Friday, November 06, 2009

Re: HTC Hero vs Palm Pre

By request, I am posting an update to what I think of as my "phone commitment issues" and my decision regarding whether to stick with the Palm Pre or to switch to the HTC Hero, which I've been evaluating.

When it comes down to it, the question that I have to answer is which decision will I regret more.  It's not that I won't regret one over the other.  It's that, no matter what I do, I'll have to give up something.  Economists call this opportunity cost.  Since I can't afford to keep both phones, I have to give up one of them.  Which one will I regret giving up more?

So below are two lists. The first is what I'll miss if I decide to stick with the Pre.  The second is what I'll miss if I decide to stick with the Hero. On balance, I think I'll miss more if I stick with the Pre.

If I stick with the Pre, I'll miss the following from the Hero:
  1. Hero’s 1500mAh battery.
  2. Android’s ability to completely swap dialer, sms and other standard apps.
  3. Widgets
  4. TONS of apps in Android Market
  5. Hero’s much faster calendar
  6. Hero’s Voice Google search
  7. Astrid – a significantly better Tasks application, that syncs with Remember The Milk.
  8. Notes - a better memos app that includes categorization and backup
  9. Visual Voicemail
  10. The definitive nature of the “back” and “menu” operations on the Hero. As compared to the Pre's back and menu gestures, which work, but I do them wrong frequently enough to make it annoying.
  11. Hero’s much more solid hardware build vs. Pre’s fragile slider. (I am, after all on Pre #4)
  12. Video
  13. MicroSD slot
  14. The Trackball as a much more precise way to go backwards and correct a typo as compared to Pre's holding the orange key, and gesturing.
  15. The cool stuff in Android 2.0, especially google's turn by turn navigation
If I go with the Hero, I'll miss the following from the Pre:
  1. Pre's physical keyboard that I’m much better at compared to Hero’s virtual keyboard.
  2. The significantly better Twitter apps (Twee and Tweed) that are available for the Pre
  3. Pregame's LED Flashlight which isn't even possible on the Hero since it doesn't have an LED.
  4. The Pre's NFL & NASCAR apps are able to stream audio while the screen is off. The Hero versions cut the audio as soon as the screen blanks.
  5. Synergy’s more accurate and flexible ability to link multiple accounts into a single contact entry. The Hero has something like it, but it is rudimentary by comparison.
  6. Pre's support for IMAP IDLE enabling real time push email while conserving battery. The Hero can only poll on specified intervals.
  7. Pre's full HTML rendering in email vs Hero's not.
  8. Pre's browser starting up at bookmarks instead of Hero's requirement that I open a homepage that I didn't want to open.
  9. The sheer potential of WebOS, which is rumored to be getting GPU support in release 1.3.1, which is rumored to be due soon.  This would likely increase the Pre's responsiveness dramatically.
The commenter requested that I expand a bit on the contact linking features of the Hero.  In general, I think that the Pre's contact linking w/Synergy is superior to the Hero's contact linking.  On the Hero you can link an existing google contact to facebook or to flickr but that's all. You can't link an existing google contact to another google contact. Coming from previoulsy using PalmOS, this is significant. Under PalmOS, I had several contacts who I had duplicate entries for. The reason? I couldn't support enough phone numbers for them in a single contact. So I had to create multiples. WebOS contacts allow me to link all of those together into one contact.

Additionally, on the Hero, when you do link to facebook, the Hero only allows you to link two things from the facebook account: birthday and profile picture. That's it. If the contact has a phone or email listed in facebook, that he/she maintains, Hero won't import it.

There are a couple of thing that the Hero contact linking does better than Pre's contact linking. First, when you've linked to contacts on the Hero, it actually writes a record into the Notes field on google. What this means is that your contact linking survives wiping the device.  That's not true for the Pre.  If you manually link a contact on the Pre, then wipe your device, that link will be lost.

The other thing that the Hero does is it imports each facebook contact's facebook status and offers a way to see it from contacts.  The Pre doesn't import facebook status at all.

There is rumor that the Hero is inline to get an upgrade to Android 2.0. Contact management in 2.0 is supposed to be improved. So perhaps contact linking and imports will also be improved so that it catches up with the Pre & synergy.

All of this said, I've attempted to switch.  I think I will regret less going with the Hero. But it's not going well. On the phone, I spoke with the  "Sprint Multiple Device Return" group.  They told me to take the phone into a corporate store and to deal with a manager, who would have the discretion to be able to switch me to the Hero. But when I went to the store, they told me that they have no discretion and that perhaps Sprint customer account services has some way that I can switch.  I called Sprint customer account services, and they re-iterated what the multiple device return guys were saying.  So I will, again, go back to the store and attempt to switch.

I'm not terribly hopeful that it'll work. Such are the pitfalls of being an early adopter. On the other hand, I could simply attempt to sell my phone on the market, then use the proceeds to buy the Hero. It would almost certainly involve buying a new phone on a new line, then canceling the line and paying the early termination fee. I'd rather not do that, but it's something to consider, although I don't know what the market is for the phone.