What smartphone do you use? Careful, some will judge you heavily based on your answer. The cell phone as we once knew it is dead, it’s all about the smartphone now. It is getting to be more and more rare that you see the flip phone of years past, and much more common to see a smartphone in its place. At first glance, there are a ton of options for the average consumer. You see advertisement after advertisement touting the superiority of one phone vs. another. The fact of the matter is, however, there are really only a few true contenders. Much like the raging war of the desktop platforms, the same is happening the mobile space. It comes down to four; Google’s Android, Apple’s iPhone, Palm’s WebOS, and Blackberry. This may go to five if we ever see a Windows Phone 7 Series. To be honest, the rest are merely sub-par knock-offs of these.
I have used or owned just about every smartphone there is to date. Each of them has been good in its own way, but at the same time, many of them were lacking significantly. Before the iPhone and Android, your choices were Blackberry, Palm Treo, and Windows Mobile (hardly worth mentioning; yes it was/is that bad of an experience). I myself was a diehard Blackberry user back then; they really had the market locked with their addictive qwerty keyboard bricks. Blackberries really were an addictive experience, hence the term “crackberry”. These phones, compared to today, were very limiting, but for the time they were an amazing breakthrough.
With the arrival of the iPhone in 2007, the game was officially changed. This marked the smartphone revolution. I was, of course, one of the many in line on day one to spend $600 for a phone that, when you look back, didn’t really do very much at all. With the introduction of the iPhone, we all expected the competition to step up and show us some really amazing devices, but sadly, this was not the case at all. The scene turned into a bunch of companies trying to make “iPhone killers” by simply copying features, and usually not very well. No one was innovating. To be honest, I don’t think they were even trying, relying more on false advertising and trickery to move these crappy devices off the shelves.
In October of 2008 Google decided to throw its hat into the ring and compete in this space. They released Android running on the G1. This was potentially the first true competitor to Apple and its iPhone. “Potentially,” being the keyword there. The G1 was met with somewhat positive reviews and attention; however it was obvious that Android in its initial release was very beta and was going to need time to get up to popular demand.
In January 2009 at the Consumer Electronics Show we were shown another company step up to the challenge. Here we saw an announcement from a company that many forgot about or gave up on, a company that was struggling to stay afloat, a company that needed a home run or would risk certain death. That company was Palm. Palm had been hard at work on their new platform, and on that day, they unveiled WebOS. Along with this announcement came new hardware, the Palm Prē, and an amazing new accessory, the Touchstone charging station. This charging station was the first mainstream consumer charger to acheive wirelessless charging through the use of electromagnetic induction; with the added bonus of not needing to house your beautiful phone in a nasty, and very bulky, third party case. All of these announcements were very well received and caused quite a stir of excitement. Unfortunately, the story did not end as well as it started. With a poorly planned launch time (a few days before the iPhone 3GS), low stock count in the stores, somewhat flakey hardware, and a carrier that really didn’t seem all that excited about the product (Sprint); WebOS and the Palm Prē were quickly dismissed and swept into the gutter.
A year later, Palm was back at CES to announce a refreshed line of hardware and updates to the WebOS platform. They announced the Prē Plus and Pixi Plus, with revved up internals and a better build quality. These freshly updated lines also got carrier upgrades, moving to Verizon, and later AT&T as well. Even with the new hardware updates, software updates, and added carrier choices, people are still failing to recognize what this platform has to offer.
I truly believe that the WebOS platform by Palm is the best thing no one knows about. When every other company is spending 90% of their budget on marketing and 10% on innovation of the product, it feels as though Palm did exactly the opposite and spent 90% on innovation. Every aspect of the platform and phone feel as though someone actually thought it out and used it before committing. The user interface of WebOS is such a pleasure to use and navigate. You get exactly what you want every time.
On all the other platforms I always found the need to hack/jailbreak/root the device to make it truly what I wanted it to be. This never ended well; it was always a pain to update to the latest software builds, and usually made the phone less reliable. With WebOS, there is none of that. Palm embraces developers and open source like no other company I have seen. Android says they are open, but compared to WebOS, they are as closed as the iPhone. With the iPhone, Blackberry, and Android, the operating system feels as though it was not built for you. WebOS, on the other hand, feels very organic, like it was made to be a true extension of you. WebOS works for you, rather than against you. WebOS makes using a smartphone a joy again, rather than a constant headache. If you are not 100% happy with your current phone, there is a way to be: give WebOS a try and see what the world of smartphones is supposed to be like.