10 Reasons Why Palm Pre May Become the Smartphone Flop of 2009

By Don Reisinger  |  Posted 2009-09-25

10 Reasons Why Palm Pre May Become the Smartphone Flop of 2009

A report has surfaced claiming Verizon Wireless won't be bringing the Palm Pre to store shelves. The device was originally expected to be offered to Verizon Wireless customers later this year or in early 2010. For a while, the possibility of the Pre coming to carriers other than Sprint seemed quite likely. Palm's CEO said its phone would be offered on multiple carriers. Even Verizon Wireless CEO Lowell McAdam said users should expect to see the device on his network. It seemed like a done deal.

But Verizon Wireless, according to the report, is having some second thoughts. And the chances of it bringing the Pre to its network are growing slimmer by the day.

I find this quite alarming for Palm. If the company can't revive the Pre on Verizon Wireless' network, it's debatable just how long the device will be able to keep it afloat in the mobile phone space. At this point, it's entirely possible that the Pre will become this year's smartphone flop.

Here's why:

1. Ubiquity is everything

Say what you will about the iPhone and its exclusivity contract with AT&T, but it's the only device on the market that can pull it off with that kind of success. The Palm Pre doesn't have the curb appeal that the iPhone does. It also doesn't attract customers the way Apple's product does. It needs to be on as many carriers as possible if it is to be a success. Without Verizon Wireless' help, there's not much more Palm can do to turn things around.

2. Where are the apps?

When we consider the fact that the Palm Pre has just a few dozen applications available to users and there's no guarantee right now that that will change drastically in the short term, the Pre isn't as appealing to users as competing smartphones. Palm's main competitors all have more apps than the Pre. Apple's App Store has over 75,000 applications. Google's Android Market has over 8,000 applications. Research In Motion's BlackBerry App World has over 2,000 applications. There is no comparison.

3. The network

Although there are some folks who love Sprint, the majority of U.S.-based users are on AT&T and Verizon Wireless networks. Those companies have many more millions of subscribers and easily dwarf Sprint's subscriber base. It's an issue for Palm. The company is starting out with fewer potential customers. And with a phone that doesn't captivate audiences the way the iPhone does, it only spells trouble for the Pre.

4. Sales, please?

According to the aforementioned report, Palm has yet to sell 1 million Pre units. That, according to the publication, was one of the main reasons why Verizon Wireless had second thoughts about bringing the device to its stores. Consider the fact that Apple and RIM sell 1 million phones without batting an eye and I think it tells us everything we need to know about the Pre's position in the marketplace.

5. It's lost in the shuffle

When discussions about smartphones arise, inevitably the discourse moves to the iPhone and the BlackBerry. Again, all the other devices on the market simply don't have the curb appeal that those products do. Realizing that, the Palm Pre is lost amid the hundreds of cell phones currently on the market. It can't be distinguished.

Pricing the Pre Out of the Market


6. Being unique matters

There's nothing unique about the Palm Pre. It's a device that features a touch screen, a few apps, some corporate functionality and little else. I'm sure Palm would argue that the device's multitasking features are unique. To some extent, I would agree. But at the same time, that's a very inconsequential feature that probably matters to few people. Every device needs a "hook." The Palm Pre doesn't have one.

7. The price is in no-man's land

Right now, the Palm Pre is being offered for $149.99. The price was reduced by $50 after Palm had offered the product for $200 with a two-year agreement since its launch. At $149.99, Palm is pricing the Pre out of the market. When given the chance to choose between a Palm Pre on Sprint or an iPhone 3G for $99 at AT&T with all the apps, what would make the user pick the Pre? That question isn't so easily answered. And I think that's most reflected in both devices' sales figures.

8. The marketing effort is slipping

I've seen several Palm Pre ads of late, but for the most part, they don't quite capture me as Apple's iPhone ads do. They don't prove to me that the Pre is a device I really want. Worst of all, they don't show me that the device is so good, it can compete against the iPhone.

9. Design matters

The Palm Pre isn't a bad product. In fact, some users are quite happy with it. But the main problem with the Palm Pre is that when users try it out at a Sprint store, they're not captivated. They're not seeing anything special. But when they use the iPhone, it's a different experience. The feature set is robust. The touch screen is stellar. And all the options it provides through outstanding software design make it an ideal phone for anyone looking to do more than simply place calls.

10. It's not Apple

It's difficult to discount a product simply because it's not made by Apple, but in the mobile phone market, if a device doesn't have an Apple logo affixed to it, the device simply won't receive the kind of attention the iPhone does. Apple is a major player in the tech industry. It's widely considered the benchmark for all other companies. And if a respective company's device can't live up to Apple's products, it's immediately filed away as an also-ran.

So far, the Palm Pre can't live up to the iPhone. And without support from Verizon Wireless, we might look back at this year and see the Pre as a flop, rather than a success.

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