per minute on both keyboards which is just fine for me. The Droid has a bit of an edge because it also has a virtual keyboard in both landscape and portrait mode. This keyboard is NOT a better alternative to either the Pre or Droid's hardware keyboard but it is convenient and useful when making quick notes or a text.



Camera:

The Droid comes with a 5MP camera accompanied by a dual LED flash and the Pre has a 3.2MP Camera with a single LED flash. I don’t want to spend a lot of time in this area because both the Pre and Droid have decent cameras but both can be better. The Droid takes surprisingly washed out photos when it comes to color. When looking closely at photos between the two cameras you can see a bit more detail (I guess 1.8 megapixels worth) but the color is washed out with white on the Droid’s camera. Even in really good light the photos don’t come out as good as I hoped when I first heard it was a 5mp camera but it is good enough.  The Pre has a lower quality picture over all but the colors seem to come out much more vibrant and rich. Both camera’s take pretty bad pictures in low light though I think the Pre does a better job in mild to low light. Despite the flashes on both cameras the quality is just too poor in the dim light to really appreciate. The Droid does have a video recorder which is pretty nice and does a decent job taking mid quality videos. The videos recorded on the Droid do have to be in well-lit areas otherwise you suffer the same problem you get when using the camera for stills. You can also upload videos recorded directly to YouTube which is another nice feature to have. Hopefully the smartphone industry gets on the 8mp bandwagon that Nokia has been tapping into and hopefully we start to see some improvement in low light conditions.

Here are a couple comparisons:

Palm Pre

  

 

Motorola Droid

 

 

 

All photos were taken with the LED flash on. As you can see the Pre seems to have a little bit more color. Some photos with the Droid have more detail but for a 5MP vs a 3.2MP, there isn't much of a difference. The Pre holds its own.

Software:

Let’s take a look at the software for the basic smartphone functions we have come to expect. There are a number of good and bad things on both platforms and I am going to go in depth with on each platform. I will take a look at apps that came with the phone such as Email, Calendar, and Navigation then jump into the OS’s as a whole as well as the application stores and notification implementation. Try to bear with me folks there are a lot of import aspects to both platforms that I feel need to be addressed. So let’s move on.

 

Home Screen

This is a simple comparison. The Pre keeps it simple and has a nice big wallpaper and a quick launch bar. You see the time and your basic status at the top right and your notifications in the bottom right. Android allows you to play icons on your desktop wallpaper and you can switch screens from left to right. Stock android devices come with 3 screens and icons can be placed on any of these screens. Android also allows you to install widgets. Widgets are a lot of fun and can make the homescreen go from boring to beautiful. You can add weather widgets, clocks, stocks, twitter, facebook, or even notes. This allows you to have a handful of information right there on your homescreen without having to jump in and out of apps. The Pre has a big screen with a nice backround, I don’t see any reason why Palm can’t add widgets eventually. (Make a gesture to temporarily hide cards!)

Email:

Email is a big part of the smartphone world and in fact it might be the single biggest driving factor of the market. Both Android and WebOS handle email in a pleasant way and both platforms have their issues. So just to put it out there, if you are a fan of Gmail, your primary email is Gmail based, or you only have a Gmail account, then the Droid is the best choice. All ‘Google branded’ Android phones come with a native Gmail app and in Android 2.0 it is even better than before. The Gmail app is so fast and easy to use and works so well. You can do basically everything you can do in the browser version of Gmail and it makes the email life very easy. The search works so well and can search through subjects, recipient’s, and the body of an email. The Gmail app is definitely faster and more capable currently than the Pre’s email app however it almost completely ends there. I had some issues setting up other emails on the Droid. Yahoo wouldn’t setup because it says you have to pay a fee for pop, eventually I had to set it up manually to get it to work,  SBC global I had to get in touch with customer service for the setup and settings. Windows Live was a total no go. After many attempts I just couldn’t get it to work.

The Pre’s email is fantastic for most users because it has a very easy setup and interface. On my Pre I was able to enter my Yahoo, SBC, corporate accounts, and Exchange without issue. All I had to do was  type in the name and password and I was all set. Very minimal setup and for most users that is the best experience to offer. So both devices like most things have their ups and downs but for most people the Pre will be fin. For power Gmail users the Droid will be a better than pleasant experience. The Pre does however have its issues. LAG, this is the case in many of the apps and email is a big one. Scrolling is ridiculously slow and deleting emails, though an elegant solution (deleting emails by swiping from left to right), a staggering sluggish one. This is one of many optimizations Palm needs to get out of the door as soon as possible.

 

Calendar:                                                                                           

The calendar integration on both Android and WebOS is a strong feature. Both offer seamless integration with Google Calendars. The calendar on the Pre is aesthetically more pleasing than the calendar you see on the Droid. The Pre offers the accordion view to show how many hours you have free between appointments and the colors and UI just look much nicer. However the compromise seems to be speed. Though the Droid calendar is less pleasing to look at, it runs much faster than the Pre’s version. WebOS really struggles when switching between different views like month, day, and week as well as struggling to jump to the next day or week on the calendar. Sometimes I find myself waiting 2-3 seconds to get to the next day on a calendar and it can be extremely frustrating. Another thing the Droid calendar has is an agenda view. This is something Palm overlooked and I am not too sure why but WebOS needs an Agenda view. Both calendars work well enough to get the job done. Speed is something Palm needs to focus on to make the calendar truly worthwhile.

 

GPS Navigation:

This is hard for me to say being the fan of Palm that I am, but Droid beats the Pre hands down. Almost no competition in the GPS department because of Google’s new version of Google Maps which includes turn by turn navigation.

 

With the Pre you have two options for handling your directions and maps right now. Google maps and Sprint’s Navigation app ‘Sprint Nav’. When I first got the Pre, Sprint Nav was pretty impressive because it had turn by turn directions with voice guidance and because it was free. You expect a dedicated navigation device to be a little better than the Pre’s free alternative, but Google has changed the navigation game.

 

With the Droid you can get true 3D maps in both standard map view and satellite view. While following the turn by turn directions you can tap on a corner of the screen to view your next turn in an overhead view, then by tapping another icon on the right side of the screen you can see a Google Street View of your next turn. This is very helpful for getting to know a turn before you arrive to it and in some cases you won’t even need to look at the street sign. You can add all sorts of ‘Layers’ which is what Google has in their maps, such as: traffic, satellite, food, banks, gas stations, and street view. This makes navigation not only easy, but fun. Another big thing is accuracy. The Sprint Nav app uses a sort of predictive navigation method where if you turn off course the map will continue on right course for some time before it shows that you went off track. When using the Google Navigation it turns with you instantly even if it’s off course. This is both a software and hardware advantage on the Droid’s part. The Droid comes with a built in digital compass so when using the maps even when stationary it knows which direction you’re facing.

 

So if the navigation is the biggest reason you’re buying a phone you really can’t go wrong with the Droid. The Pre’s navigation is usable and works well enough to refrain from buying a dedicated GPS. The Droid’s GPS is in my opinion good enough to completely replace a dedicated GPS. No need to be be sad Pre users because Google wants to have their Google Navigation on every smartphone OS including WebOS, Windows Mobile, iPhone, and all Android devices. So hopefully that comes soon!

 

Browser:

Another big factor in choosing a smartphone is finding one that has a browser that looks and feels like a desktop browser. Both the Droid and Pre do a great job at getting this done. Let’s start with the networks and their speed. Obviously this comparison will change as the Pre comes out on more carriers or when/if the Droid comes out on other carriers, but for now we have the Pre on Sprint and the Droid on Verizon. I did 20 speed tests at random times on Sprint and Verizon’s 3G networks with both devices. All of the speed tests were done either in Los Angeles or somewhere within 20 miles of the Los Angeles area. Elsewhere speeds may vary so don’t take all these numbers directly to heart. Every speed test took place on both phones when there was atleast 60% signal strength. After averaging 20 speed tests, the Pre on Sprint was averaging 1,120kbps with a low of 370kbps and a high of 1,890kbps. The exact same 20 speed tests in the exact same areas on the Motorola Droid averaged 937kbps with a high of 1,673kbps and a low of 524kbps. This is not a reflection of the phones speed capacity but rather the carriers network speed at the time. On average Sprint had a faster download speed but not by a huge amount. Both networks were consistent and reliable, however with Verizon I had 3G in more areas than I did with Sprint. So the networks were really never an issue in browser experience on either phone. The Droid randomly had issues loading web pages on Verizon even when there were 4 bars. There were occasional times where a webpage would take several minutes to load but if I refreshed it would load just fine. As far as WiFi goes it really was almost identical. Both devices loaded web pages quickly and efficiently.

 

 

The browsers built on both phones are Webkit based and both are impressive in their own way. The Pre’s browser comes standard with multitouch where the Droid browser does not. I touched on this for a second early and I just want to make it clear for everyone. The Motorola Droid DOES have multitouch but Google did not implement it on any apps in Android 2.0. Though the stock browser doesn’t have multitouch support you can download third party browsers (Example: Dolphin Browser) which allow you to do pinch to zoom and the finger spread to zoom back out. After using the browser on the Droid for a couple of weeks I found myself not missing pinch to zoom too much anyway because 9 times out of 10 just double tapping a paragraph  to zoom works fine.

 

 

Some other differences I noticed are based purely on the screen resolution and size. Websites such as Engadget.com and Prethinking.com look better on the Droid overall. They were usually brighter, more rich in color, more detailed, and more accurate in size when comparing to a standard desktop browser. The Pre did do a better job at sizing words. The Pre has a 3.1 inch screen and the Droid has a 3.7 inch screen , even so words on a news site or blog were generally easier to read on the Pre compared to the Droid. After zooming in with the Droid’s browser it almost seems like the letters don’t really get much bigger. I found when the letters on a site were at a comfortable level they were already running passed the screen on the droid where the Pre would resize the letters to be able to fit a line on the screen and having the letters big enough to read. The Droid does have an option to resize text in the browser but each level makes it too big and websites start to format weird to the screen. I chose to leave it on the default.

Book marks are a strong point for the Pre as its thumbnail bookmark based home page gives you quick and easy access to your favorite sites. The homepage on the Pre allows 12 bookmarks which leave a cached image from your last visit of that site on the front making it easy to navigate to your favorite sites when first opening the browser. The Droid’s browser acts more like a desktop browser in this respect and allows you to set a default home page to any address you like. (just like a regular browser my favorite is About:Blank) The bookmarks page is similar to the Pre's but it cannot be set as the home screen in the browser. Another big difference with the Pre and Droid browsers are how it handles multiple windows. All windows on Droid open within the browser app. When opening a new window on the Pre it pops up as a separate card (or application) which is better and worse. Worse because it seems that memory management seems to be a pain and sometimes when trying to open a new browser window on the Pre you get the ‘Too many cards’ error. However if a browser window crashes (which almost never happens on the Pre) the other browser windows you had open will still be open. If your browser crashes on the Droid, all other windows crash with it. So I suppose it is just a matter of preference for you. Either way works for me.

One annoyance when using the browser on WebOS is the automatic refresh when your low on memory. If you jump in and out of apps the browser will sometimes refresh if memory is low. This will happen with only 2-3 apps open sometimes and can be very irritating. Since using the Droid this has only happened to me once and it was when I jumped back into the browser after an entire day went by. The browser on both phones scroll relatively smooth as long as you don’t have too many apps open. Using WebOS if your scrolling fast you sometimes get a checkerboard when retrieving the image and text on the page. Droid doesn’t ever do this. Just one more thing for Palm to iron out. Just based on readability due to the size of the text in the browser I prefer to read text heavy sites on the Pre. Websites with a lot of pictures and graphics (like Engadget) look much better on the Droid.

 

 

Media:

Video playback is great on both devices though a little bit better on the Droid. This is due to the high resolution screen as well as the bigger size. The Pre holds its own on video quality but the Droid is a much more enjoyable experience over all. I love the rounded shape that the Pre has when using apps but when watching videos I enjoyed the normal rectangle shape you get when using the Droid. As far as the media players on both devices. Android and WebOS are lacking a bit in the Media department. Luckily both platforms allow third party solutions but for the general users the built in apps will be fine. Personally I think the Pre music and video apps look nicer as far as the UI goes but it lacks some features that the Droid has. The Droid can create playlists on the go which is a huge feature needed on the Pre. Also there is a scroll bar when scrolling long lists which you can tap on and move to bring up letters to search artists alphabetically. The Pre has a one thing that the Droid doesn’t have and that is the Music controls in the dashboard. You can pause, skip, or rewind tracks even when the Pre’s screen is locked. With the droid you either use the widget or jump into the music app.

 

Multitasking:

Multitasking is one of the most important features of both WebOS and Android. It is what sets them apart from the king of kings known as the iPhone and makes them more enjoyable for us geeks as well as less irritating for average users who don’t want to have to exit their navigation app to read a text message. So the big question is how does the Droid multitask compared to the Pre? Is one better than the other? Let’s take a look at what I have found.

WebOS: With the Palm Pre/Pixi multitasking is seamless and fun. It is as simple as swiping your finger up at any time to minimize an app and swiping left and right to shuffle through your apps (known as cards on WebOS) and just tapping on one to jump back into it. The Pre’s multitasking is very intuitive and essentially limitless. The ability to handle processes in the background on both native and third party apps is a very powerful tool and makes day to day use more efficient and easy. WebOS allows you to get things done in the background. An example of this would be launching a browser, typing an address, then minimizing the browser to go to your messaging app to send a text. Once you finish sending a text you can go back to your browser card and see that the page finished loading while sending a text. You can do this all while Sprint Nav is running in another card in the background.

Android: Android multitasks a bit different and because you don’t see all the windows (or cards in WebOS) like you do in WebOS some people don’t feel like it is multitasking. This is inaccurate. Android multitasks and it multitasks well. With Android, apps don’t close manually or automatically unless you completely run out of memory then it will begin closing the least used apps. So how do you switch through your active apps? Well there are a couple ways. Some apps will integrate into the notification tray at the top of the screen. Apps that usually do this are Google Maps, the Music app, and the phone app when on a call. You can slide the tray down at any time within almost every app and tap on that app to return to it. Another way is just by going to your home screen and tapping on the icon of an app you were just in. Much like in WebOS when you tap an app that is already open it just returns you to that app. Then you have the long press of the home button. You can just hold the home button and when you first press your finger on it you get haptic feedback then after about a second you feel it again and you can lift your finger and you will see the 6 most recent apps you have used.  Just tap on an app you need to go to and it will open back up in the state it was in when you last used it. So which one is better?

 

It really is up to you. WebOS has a simple solution that is easy to use. Some think WebOS gives instant satisfaction because you can see all your apps open at once in card view. Android has the apps all sort of hidden in the background, but getting to them works just as well. If I was forced to choose, I would pick WebOS multitasking. I mean what can I say, sometimes it is just fun to flip through cards.

Notifications:

Another fantastic thing about WebOS and Android is that the notification implementation is unobtrusive and easy to use. There are some subtle differences but for the most part the notification area is very well done on both parts. WebOS has a notification tray at the bottom of the phone. The screen will actually resize itself to fit the notifications when you tap on a notification. When tapping at the bottom right it launches the dash board which shrinks the screen and shows you all of your notifications. From here you can swipe away each notification from the left to right to get rid of them. If you want to find out more about that notification or jump into the app that the notification came from simply tap on it. You also can re arrange and put your notifications in a new order by tapping it, holding it, then dragging it up and down in the list. WebOS also allows developers to add controls to the dashboard. For example we have Pandora, a music streaming app that allows you to control the pause and play button as well as the rating controls in the dashboard. Anytime you want to pause the music you are listening to in Pandora you can just tap the notification area and you will see controls for pausing and playing. Tweed, a third party Twitter application, also takes advantage of this feature by giving you a button to press to flip through notifications indicating your timeline tweets, mentions, and direct messages. Android doesn’t quite have this much control in the notification tray. At least not yet.

 

With the notification tray on the Droid you can slide it down from the top of the screen. When you do so it will display the date, time, and all of the notifications you have from various applications. My biggest issue with this is you have to either tap on one of the notifications, which will bring you to the app and clear the alert, or hit the ‘Clear All’ button on the top right of the tray. There is no way to just remove one application in the tray like you can do with WebOS. Another thing is controls. Most controls on things like the Music app or Pandora can be handled with a widget on the desktop but not from the notification tray like with WebOS. The tray itself has no controls for any of these apps. I am not 100% sure if that is an SDK limitation or if it is just something no one has decided to include, but it would be very useful. The fact that the notifications are at the top on Android and at the bottom on WebOS really makes no difference to me. I feel it works fine either way.

App Catalog vs Android Market

The App Catalog is small. Plain and simple. Though we are seeing a stunning amount of growth in the App Catalog going from just 12 apps to over 700 apps in a little over 5 months. Android is currently growing even faster. In the same time frame WebOS received over 700 new apps Android has grown from 7,500 apps to 14,000 apps. So if you are looking for a phone with an already flurrying application ecosystem, then right now Android is the better choice. I do feel confident that WebOS will grow to the level it needs to grow, but as of now there aren’t nearly as many apps.  What about the quality of apps?

Right now neither WebOS nor Android have the app quality that the iPhone has. Games aren’t as rich or full of graphic detail and the applications just don’t have as much depth. Still we are already seeing applications from both Android and WebOS that are impressive and can do things that Apple wouldn’t dream of. Some examples is dxHome or aHome in the Android market. These apps essentially allow you to change how the GUI of Android works. You can change the launcher bar, wallpapers, icons, and change how the home screens work. Also with WebOS you have apps like Flixter which can add events to your native calendar, Pandora which allow you to add controls in the dashboard, and Switcharoo which lets you automatically change your wallpaper every few minutes. Things are still simple but moving along. As far as quality between Android and WebOS. Java vs HTML. With HTML 5 developing rapidly and WebGL and Google’s 03D on the way, things are starting to look very bright for WebOS. On the other hand Android apps still don’t seem to be very eye capturing. WebOS apps generally are easier on the eyes and more graphically pleasing even if they are still simple. When the SDK allows GPU access and WebGL development, those apps will be even more beautiful. For now Apple is king and will be for a while. Definitely hold your breath though because WebOS and Android development is growing.

 

Android vs WebOS, stability and usability

When it comes to general use both WebOS and Android have their strong and weak points. Let’s start with WebOS. ‘TOO MANY CARDS’ This notification is quite annoying and seems to happen even more often since 1.3.1. Sometimes you get this error when you don’t have any applications open which basically forces you to restart the phone. Then you have the general sluggishness throughout the entire OS. Every time you close an app on WebOS and open the launcher there is a brief lag between the time you tell the phone to close the app and the time the app actually closes and clears out of memory. This causes the next app you launch to have a frustrating delay. Scrolling lists in WebOS can be painful too. Email, Calendar, and the Phone app on WebOS all fit into this category. Scrolling a long list of emails, changing screens within the dialer, and switching days in the calendar. These are all very frustratingly simple and laggy tasks and sometimes can be baffling that they take so long to complete. Palm knows about the speed issues and is working on it so we have to keep our fingers crossed. Let’s hope some fixes come out before people open their Pre’s on Christmas morning and don’t like it because it is slow.

Droid on the other hand is super fast when completing tasks. Yes it has the exact same TI OMAP 3430 chip that is in the Pre. So why is the Droid faster? Android 2.0 would have to be my best guess. It is more refined. Scrolling lists is super smooth, launching applications is very quick, and getting things done is not an issue because there is little to no lag. Android is not without its problems. Since using the Droid I have had it restart on me twice. Not exactly sure what caused the restart, but it happened while I had a few apps open and was launching another application. Then you have the ‘Force Close’ message. It reminds me of the days of Windows Vista. Sometimes when you are using an application there is an error that tells you to force close. It doesn’t say what caused the problem, how it could be prevented, or provide any links to help on the subject. Sometimes when this happens it causes every app to crash and other times only the app you were most recently using crashes. I am not sure if these are just bugs with Android 2.0 that need to get worked out by developers and Google over time, but it is definitely not a heartening experience. Overall both platforms perform well enough to get done basic tasks and both need their work.

 

Conclusion:

WebOS and Android are so similar and so different at the same time it really is hard to tell which is better. They both have their strong points and they both have their weak points. WebOS is easier to use and a bit easier on the eyes when it comes to the UI. Android allows you to do a lot more customization and tweaking but is a little bit less user friendly. Android has behind it the fact that it is an open source operating system and there are multiple manufacturers working on putting out the best Android devices possible. Palm is working on getting its WebOS into customer’s hands and only has two devices. There is room in the market for both platforms. If I had to recommend a phone to someone just joining the smartphone community for the first time, I would feel obligated to recommend the Pre because of how easy it is to use. If I was recommending the phone to someone who loves customization and is coming off another platform, I might recommend the Droid. So what platform do you prefer and why? Me personally, I will be using Android and WebOS for a long time and I am excited to see how each one develops.

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Reader Comments (35)

I enjoyed this review. Great job.

December 14, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterDeborah Sawyer

Very nice & fair article! Thanks for doing such an in-depth review of these two top phones! I found it very helpful!

December 14, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterNathan Beach

Tahnks guys! I really appreciate the feedack. If you have any specific questions let me know in comments and I will try to help you out.

Daniel

December 14, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterDaniel Rodriguez

Good review.

December 14, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterPalmObiWan

Having looked forward to the Palm Pré since early 2009, I settled for a HTC Hero a couple of months ago, as the Pré isn't available in Belgium yet. My experience so far has been great;

Although I would still prefer a physical keyboard, the lack of it on the Hero was only an issue for the first couple of weeks.

Android 1.5 on the Hero is very stable, some apps do 'force close' on me, but that doesn't bring the OS down. I am looking forward to the ROM update HTC is preparing for H1 2010, jumping from Android 1.5 to 2.1, which is also on the HTC-produced Google phone.

Being a avid mobile web user, one thing that struck me when playing with the WebOS SDK emulator was the lack of support for html5 offline functionality (webdb and appcache) in the browser (as seen on iphone OS and android 2.0). The lack of these api's (or their Google Gears counterparts, as seen on Android 1.X-devices) means that webOS-devices can't use offline-enabled web applications, such as for example the 'top' version of mobile gmail. And that's a shame for a platform that boasts great html5-capabilities for its native apps, no?

December 14, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterfrank goossens

hey great review. well you know me from twitter and your articel is pretty much what i though about the 2 phones as well. i just found that the web browser on pre is just period better then droids. but thats cool that you kept it pretty fair and i also agree that sprints evdo seems a slightly faster then verizons and yes the pre is slower but i also have to say when you patch your pre with the 600 mhz patch its pretty fast in the most parts but right out of the box the droid is faster but pre is for sure easier to use i agree on that. about the youtube video so i have to give it to pre somehow i found that it looks somewhat better on pre its maybe because the screen is smaller and that makes the resolution better like on a laptop if u have youtube fullscreen it just doesnt look as good then on a smaller size. but your review is pretty much the best i read and i am reading cnets phonedogs and mobileburn and you my friend are very good in it. i would always keep your reviews on top of a choice of a new device. very good job.

December 14, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterarthur

Really nice review. I have the Pre and the lag is getting worse and killing me so I've been eyeballing the Droid. You're review is just what i've been looking for. THANKS!

December 14, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterschlock

*** STANDNG OVATION ***


Well done! I can see this review took a lot of work and time. I'll definitely be retweeting it frequently as it is by far the most comprehensive, detailed, and balanced Palm Pre vs. Motorola Droid review in existence.

As for me, I prefer the Palm Pre. Why? Your multitasking video sums it up. WebOS is so incredibly beautiful and easy to use that I can wait a little while as the webOS ecosystem develops. I'm really hoping that Palm adds key winning ingredients that will facilitate this development:
1) Tap into that GUI for vastly improved graphics acceleration, improved latency.
2) Release more API's so developers can get crackin' with more sophisticated apps.
3) Improve the memory management issues that sprouted up after 1.3.1 update.
4) For the love of God... BETTER COMMERCIALS! ... Sorry had to throw that one in there...

December 14, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterDan

One very important thing I did not see mentioned here: when I set up my wife's HTC Hero I noticed that you could only have ONE calendar account synced to the phone. True, you can have multiple calendars on a single Google calendar, but on the Pre I can sync to Exchange, Facebook, Google, and pretty much any third party app (Sports calendar, Flixster, Today Show, etc.) that I want.

Also, the webOS calendar allows you to switch views and allows you to customize which calendar is visible in the "All Calendars" view. This has been huge for me as I manage the calendars of multiple physicians here at work.

It ain't perfect and certainly Palm could work on the (usually minor) latency issues, but thus far the webOS calendar is the best I have used to date.

December 14, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterDan

@arthur Thanks for the feedback. The Pre's browser is definitely a force to be reckoned with.

@Dan Your right, as far as calendars go the Pre has an edge because of the customization in calendar views and how easy it is to add as many calendars you want from third party sources and apps. I wish the Pre had an agenda view. The calendar on the Droid is inferior aside from agenda but it is usable just because of how fast the app works. I also know Palm will be releasing more API's soon and WebGL development is moving along.

@everyone I really think the Pre is a strong contender and based on how fast Palm seems to be working I think that the current iteration of the Pre will still be able to compete with new phones that come out in the first and possibly second half of 2010. I think if Palm can first add speed/consistence throughout the OS as well as continue to add features every so often, then Palm will be in a good position to survive a long long time.

December 14, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterDaniel Rodriguez

Nice job, I thought this was a thorough and relatively unbiased review. However, I saw no mention of one of webOS's killer features - Synergy! Nobody else pulls together contact information from multiple sources and presents it in a unified format the way webOS does, and that is huge.

December 14, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterNick

@Nick I agree, I did miss a few things. I felt like the post was already going to be a little long in the tooth so I definitely left some things out. Android does have a sort of synergy feature but not with as many accounts. When I first set up the Droid I put in my Email address and all my facebook and google contacts were pulled to the phone. WebOS allows for a few more accounts and hopefully will continue to add more. I agree that is a killer feature and I hope Palm continues to improve on it. Synergy is becoming universal though. Nokia is planning on having a sort of synergy, Apple, and Palm. If you look at the Motorola Cliq, it also has the same synergy features WebOS has. I tried to not add too much detail about the Pre because I know most people reading this have a WebOS device.

December 14, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterDaniel Rodriguez

"With the Pre you can basically start typing any time when in the phone app or on the home screen. When using the Droid you have to be specifically in the contacts list and either slide out the big keyboard in landscape or hit menu then tap search."
<
It's important to note Android features a Google search widget (right on your primary screen if not moved) which you can tap into and start typing a contact's name. As you type a contact's name results will appear.
<
This widget also allows voice dailing by tapping the mic icon within the bar and speaking "call xxxx at xxx"

December 15, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJason P

You do realize there's an app in the Android market called Touchdown that adds tons of features and customizability over the native email / calendaring apps on the Droid right? I had a Pre and yes, exchange was good on it but it comes no where close to what Touchdown is capable of in terms of tasks, email and calendaring.

Here' s the developer's site:http://www.nitrodesk.com/dk_touchdownFeatures.aspx

I do realize this is a stock to stock comparison but right now the apps that can be found in the Market (many of which are free) will blow away most of what's available for the Pre, no question. And this is a very important point that can't be easily glossed over.

I love webOS but it's got a ways to go before I'd consider it equal to Android in terms of app maturity, speed and customizability.

The biggest downside to webOS right now is it's speed IMO. It's needs to be much quicker than it is. It also needs to utilize that GPU that's just sitting there for the most part. If Palm can't brush up on at least that aspect, it will be left by the wayside. WebOS may be better looking and may utilitize a more intuitive multisaking interface, but how long can it hang to those advantages? It takes very little work to polish up the Android interface. HTC is already on the ball and with Android 2.1 coming soon, Palm doesn't have much time.

Also there's a browser in the Market called Dolphin that brings pinch zoom and tab browsing among other nifty features to the Droid. It can also easily download files right onto the SD card for viewing later.

The Pre is a nice phone but hate to say it, compared to the Droid, it's out of its league. What's sad is it's got capable hardware, just nothing to fully take advantage of it. While games for the Droid may not be as mature as the iPhone, they are a lot smoother and more playable than what's available for the Pre mainly because the Pre's games can't take advantage of the GPU (yet).

And on the Navigation. My Pre's GPS chip was a hit or miss in terms of actually working and this seems to be a well known and widespread issue that Palm has yet to address. While the Droid's GPS isn't perfect, it's a whole lot more reliable than what's on the Pre. When I go to Google Maps on the Droid, 9 out of the 10 times the chip will get a lock, on the Pre it's more like 5 out of 10. Hopefully Palm will get that right next time.

December 15, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJohn

Great review. I think webOS's multitasking ability is a deal maker. However, Android 2.1 as seen on the Nexus One seems to have a view similar to webOS's card view, labeled as grid view, or something similar. As John mentioned, I think webOS is clinging to a few key functions to set it apart from Android and other operating systems. With Android's addition of functionality similar to webOS's card view in 2.1, however, Palm's got to hurry on pushing updates to make its devices faster, better, include more functionality, etc.

December 15, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterM@

Good review.
Missing WLM, Skype ...and so on on the Pre... native Latitude support too.

Motorola Droid / Milestone has all this ... and a bigger display with bigger resolution...
But... Pre hass the better Display for use in sunny locations..isnt soo much glossy like the Motorola is.

And the Motorola has Enablet GPU (i think so) but the Pre still dosn't Use the integratet GPU ...
Maybe the Pre works faster if the GPU is finally enablet? (donst really believe in it)

December 16, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterRyo

@M@ The "Grid View" on the nexus one is not implied multitasking. It is merely a shortcut for viewing homescreens. It is not related to apps in any way.

@Ryo Hopefully all these apps make it to the Pre soon. With WebOS abotu to launch on multiple carriers in the U.S. and hopefully more carriers worldwide, we might see more developers jump on the platform.

December 16, 2009 | Registered CommenterDaniel Rodriguez

Synergy was definately skipped over. Although the email feature in synergy is mentioned, you don't say anything about calendar and contacts. Email is old news and you are right that many phones do it, but syncing to multiple calendars is a HUGE thing for some people (like myself). I sync with Exchange at work, gmail for personal, and since my wife has a Pre, we have a "family" gmail account that we can sync with for events that we both need to know about. Once person puts it on the calendar and it automagically syncs to the other phone. Contacts are another nice one that I don't know if Android does. Merging Facebook, Exchange, and gmail into one is slick. Not to mention how incredibly easy it is to search for people from the Global Address List in Exchange. That is another huge one for me. If I'm at home and need to call someone at the office, it's very easy to look up their phone number in the GAL.

January 11, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMatt S

Good Review. I just returned my moto droid for a cash refund. it had its ups but its downs counted it out for me. Sure it was fast, but the batter cover slides off so easy i didn't dare put it in a pocket. On top of that overall its a phone. Whenever I made calls the person on the other end said you sound far away or I can't hear you very well, and it only got worse with the speaker on. So good bye droid and now that Palm Pre PLus is coming to verizon, Hello Palm! I can't wait!

January 15, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterBoyd

Hi Dan. I just read the review as my current contract with VZW has run out and I can renew for a new phone (I currently have a Treo 700P) I am interested in a Palm Pre Plus on Verizon's network. However, my co-worker swears by the Droid. I'm still undecided but am leaning toward the Pre Plus. Would you say that the Pre Plus has "fixed" most of those issues that you mentioned in this article? I appreciate your feedback.
Renee

January 29, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterRenee

This was a MOST useful review as I have until 02/08/10 to make up my mind, (contract with Sprint expires..probably headin' for the Verizon..to get the Palm Plus.). Thanks for your comment Renee, thats why I waited for the Plus. From an accessory point of view, the Palm is just sleeker, feels better in my hand and is definitely pocket friendly. The whole battery cover falling off thing on the Droid is a big turnoff. Had an I phone for 5 days, returned it only due to lousy AT&T service in SF. Have been torn re: this decision because don't have unlimited funds to keep switching back and forth. And as someone said, it is just a phone, and voice quality is important. I'm heading for the Pre....I think.

January 31, 2010 | Unregistered CommentertheDavid

Great in-depth review I have been trying to figure out which phone I want for 2 days now and reading through your extremely well laid out and fair article I now know which one I like better (The pre) only because the droid is nice but a bit to clunky and hard to figure out. Thanks so much for taking the time to really get to know each system ;o)

February 3, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterDmaez321

Thank you for the very useful review. Much appreciated. Thanks also to other readers who added useful comments. One thing I was looking for but did not find: a comparison of the battery life.

February 5, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterNuzi

I bought the Pre Plus on Verizon 10 days ago to try it out. My other choice was the Droid. I was going to try out the Pre then the Droid within the 30 days because having to keep the phone for a contracted 2 years I want to be very sure which one I want. I found this review very helpful. I am really loving the Pre Plus so much I don't even think I can give it up now for the Droid. Maybe I should have tried the Droid first? Anyways, I am coming from having an iPhone for 3 years and could no longer deal with AT&T. If I can't have an iPhone on Verizon then the Pre has definitely been a great alternative. I am now using my iPhone as an ipod touch and getting very clear calls without losing or failing a call like I constantly did with the iPhone. Very happy with the Pre Plus and can't wait for the great update coming this month!

February 8, 2010 | Unregistered Commentercici

How can I tramsfer my palm pre contacts to my droid pls?

February 15, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterarthure

I'm coming from an "historic" Palm - and I mean one of the earliest - that I use extensively for a very full and complex calendar and a separate cell phone. Am considering both Palm Pre & Droid so loved this well done article. My worry is the calendar access. I'm used to synching my Palm each day on my work and home computers, and I use my work computer extensively all day updating calendar entries and reminders. If I go to Droid, how will that capability be impacted? I know I'll have to access the calendar through gmail which I have no experience with. Will I then be working primarily on the Droid to update my calendar and can only view it on gmail? Can I update my Droid calendar through gmail? Is my calendar stored at gmail? If I lost my Droid, would I be out of luck with my calendar altogther?

February 15, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterLindaJ

Thanks for this!!!! Really helped!!!!

February 22, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterZach

What about the Palm Pre Plus with the wirless hub capabilities? Any comments on that, is it any good?

March 22, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterSarah

These are both phones. I just think the pre is just a little better.
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March 26, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterjames lee

Nice in-depth article but extremely biased towards Palm. Android's Market alone makes the Droid a better device than the Pre. I bought the Droid with the intention of returning it but I must say its positives outweigh the negatives.

After using the Droid for a few months (after owning Palm, Windows Mobile and BlackBerry devices), I have to say Android is quite amazing. I think this platform has a lot of potential. The apps are just incredible and there are more every day. More and more manufactures are creating handsets for Android...it just seems like it's gonna be around for awhile. I wish Palm would give us some more choices and some more apps...

March 26, 2010 | Unregistered Commentervertigo

I am currently gearing up for my upgrade and was needing to know which one to get between these two. This article help greatly because I've heard so many great things about both and was needing a fair look at them. And, thanks to you, I now know shich phone to go for. Thank you very much.

April 14, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterLex

I was a sprint user with the palm pre and recently switched to verizon for the droid and am very glad I did I thought the review was good but a bit biased towards the pre some of the problems you said the android has I have not experience. My experience with the droid has been a much more elegant one than withe the pre and so far the droid is close to flawless

April 15, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterwalrus

Who ever wrote this, BRAVO! I can't thank you enough. I have been looking for a review like this. It helped me choose my phone so much! I really cant thank you enough. Keep up the good work, and remember that the length of these articles will only add to your success. I will defiantely be returning in the future. I am just so impressed right now.

April 30, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterRocky

Good Review. I just alternate my moto adherent for a banknote refund. it had its ups but its downs counted it out for me. Sure it was fast, but the concoction awning slides off so simple i didn't cartel put it in a pocket. On top of that all-embracing its a phone. Whenever I fabricated calls the being on the added end said you complete far abroad or I can't apprehend you actual well, and it alone got worse with the apostle on. So acceptable bye adherent and now that Palm Pre PLus is advancing to verizon, Hello Palm! I can't wait!

May 26, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMobile Phones Info

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