Palm Pre: iPhone Killer or Dud in the Making?

The Pre is hitting shelves at Sprint stores on June 6th.

Yes, I really did say Sprint. Sprint, with its shrinking customer network. Sprint with its crappier than Verizon customer service. Sprint, with its “cheap” calling plans. Sprint with its cellular coverage that is so poor that it’s the reason that Verizon, AT&T and T Mobile are the taking the carrier world by storm in North America. Sprint had its chance. I’m surprised they’re still in business and admit it, so are you.

Perhaps it is some kind of poetic justice, or perhaps even irony, that a company that is seeing itself fall on hard times, is aiding a once great tech giant that also finds itself awaiting its death knell. Now, that said, I don’t know that the Pre will be the end of Palm, but I don’t think it’s going to save the company either.

Let’s start with the bare bones facts.

The Pre is going to cost 299$ out the door. If you’re lucky, you’ll pick up your phone at the right location to get the 100$ mail in rebate and then you’ll pay the same price as an iPhone.

The Sprint plan is 99$ a month. The AT&T iPhone plan has variable pricing that starts at 69$ a month and goes up from there and you can adjust this plan on the fly as your year goes on.

The Pre offers nothing innovative in its design that makes it an iPhone OR a Blackberry killer other than the fact that it can multitask and run background processes, something which Apple is working on for iPhone and RIM is already ahead of the game on. The Pre doesn’t even offer a form factor that’s particularly attractive to the eye. The device is larger and more awkwardly designed than a storm or a curve and it has none of iPhone’s raw sex appeal.

I think that Palm has seriously misjudged this market. When you walk into the smart phone world in this day and age, you cannot walk in only planning on building an iPhone killer. RIM is a huge competitor here too and RIM and Apple have carved out their own places in this market and made room for themselves. In order to truly build an iPhone killer, you have to build something better than both an iPhone AND a Blackberry. You have to give consumers something so sleek and innovative that they find that they cannot live without this device. You have to give them a reason to get on board with a cellular network whose coverage is less than impressive, who is known for draconian ETFs and whose customer service makes HP look like a polite young lady who’s offering you a cup of tea while you wait for the next available representative.

I think Palm has dropped the ball with this one. It may not be a complete and utter failure, but I don’t think it will gain any serious market share for Sprint and I don’t think that it will harm AT&T’s or Verizon’s current business in Smart Phones.