6 Reasons Not to Buy a Palm Pre on Bell

Bell is working hard to position the new Palm Pre as the pre-eminent alternative to the iPhone in Canada. They’re got a boatload of the devices and they want you to buy one and commit to their network for the long run in the process.

There’s no doubt that the Pre is a killer device and that its Web OS bolsters a new mobile computing era that the iPhone began a couple of years ago. But there’s a lot of reason not to buy into the device at this time.

Dead Network

In partnership with Telus, Bell will be rolling out a new, much faster 3G HSPA network for Christmas. This means their current CDMA-based mobile network is effectively end-of-life. And that’s the network the Pre will live on. Come 2010, a slew of new, better devices will roll out for the new, fast network and, within a year, the old network will be like that forgotten country lane. The Pre will be forever constrained to bump along on it like your Grandpa’s Buick.

Long Term Commitment

You can’t get a Pre unless you commit to Bell for 36 months. That’s a long, long time, especially considering that there’s a heck of a lot of change going on in the Canadian mobile marketplace these days. On top of the new network, the epiphany of the iPhone is forcing innovation that is resulting in an outpouring of amazing new devices. Buying into the Pre for 36 months is way too long. You’ll be kicking yourself for doing it before next summer.

Version 1.0 Syndrome

Every geek worth his salt respects the ancient wisdom of our elders: never buy version 1.0. The Pre is the ailing Palms’ desparate – and valiant – grasp the company’s former glory. It’s an ambitiously big step for a company on such unsteady ground, with a new operating system and new hardware. And it’s the first kick at the can. Which means that the device, while cool at first in all its newness, will seem very cutting edge. But anyone who bought a first generation iPhone knows how fast that sheen wears off fast. It’s advisable to wait until Palm releases a version 2 device. It’ll be more solid, less buggy, and even more feature-rich.

Low Customer Satisfaction

Even as Apple’s iPhone satisfaction rating with customers approaches an impossible 100% level, the Pre struggles to pass 50% with US consumers, who have had their hands on the device for several months now. That means new Pre owners have a 50-50 chance of disliking their new, expensive, commitment-heavy mobile device.

Expensive Network Dependency

The only legitimate point of entry for a calling plan for a smartphone will include at least 1000 MB of data transfer. You’ll carve through anything less far too quickly and end up paying exorbitant penalty rates. Bell’s “unlimited data” plans with other required voice features like voice mail and call display start at $100 a month. Considering that with a Pre you’ll commit to 3 years of loyal servitude and you’re promising Bell a whopping $3600 just for buying into Palm’s new dream. That’s too hefty a commitment.

Elementary School Software Tactics

Palm would like you to believe that the Pre will sync with that cornerstone of the global music industry, iTunes, which now commands a full 25% of the market. But it doesn’t. Only devices that Apple permits to sync with iTunes can do so. And they’re not letting the Pre in. So Palm has resorted to software deception, attempting a form of schoolyard deception to try and convince iTunes to let it in. But it’s not working. In the long run: your Pre will be shut out of your iTunes library, so don’t buy Palm’s misinformation; with a Pre, you’ll have to forfeit iTunes.

So here’s my advice: wait it out. Once Bell and Telus turn on their new network, a new, much-needed era of fierce competition will flourish in Canada. Finally, the three national providers will be on equal footing in terms of access to new devices and network technology, and they’ll be fighting tooth-and-nail for customers. Plus, 2010 will be a banner year for exciting new mobile devices. We’ll see an exciting new product from Apple, a Pre successor will probably be announced, and who knows what might come from sleeping giants like RIM and Sony.

And don’t get me wrong: I’d love to pick up a Pre. I think it’s probably a great device and offers a great alternative to the iPhone. But I would only buy in if I could get it for about $200 to $300 and with no more than a 12-month commitment. Because I know the Pre will be outdated and outmoded by this time next summer.

There has never been a worse time to sign an expensive, long-term contract for a first-generation device like the Palm Pre. If you do, in a matter of months you’ll be kicking yourself as you watch the parade of ever-cooler, more able, and faster devices roll out onto a new mobile data highway.

19 thoughts on “6 Reasons Not to Buy a Palm Pre on Bell

  1. My Latitude Wireless contract expires in February 2010 and I’d also like to replace my battle-worn Blackberry Pearl. What device would you recommend if I want a new 3G HSPA network compatible phone? I’d like a iPhone, but that’s probably wishful thinking, right?

    • You’re supposed to begin comments like that: “Dear Abby”… lol.

      I think the question can only be answered when next February rolls around. What devices will Bell/Telus manage to attract to their new network? Will they have any exclusive devices, or unique offers? Time will tell, but I’m sure Bell, in particular, will be intent on doing something great with the new network for the Olympics.

      As for the iPhone, I’d say not a chance unless you either unlock the device to break its link with the Rogers network, or buy on the Rogers network and then treat the Bell network as a roaming environment (assuming Rogers manages to negotiate roaming with Bell and Telus.) There aren’t even rumours about Bell or Telus breaking Rogers’ exclusivity with Apple on the iPhone, so don’t hold your breath on that happening any time soon.

    • The big question is what are the actual contractual “exclusivity” that Rogers has with Apple? The terms of their contract have never been disclosed so it is unknown if Rogers actually can bar Bell/Telus from carrying the iPhone. It would not make a lot of sense at the time for Rogers to pay for the privilege to have this when none of their competitors could carry the iPhone, unless they saw that Bell/Telus would be upgrading their system to allow that in the near future…

      Rogers could just be saying they’re exclusive because they’re the only serious GSM carrier in Canada, not because they made the same type of agreement that AT&T made with Apple to bar their competitors. I can only hope..

    • @Kirk

      No, Rogers’ exclusive on the iPhone is probably related to their close relationship with AT&T, the iPhone’s exclusive carrier in the US.

      AT&T owns a chunk of Rogers Wireless, though I can’t remember how much off the top of my head.

  2. Do you have any information on NWTel implementing a GSM network in the north? As a Yellowknifer, I’m interested in knowing what may be coming down the pipe here.

  3. I bought my Son a Palm Pre from Bell. In fact one of the first to be distributed to the general public. The phone last a full 19 days before the touch screen stopped working. This is not a good potential indicator of the quality of the phone but maybe it was a fluke. Here is the bigger issue: Palm does not replace the phone when it breaks, you have to have it repaired. Apparently this takes 2-6 weeks. In the meantime he is phoneless. If I had purchased the extended warranty things may be different. Why should I purchase something else for about 30% more cost? The manufacturer apparently has no faith in their product. Bell, knowing this is still selling the phone and hope for it to be a hot item.

    I find it unbelievable that these companies can sell a product with essentially no warranty or support.

    • Ian Brian,

      Palm in fact has a great warranty. Any issues take it back to the Bell store, they issue a repair and a new one arrives at your door in 2 business days. Then all you do is pack up the old one and ship it back, postage paid.

      Log into your palm profile on your new phone and all your settigs, apps and contacts will be there.

  4. Thanks for clearing that up. For me, this isn’t too much of a big deal. I’m using a 6-year old phone. I’m not keen on the mandatory 3-year commitment required for an iPhone so I’ll probably get a Pre, warts and all to tide me over for a couple of years until Wind Mobile expands its network.

    As for the speed; it seems that the Bell EVDO A is a bit slower on download and a bit faster on upload compared to their new network. I agree the network will eventually be left behind but I don’t imagine it will be a big deal in the next two years. From there, I’m on the another provider or upgrading.

    But that’s just me. I agree this won’t work for everybody.

    Two things I’m wondering: Will Palm even be in existence in two years? And will they open the paid app store in Canada on March 31 as has been rumoured?

  5. I have a Pre on Bell and couldn’t love it more! Fast downloads and internet, I have no problems getting online what-so-ever, never have. The apps store is decent considering how new it is and have alot of free apps (Facebook, The Weather Network, Sims 3, Need For Speed:Underground, and IM+ are my most used). Updates have added video recorder to it, as well as a few other “niceties”. I have never experienced any lagging, but It does get rather warm when charging (luckily it doesn’t take long) Battery life could definatley be improved, but like with all other phones, depends on what it is doing in the background. When I am using Wifi it drains fast, same a surfing the net. There are things that can be done to improve battery life short of buying a larger capacity one, which I now have on order, like turning down the brightness, having the screen shut off after 30secs or a minute, and having it check for email every hour or more instead of constantly, turning Bluetooth of when not using it, ditto for Wifi. Minor issues for a fantastic phone. I even got one for my daughter! As for Bell themselves, thier customer service has been so awesome that I cancelled my cable with Shaw and went with Bell. Once Bell gets internet here in British Columbia I will be switching to them for that also (only thier “Rural” service is available for a city the size of Prince George-odd but whatever). Great phone, great service. LG is all I would ever get before, but now I am a Palm fan! And my kudos to Bell!

  6. one thing I NEED to ask… where the hell do u find a 12 month plan, it seems its either 3 years or pay as you go.

  7. Actually your first point is wrong my palm has worked better than the iphone on bells 3g network since april. and I got my phone free from bell and my contract ends in december of this year. My phone bill is on 70$ a month and it’s basically unlimited everything. I had an iphone for a month, hated it, but lived with it, then it died and luckily I received a full refund. It has close to 100% satisfaction rating, thats crazy. It’s probably because every who has one refuses to look at its flaws just because it’s apple.

  8. I totally agree with you ALex about iPhone users refusing to look at it’s flaws. I know iPhone users who complain about this and that but as soon as I mention an area where the Pre is superior, they get defensive.

    I have never owned an iPhone but when the Pre was introduced at CES in early 2009. I went to the phone store and played around with an iPhone 3G to see what the Pre was up against. At time the iPhone 3G was decent, but after buying a Pre in September 2009 I realized how limiting the iPhone is. As time goes by, I realize more and more how inferior iOS is (including iOS4) to WebOS.

    Yes the Pre and WebOS has it’s flaws, it is not perfect (yet) but people need to wake up and stop acting like the iPhone is the best thing there is and nothing else comes close.

    I have had a version Pre since September 2009. I have never had to replace it, I have dropped it several times, once on the baskeball court (outdoors) from waist height while running. It has scratches here an there but still works fine.

  9. To the author, your 6 reasons for not buying a Palm Pre are not very good reasons. Here is why:

    1. “Dead Network”, yes Bell has converted their network but they are still supporting CDMA and will have to for a whil. Now that they have converted to 3G HSPA perhaps no one should buy any phones since 4G is around the corner. Stupid reason.

    2. “You can’t get a Pre unless you commit to Bell for 36 months”. Not true, even though I got a 36 month plan, I had the option to get 12 or 24 months. It just would have cost more upfront.

    3. “Every geek worth his salt respects the ancient wisdom of our elders: never buy version 1.0”. This may be true but if everyone followed this rule then there wouldn’t be anything to buy would there?

    4. “Low Customer Satisfaction”. I don’t think these satisfaction ratings mean squat, especially when it comes to the iPhone. I know many iPhone users who complain have issues with their iPhone but would never rate it poorly. As for the Pre rating low within the first few Months when they only had a handful of Apps and hardware issues, this is expected. But should improve over time.

    5. “Expensive Network Dependency”. I suppose the other carriers offer free data plans. Would this not be the case if you got an iPhone (or any phone) on Rogers (or any other network)? Why is this a reason?

    6. “Palm would like you to believe that the Pre will sync with that cornerstone of the global music industry, iTunes”. So if iTunes commands 25% of the market it means only 25% are using it. Not a majority by a long shot. Yes Palm had originally attempted to have the Pre sync with iTunes. Did they try to deceive anyone? Absolutely not, the Pre did sync with iTunes until Apple changed it.

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