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Smartphone Comparison: Apple iPhone 3GS, Palm Pre, Motorola Droid, and Google Nexus One

01.22.10

Which Smartphone is Right for Me?

Without a doubt, smartphones are making their way into the mainstream.  And it seems like every few weeks or so the tech world is all abuzz with the announcement of a new mobile device as all the major manufacturers continue in the arms race to have the newest and best device on the market.  Of course, all the hype makes it hard for the everyday consumer to discern which smart device is the best for his or her needs.  That's why we've decided to present you with some of the information out there from sources we trust on the leading smartphones on the market today.

Big-Picture Smartphone Comparison

As you'll see with the image on the left, Bill Shrink has compiled a nice global comparison of the iPhone 3GS, Palm Pre, Motorola Droid, and Google Nexus One.  In terms of total cost of ownership, the Palm Pre takes the cake as being the least expensive.  The iPhone 3GS boasts the Mac appeal and by far the largest selection of apps.  The Droid and the Nexus one both run the Android operating system, which is highly touted for its flexibility in terms of development.  Of course, there are drawbacks for each device as well.  Read on below for a more detailed take on each individual phone.

iPhone 3GS

While externally virtually identical to its predecessors, the iPhone 3GS does boast notable internal improvements.  It has a faster processor than the iPhone 3G, a 3.0 Megapixel camera, video recording and editing, a compass feature that makes using Google Maps much more handy, and other notable improvements, many of which have more to do with the iPhone OS 3.0 than the phone itself.  Drawbacks to the device include its lack of multitasking capability (i.e., you can't run more than one application at a time) and, of course, AT&T's less-than-stellar service.  If you'd like to learn more about the iPhone 3GS, check out Engadget's in-depth review.   

Palm Pre

We are perhaps the most familiar with the Pre out of all the smart devices listed here because it is the phone we have chosen to use for our own business.  So that should tell you what we think about its quality.  As for its major selling points, the Pre is one of the cheapest smartphones to buy and own under service, its revolutionary Linux-based webOS allows multitasking, and its construction is attractive, unique, and intuitively functional in a way that challenges even the iPhone.  On the downside, the app selection for the Pre is dwarfed by that for other devices.  If you're interested in learning more, check out our intial review of the Pre (note that the device has matured since our initial post) and Pre Central's in-depth review.

Droid

The Droid is Motorola's attempt to bring a major smartphone to the table and to bring Android into the mainstream.  Its name, advertising campaign, and design all seem to target a slightly more tech-savvy and tech-interested crowd than other smartphones.  And the design certainly is different than that of any comparable device.  The Droid does have a beefed up version of Android, a 5 Megapixel camera, a physical keyboard, and Verizon's network to recommend it.  At the same time, however, our experience with the device so far has been that it is a bit clunky both in feel and in function; it's certainly not as smooth and intuitive as the iPhone or the Pre.  For a more in-depth discussion of the Droid, check out Engadget's review.

Nexus One

Google's announcement that it would be seling the Nexus One (the phone is actually manufactured by HTC and sold by Google) was met with truckloads of hype in the tech community.  Now, however, the consensus seems to be that expectations were a bit too high, even if it is a solid device overall.  Still, for users interested in the Android platform, it may be a good way to go since it does come with the newest version of Android (2.1).  It boasts a 1 GHz processor, which is lightning fast for a smartphone, and if you want to really harness all of Google's applications on your phone, the Nexus One, unsurprisingly, is probably the way to go.  On the other side of the fence, it is only subsidized through T-Mobile, which doesn't have the best 3G network around, and there have been minor complaints about the device itself, such as a lack of multitouch capability on its screen.  (Update:  As of the week of 2/1/10, firmware updates to the NexusOne have added multitouch support.)  For more information, check out Engadget's in-depth review.