Palm Pre and Apple iPhone 3GS: side by side

Palm Pre and Apple iPhone 3GS: side by side

For the past two years, the iPhone - that revolutionary monolithic slab of Apple goodness - has been the king of the smartphone world, reaching an incredibly broad customer base with its intuitive, user-friendly interface and wealth of features. No one could touch Apple and it seemed like everyone else would be destined to play catch-up. Then, Palm announced in January that their new device, the Palm Pre, would be coming soon to a Sprint store near you running on a new, innovative Linux-based operating system called webOS.

The Palm Pre was launched on June 6th, and Apple was hot on its heels with an incremental upgrade to the iPhone 3G – the iPhone 3GS (“S” for “speed”) – released with much fanfare on June 19th. The Pre is touted as a worthy competitor to the iPhone and even an “iPhone killer” by some but that is surely debatable.

Ultimately, whether you choose an iPhone 3GS or a Pre as your main go-to smartphone, they both are exceptional devices with their respective strengths and weaknesses. We will now compare the Pre and the iPhone 3GS head-to-head so you can get a good idea of their similarities and differences, and in the end, hopefully you will have a better feel for which one is right for you, assuming you haven’t committed yet to one or the other. Either one is a winner, in our opinion. So without further ado, let’s dive in and compare!

Form Factor – beauty begins on the outside

Both the Pre and iPhone have a beautiful, elegant design that makes it hard to put the devices down. As designed, the Pre looks like a black polished stone and resembles the feel of one in the hand.  It has a nice weight to it – objects that feel heavy seem to convey a sense of quality.  The display is flush with the phone’s edges and blends seamlessly with the phone, which looks attractive. 

The front of the Pre is very simple-looking with only the phone’s display and a single button at the bottom middle of the front of the phone.  The power button is on the top right corner of the phone, the ringer switch is located at the top right next to the power button, and the volume rocker buttons are on the left side.  Along the right side of the Pre is a small door that opens to reveal the charging port. The headphone jack is standard 3.5mm and is located at the top middle of the phone. Looking at the back of the Pre, a 3.2MP camera and flash are on the top left and the speaker is on the top right.

The Pre has a slide-out QWERTY keyboard, which is one of the big differences from the iPhone. When closed, the Pre is very compact at 2.3 inches wide, 3.9 inches high, .67 inches thick, and weighs in at 4.76 ounces.

The iPhone is 4.5 inches high, 2.4 inches wide, .48 inches thick, and weighs in at 4.8 ounces. It’s thinner and slightly heavier than the Pre, slightly wider, and over half an inch taller. It has a single button on the front, the “home” button located at the bottom center. It has a connector at the bottom for syncing and charging, a 3.5mm headphone jack at the top left, power button top right, and a volume rocker button and ringer switch on the top left side of the phone.  On the back, an autofocus 3MP camera is on the upper left. The iPhone 3GS is available in white or black and is curved along the back to fit comfortably in your hand. The iPhone does not have a physical keyboard. Instead, a virtual keyboard pops up whenever text needs to be entered, one of the stark contrasts between the iPhone and Pre.

Screen – let the touching begin

Both the iPhone 3GS and the Palm Pre have capacitive, multi-touch displays.  The iPhone display is a 3.5-inch diagonal glass widescreen with 320 x 480 pixel resolution.  Unlike the iPhone 2G and 3G, the 3GS has a fingerprint-resistant oleophobic coating on the screen, so it’s far less a fingerprint-magnet than the previous iPhone iterations.

The Palm Pre has a 3.1-inch diagonal plastic multi-touch screen, also with 320 x 480 pixel resolutions, but due to its smaller physical size, the pixels are closer together and the resolution is more crisp and vibrant. The iPhone’s display is no slouch, but the Pre’s is just downright gorgeous.  Since the Pre screen is plastic, it is more susceptible to scratching if you aren’t careful.  The iPhone’s glass surface is far less likely to scratch.

The pinching and stretching of multi-touch is implemented well on both devices, but it seems to be more smooth on the iPhone.  On the Pre, multi-touch animations can be a little jumpy, much like a film missing a few frames every few seconds.  On the iPhone 3GS, pinching to zoom out and stretching to zoom in is smooth and more polished.



1. panacea224

Posts: 19; Member since: Dec 20, 2008

Great comparison Phone Arena. They're both impressive devices with their own stark drawbacks. If I had to pick one I would go with the Pre.

10. durkadurkha

Posts: 10; Member since: Jul 10, 2009

Agreed, the only thing I would have liked to see are the pictures cropped with a side by side so we could compare a little easier than downloading them to my CPU and the doing it myself- but other than that it makes me wonder why they gave the PRE a 9.9 an 8.5 when they conclude the phones are so close to each other

15. Kedar

Posts: 2; Member since: Jul 19, 2009

I think it's because they compare each phone to others in the same carrier. So, I think the Palm Pre is compared to other Sprint phones... ... whilst the Iphone is compared to other AT&T phones. Here's what PhoneArena says in their "How Do We Rate?" page: "Carrier: If a phone is offered by a carrier, it is only compared to the rest of the devices that fall in the same class and are offered by the same wireless provider. This means that you shouldn’t compare the rating of a Verizon Wireless cell phone with the one of a phone from Sprint’s or T-Mobile’s lineup, for example."

2. Kiltlifter

Posts: 742; Member since: Dec 11, 2008

sorry... but i am a die hard WM fan... the Pre is a nice addition to the competition, but I like my Vogue too much. Palm's webOS (Nova) is a nice step in the right direction for them, I hope they do well and regain some of the market share they once dominated. I am an apple hater so I will never have an iPhone, therefore I will not comment further about it.

4. jovel16

Posts: 59; Member since: Oct 05, 2008

Yeah, no one can compare to HTC's TouchFLO 3D. Don't have to worry about running a separate app to look at stocks or the weather.

8. SellPhones82

Posts: 569; Member since: Dec 11, 2008

The home screen is the main thing WinMo people miss if they have switched to the Pre. The nice part is one is already in the works for the Pre and I hope to load it next week once the beta is launch.

12. durkadurkha

Posts: 10; Member since: Jul 10, 2009

Have you ever used an iPhone? the UI is at least 9-10 times more responsive than any WM phone, the copy and paste works better AND quality of the graphics make the iPhone feel like you are moving the page across a layer of air, TouchFlo is slow and buggy- it lags 1/2 the time on my co-workers Fuze. Touchflo is just a front to how horribly unintuitive actual WM is!

26. Kiltlifter

Posts: 742; Member since: Dec 11, 2008

well the Fuze isn't quite the touch pro... it is like vzw's pro, i.e. it sucks.. The sprint and alltel pro are nice. But like I said, i truly despise all apple products, call it a personal bias, which is why i don't comment on them, apple would have to pay me to use an ipod, or an iphone, like in the area of a few thousand dollars a month, even then, i would still buy windows products.

31. shgam2

Posts: 42; Member since: Sep 08, 2009

It's true, I used to have a HTC Diamond and my bro had Apple iPhone 2G. iPhone's touch response is soooo much better and my phone was a lot more laggy. The only thing that I liked about my phone was that the picture quality was better. Oh also I like the HTC Touch Flo 3D. It just looks very neat. What I like about the iPhone is that it has millions of apps available and its touch response. There is no phone that can beat iPhone in those areas. The thing about the apps is tho, tons of apps exist because there are tons of users of iPhone so if some other phone takes over the market, this is definitely going to change.

3. stuntz

Posts: 178; Member since: Dec 19, 2008

why doesnt phone arena say who they like better? well lets see they rated the Pre a 9.9/10 and the iPhone 3GS a 8.5/10... hmm who do you think they like better...

5. MTLance unregistered

You can't say which one is better because they both have pros and cons so it is up to the user decide in the end. But since there is no Pre in my country that I am living in I choose iPhone even though I'm a Apple hater and I kinda like it tbh because of WiFi and on normal phones it is only bluetooth. I really like the web browsing experience on iPhone even though I haven't played with other phones yet but the touch screen experience is really good, meh I hate interacting with plastic keys. Apple did a great job with iPhone 3GS staying ahead of competition otherwise I would be very pissed for paying so much for my brand new iPhone 3GS 32GB Black.

16. Kedar

Posts: 2; Member since: Jul 19, 2009

This is why Pre got a 9.9 and Iphone 8.5. Here's what PhoneArena says in their "How Do We Rate?" page: "Carrier: If a phone is offered by a carrier, it is only compared to the rest of the devices that fall in the same class and are offered by the same wireless provider. This means that you shouldn’t compare the rating of a Verizon Wireless cell phone with the one of a phone from Sprint’s or T-Mobile’s lineup, for example."

6. friscochris

Posts: 2; Member since: Jul 16, 2009

Dang,... I write a big write up in the comment section giving a consumers opinion and they erase it... Thanks Phone Arena, thats the last time I visit here.... Summary of what I said... get the iPhone, the pre is still in beta.

7. PhoneArena Team

Posts: 258; Member since: Jun 27, 2006

We sorry for this, it has been deleted by mistake, we'll try to restore it ASAP.

9. artz1986

Posts: 453; Member since: Mar 11, 2009

lol..... Dang.....I came by Phone Arena's office to drop off a 'thank you for doing a great job' cake, but I forgot to actually bring the cake and turned back home, but I must have dropped my wallet at PhoneArena's door step. Dam, I had like a $1Million in that wallet, that's the last time I visit there....... Summary, phone arena owes me a money.

13. durkadurkha

Posts: 10; Member since: Jul 10, 2009

I saw you drop your wallet, I tried chasing you but I got distracted on my iPhone reading about the Pre.

21. matistight

Posts: 1054; Member since: May 13, 2009

i am so sorry you looked at the pre. you should stay home and get some rest because seeing the pre is like seeing everyone blow up into pieces

11. sonisoe

Posts: 440; Member since: May 06, 2009

i hate head-to-head articles on best devices..the conclusion is always "no winner... each has strengths and weaknesses....its up to the consumer..."... take a stand... pre is easily the winner as a couple of features far outweigh what it trails from the iphone, that is synergy and multi-tasking....both are smooth in terms of swiping and zipping, web experience is equally good if pre is not better, pre's battery is expected more but its replaceable so we can bring a spare, camera shots are also equal despite pre hhaving a built-in flash... all in all both have similar features as laid out above except pre has synergy and great multi-tasking capability...

17. E.N.

Posts: 2610; Member since: Jan 25, 2009

I don't think Pre is the obvious winner at all. I think that the Pre's operating system is the obvious winner, but when you put everything together, its down to a matter of opinion. The Pre's build quality is not as good as the iPhone. I don't consider excellent quallity as having the hinges of your phone's keyboard moveable. The camera is in no way equal (Were you serious? I think you should look at the pictures again. Plus the iphone has stuff like touch to focus and video capture with touch to focus and editing capabilities). The youtube application is tons better than the Pre's. The one for iphone has all the stuff the Pre has and more like subscriptions, viewing comments, adding comments, uploading your own videos, etc. And the itunes store has a whole lot more to offer. Music, podcasts (most if not all are free), music videos, TV shows, movies, rentals, audiobooks, etc. The Amazon store will never be as good as the iTunes store. And its good to have the #1 music retailer in the U.S. (itunes) on your phone. And don't forget about memory. Download all the movies, funny clips, and tv shows from the internet and you probably won't have to worry about running out of space. Plus that means even more space for applications. Some people even have a large collection of music and the 32 gig of space allows for even more songs. And the 3GS is faster than the Pre in web browsing. I could write about lots more but I don't want this to be an advertisement because that's what it is starting to sound like. But I really think that the Pre has a lot of good stuff going for it like multitasking and synergy like you said. Plus the integration of contacts and messaging is probably #1 on any smartphone right now. (I thought the calendar was the best too until I found out a few weeks ago that my iPhone also supports multiple calendars as well). But there are a lot of faults as well. I really don't like the keyboard. I've seen some Pres in person and I was so surprised to see how small and cramped it was. And some users even say that the keys feel plasticy and fake. Also, how are you suppose to browse through the internet when in landscape mode? I mean I guess some people can use the keyboard sideways but I don't think that everyone else is that talented. And I also read that if you have many friends that you don't talk to on Facebook, they are still synced to your phone without the ability to delete them, which kind of sucks if you have like 800 friends on Facebook. But that's probably okay since you users usually search for contacts instead of scrolling for them. But anyways the thing that would make me choose the iPhone over the Pre anyday is the applications. I don't think Palm will ever have as many applications as the iphone. There are just too many iphone 2Gs, iphone 3Gs, iphone 3GSs, ipod touchs, ipod touchs 2nd Generations, and probably a new ipod touch this september. If I was a developer, I would easily choose the making applications for the iPhone OS than the Pre OS just because I can expect a lot more sales and a lot more advertisement. Its kind of common sense. And for example, the article said that the iPhone has no true tasks application. But I downloaded one for $2.99 and I have to say it does a lot more than the task application for the Pre. *And the article forgot to mention how the iphone's universal search works a little bit better because it can search content of written notes and also email subjects, To, and From. And it also didn't mention how Pre's memo application can only be shown in icons. So if you had like 200 memos, that's how you would see all of them. All that was said is "memos on the pre are colorful"

32. shgam2

Posts: 42; Member since: Sep 08, 2009

yea I thought the article sounded a bit biased. The thing about apps is that pre is a developer's favorite device since it's made in such that it's the easiest device to develop apps for. Heard they made some app and took them a day for iPhone and 3-4 hours for Pre but sure, iPhone's got MILLIONS of apps so thats hard to beat :) The thing I'm dissappointed about Pre is the battery. I heard that Pre doesn't even last a day in general.

14. Bawt

Posts: 17; Member since: Dec 22, 2008

I love the Pre, it's very sexy and "fresh." I'm sick of my iPhone 3GS already after owning a 3G and first gen. I was going to buy a Pre but the lack of being able to sync it to iTunes hits me hard. I need my movies for the plane rides! Also, after owning an iPhone for years I have because completely dependent on apps and games to play with, something the Pre will lack for quite some time. Lastly, I hate how the Pre's screen is glass. I cannot stand my products having nicks and scratches! Oh well, good try Palm, like your work.

18. E.N.

Posts: 2610; Member since: Jan 25, 2009

Yeah I kind of agree. One of the coolest things about the Pre is that its new, fresh, and does something that most phones don't. I am also getting a little bit too use to my iphone 3G. I decided not to get the 3GS mainly because it looked exactly like the 3G. And there are some things that I like too much on my 3G and some things that I really don't like about the Pre that's keeping me satisfied with this phone. But anyways my iphone is the first phone that I've kept for over a year and it will probably be the first phone that I will have for two years, so I guess Apple is doing something right.

19. Bawt

Posts: 17; Member since: Dec 22, 2008

Oops, meant the Pre's screen ISN'T glass.

22. matistight

Posts: 1054; Member since: May 13, 2009

Bawt, i bet you were either really high when you said you liked the pre or really drunk. You should go to rehab and then rethink your decision. Good day.

20. Striker13084

Posts: 128; Member since: Mar 30, 2009

what was the omnia tomuch compitition for them to compare to?

23. matistight

Posts: 1054; Member since: May 13, 2009

It wasnt. It was a typo : P

24. wHiTeSoL

Posts: 4; Member since: Jul 29, 2009

@ whoever mentioned apps. I have one question for you. How many apps are there for the Pre? Last count was 30,000+ and that was years ago, well before the pre was announced. I hate it when apple fan boys yell and scream that the iphone has all these apps and the palm has none. Do your homework before saying something.

25. behold--me

Posts: 679; Member since: Jun 22, 2009

wel actually the iphone has thousands. a sheet somewhere on this site (who knows where) shows that there were about 18 apps for the pre at launch. then 30 a week or two later. i don't think that the pre has that many. the iphone stil has its developers makin apps all the time but dammit i dont think that the pre has as many. "maybe u should do ur homework before sayin somethin"

27. wHiTeSoL

Posts: 4; Member since: Jul 29, 2009

Correction. There were only a few apps in the store at launch. Every app that worked on palm garnet also works on webos. And like I said earlier, last count there were over 30,000 plus

28. NDPTAL85

Posts: 1; Member since: Aug 03, 2009

So you're counting all of the extremely old looking apps that ran on the previous Palm OS as apps for the Pre? Thats stretching it a LOT. The classic environment on the Pre is extremely unstable and provides for a horrible UI mismatch between the two different OS's.

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