I’ve been using the Palm Pre Plus on Verizon Wireless since February this year. I really enjoy the operating system, webOS. And the hardware (once I got used to it) isn’t bad. It’s relatively lightweight, easy to hold, and overall a nice-looking device.
But the more I think about it, the more I’d rather have an Android. Here’s why.
The app paradigm
webOS is stuck in the app paradigm. So is the iPhone. Android isn’t, especially with the HTC Sense UI.
When I turn on my phone, I’m looking for information, not apps. My phone comes with me everywhere and ought to know my context. I’m not turning on my phone to open an app. I’m turning on my phone to accomplish something–to get some information from my friends, to see what my next tasks or calendar items are, to determine whether I need to bring an umbrella.
In the app paradigm, I have to open a Twitter client and read updates. Then I open a Facebook client and read updates. Then I open my calendar and look at appointments. Then I open a weather app and check the day’s forecast. All I really wanted was the information, not all the overhead of opening and closing apps, scrolling through and searching for the relevant things I wanted to know.
I don’t want to see minimized cards with some apps. I don’t want to see an array of pretty icons. The app paradigm is simply too inflexible and too siloed to provide me the information I want in the way I want it.
Current Android devices are so much faster and more capable than current webOS devices. While rumor has it that hardware improvements are coming, I want a phone that’s up to snuff in the market today. A 500 MHz processor powering a small 3G phone can’t compete in this market anymore.
This is both a hardware and a software issue. Admittedly, the GPS experience on non-Verizon apps is spotty at best. It’s the unfortunate truth that the missteps of the carriers of webOS devices have tarnished its image in the location realm. Whether it’s caused by hardware limitations or carrier restrictions, the fact remains that geolocation on the Palm Pre leaves much to be desired.
Turn-by-turn navigation is only available on the Pre if you’re willing to shell out a few extra dollars a month for a subscription fee. Android phones come with turn-by-turn navigation by default at no extra charge. That, combined with the inherently better location capabilities of Android hardware, is compelling by itself.
Innovation and community
webOS has a very strong community. I have no complaints there. But the platform hasn’t garnered the attention of many developers outside that community, meaning that the app selection is extremely limited. There’s no Yammer app, for example (something that I desperately need). There are few Google apps for webOS (Maps and YouTube are the obvious exceptions).
Google is innovating incredibly fast with the Android platform. Android 2.2 brings incredible speed improvements across the board. Palm is in the middle of an acquisition by HP, so I’ll forgive them for the time being. But acquisition notwithstanding, innovation in webOS has been a slow process. Some are optimistic that innovation will improve with the better corporate backing that Palm will get from HP. I’m more inclined to run and develop for a platform that already has a proven track record of adoption and improvement.
Perhaps I’m being pessimistic. Perhaps I’m too easily distracted by new, shiny toys. But I’m more than likely going to make the switch to Android and devote my energies to that platform.
I still hope for the best for webOS. It is an awesome operating system with a lot of potential, but that potential has yet to be realized. Hopefully the new deal with HP will provide the necessary boost to get webOS onto its next wave of innovation.