Palm Pre's inner iPhone revealed
Comparisons are inevitable. And (mostly) favorable
Photos The Palm Pre has been available for only a few short days, but that's been long enough for the good folks at the online repair-and-parts-shop iFixIt to get their hands on one and perform a loving vivisection.
The iFixIters have good things to say about the Pre's WebOS operating system, 3-megapixel camera, and replaceable battery, but are less impressed with its hardware keyboard and difficult serviceability.
We don't recommend tearing a Pre apart by yourself - unless you have consummate gadget-surgery skills and nerves of steel. According to iFixIt, "The Pre is definitely not an easy phone to service. There are lots of fragile and tricky tabs that will make putting the phone back together challenging."
You can view the entire 24-step Palm Pre Teardown on iFixIt's new geekalicious Gadget Teardowns website (user contributions encouraged). In addition, you can check out a component diagram and detailed chip-by-chip analysis of the Pre by one of iFixIt's partners, phoneWreck.
Since the full teardown is so lengthy and complex, we'll focus on iFixIt's comparisons between the new Pre and the oh-so-familiar Apple iPhone.
The Palm Pre's keyboard is made of plastic, not pixels
The first and possibly most obvious difference between the two allegedly sexy smartphones is that the Pre's keyboard is a hardware unit, while the iPhone's oft-maligned soft keyboard is a touch-screen dealie.
But while you might think a hardware keyboard would be automatically superior to a tiny touch-screen model, iFixIt isn't so sure. "Revealing the keyboard feels awkward and interrupts the smooth WebOS experience," they say, adding "Try before you buy, because this keyboard could be enough to deter picky users."
The Pre is chunkier than the iPhone - but that may be a good thing
The Pre is shorter and stockier than the iPhone, but to iFixIt that makes it more comfortable to use. "We love the feel of holding the Pre in our hands. In its closed position, it feels much more comfortable to hold than the iPhone."
You can replace the Pre's battery all by yourself
The Pre's back panel is easily snapped off to reveal its 1150 mAh battery - the same capacity as the iPhone's. Unlike the iPhone's battery, however, you can replace the Pre's on your own - just as you can replace the batteries in, oh, about 99.9 per cent of all mobile consumer electronic devices.
Not a boombox, but not half-bad, either
With the back panel off, you can see the Pre's speaker, which was in the upper right-hand corner of the back-panel snap-off photo, above. iFixIt describes it as being "substantially better than the one in the iPhone."
That tiny nubbin above the camera lens is an LED flash
The Pre's 3-megapixel camera is augmented by an LED flash. The iPhone 3G's 2-megapixel camera is about to be upgraded to 3 megapixels in the iPhone 3G S. And although Apple's new camera hardware and software promises a host of improvements, the addition of flash is not one of them.
It took an inordinate amount of delicate disassembly to get to the Pre's logic board, which iFixIt describes as being "substantially smaller than the iPhone logic board," adding that this Lilliputianism is "very impressive considering how renowned Apple's engineers are for shrinking hardware footprints." That shrinkage may have been necessary, seeing as how iFixIt reports that the Pre's keyboard makes up 25 per cent of the device's total weight.
iPhone guts, top; Palm Pre guts, bottom
Summing up, iFixIt says that "In general, this Palm hardware reminds us a lot more of Apple's engineering style than any of [the] hardware we've taken apart by other manufacturers (like Dell)." Hmm... Might this show the influence of ex-Apple hardware chief Jon Rubenstein, who left Apple in March of 2006 and joined Palm as executive chairman of the board in June of 2007? Bet on it.
One final difference between the Pre and the iPhone: According to iFixIt, a Pre packaging blurb says "Inspired by and designed in California." The iPhone's parallel self-description is "Designed by Apple in California."
"Inspired by" California? Here, where we're beset by budget crises, political infighting, and staggering debt?
We wish a better future for Palm. ®
All photos courtesy of iFixIt.