Apple iPhone 3GS vs. Palm Pre: In Real Life

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"Here's what matters: Which screen makes my face sweat less?"

Walking around outdoors, I found the Pre's screen a little easier to make out, while with the iPhone I occasionally had to slip into a shadowy doorway. Indoors, though, it was a little harder to decide. Obviously the iPhone's screen is bigger and pretty crisp--but the tightly packed pixels on the Pre's small screen are pretty appealing. Side by side, YouTube video playback loaded a hair faster and looked a little better to me on the Pre.

What I didn't like about the Pre is that it gave me face sweats. You might know what I'm talking about: You hold a phone next to your noggin for too long, and it can get uncomfortably damp. It was a hot day, the phone heated up--whatever--my Pre was forming puddles. Thanks to its new coating, the iPhone 3GS wasn't nearly as gooey after extended gab sessions. Then again, maybe I should just invest in a Bluetooth headset.

"Who needs apps when I've got NASCAR?!?"

If the Pre had come out earlier, this call would be a lot closer. After all, the iPhone's App Store is only a year old and here we are, a bajillion apps later, with the Pre lagging behind in sheer quantity. You know, like an iFart app. I will give Palm this: It is coming out of the gate with a few incredibly handy little programs already. It has a couple Twitter apps (they need better ones), LinkedIn, movie information, flight tracking, Pandora, eBooks, AP News. And here's where I'm loving the Pre--try listening to Pandora while using a Twitter app. And surfing the Web. You get the idea.

But then there's the NASCAR app permanently burned into the Pre. Really? Thanks, Sprint, you not only stick me with this dopey bloatware, but you also won't let me remove it? It may be time for me to do things the hard way. I'm ready to run the risk of bricking my phone just to ditch this app. If you're feeling equally foolhardy, follow the steps at the Pre Dev Wiki.

"I like how the 3GS's cut and paste is a 'feature' as opposed to what should've been there all along."

I've always complained that the iPhone's lack of cut and paste was a dealbreaker. Thanks for killing one of my main arguments, Apple.

"I took the Pre off its charger 2 hours ago. I haven't done anything crazy with it yet the battery is now at 80 percent. Is that normal?"

I always knew that the iPhone burned through juice, but I was surprised to see how quickly the Pre crapped out. Halfway through my day, and I had less than 50 percent power. It's not as if I hammered the Web with the thing. I did the occasional e-mail, read the news on the bus, and listened to some music. That's when it dawned on me: The Pre has a GPS feature. 'Improves accuracy but can impact battery life,' says the label by the toggle. Understatement of the year! Turning off GPS bought me a full day's worth of normal use. (And, by the way, with the GPS off, the Pre was still more accurate than the iPhone's locator.)

Palm Pre
"When smartphones get too smart: Apparently, my Pre dialed 911 without my knowing. 911 then called me back. They know something I don't?"

I wasn't joking when I mentioned this at the beginning. Let me explain it a little better, though. I always PIN-lock my cell phones. When you do that, the phone offers a quick-dial button for emergencies. In the case of the panicky Pre, you're potentially just two button clicks away from calling 911. As I did. It was late at night, and an alarm was going off. In my sleep, I tried slapping my phone to turn it off. What I didn't realize is that my motions had hit the Emergency Call button and then grazed the call button. A couple of seconds later, the 911 dispatcher was hearing my snores. Or maybe the Pre was worried I'd go with the 3GS, and the Pre decided to call for help.

(The iPhone requires you to physically type 911. Emergency dispatchers all over can breathe a sigh of relief.)

"Caught in NYC storm & some drops got in my dork holster/phone pocket. 3GS shook it off, but the Pre...ruh-roh. Praying 2 tech gods now."

You've probably heard a lot of electronics wives' tales about what to do when your devices get soaked. While I was on the road, buckets of rain dropped and doused my phones--I was screwed, right? Actually, no--you just need to act quickly and intelligently.

I ducked into a drug store and bought Ziploc bags and a small box of dry rice. What kind of goofy MacGyver trick was this? Well, dry rice absorbs moisture. So I found a dry spot, turned off the phones, dabbed both to clean the spills off the surfaces, and put each one in a bag with some rice. I was back in business with two working phones a little later that day.

"Voice control? I don't need no stinkin' voice control..."

Congrats, Apple, on adding a neato feature that can cut through my faux Lawnguyland accent and thick Brooklynese. But honestly, how many people actually use voice-command features? Maybe I'm crazy, but I don't mind the extra 2 seconds to sift through my music manually.

And the Winner Is...

Okay, so Apple's iPhone 3GS is faster and more refined, has more apps and games, functions better as an MP3 player, and apparently walks on water. So of course that means I'm going with...the Pre? Yep, I'm stubbornly sticking with the Pre, for a handful of reasons. First, I like the physical keyboard. Second, I need my phone to plug into any PC and read as a normal hard drive so that I can drag and drop anything I want (even though it has only a lousy 8GB). Third, AT&T's monthly rates would kill me.

Don't think I'm ditching the dork holster just yet, though. I'm actually considering getting an iPod Touch just for the apps (Rolando 2!). Besides, that holster makes me look like a nebbishy Starsky (or) Hutch.

Need even more nerdity? Follow Casual Friday columnist and PC World Senior Writer Darren Gladstone on Twitter (gizmogladstone) for game-swag giveaways, odd links, and time-wasting tips.

At a Glance
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