Better than the iPhone?

The Palm Pre and HTC Hero have been out a while now. Both phones have been tipped as that big bad iPhone killer for a rather similar bag of specs - fresh new user interface, powerful operating system and a little extra smartphone something. But who's really got the muscle to topple the reigning champ?



PALM PRE Closed, this touch-screen slider is a classy, glossy piece of work, but reveals a low-rent keyboard and clacky sliding mechanism when open. The touch-screen is great though - at a comfortable 3.1 inches with 320x480 resolution, it's incredibly responsive and accurate, registering light swipes, drags, and taps, and, bonus alert: multi-touch.
HTC HERO That chin is a point of contention, but we rate the smooth plastic build, particularly the smudge-resistant Teflon back which makes the phone look extra matt (and feel extra soft). The screen is a good 3.2 inches too, and the capacitive touch works almost perfectly, though we still don't have multi-touch.

Winner HERO - but with its smooth, glossy tablet style, the iPhone is still king


User interface

PALM PRE Palm's new webOS is a completely new interface primed for multitasking, and it's as easy to use and innovative as Apple's original market-buster. Open apps are represented as 'cards', which you navigate by flicking - up to 'kill', side to get to the next one - and below that, a customisable quick launch bar with five apps that you can launch in a great looking wave motion.
HTC HERO HTC's Sense interface skins the Android OS like a second, uh, skin, harnessing a powerful system with seven totally customisable home screens and useful widgets like weather, geo-tagged photos and even HTC's own Twitter client, Peep. Sense also pulls all communication you have with a contact into their profile card, including Facebook and Flickr updates.

Winner PRE - and its innovative gesture control and powerful multitasking puts it way above Apple's boy



PALM PRE The Pre is a proper social hub with Palm's Synergy, an over-the-air syncing software that links your Google, LinkedIn, Yahoo!, Facebook and Microsoft Exchange contacts, emails and calenders. You can also sync instant messaging programs AIM and Gtalk, and instant messages are stored in the same app as SMSes and MMSes. A neat extra is that if you're chatting with a friend and he goes offline, you can just send your IM as a text instead.
HTC HERO You can sync Facebook, Google, Flickr and Microsoft Exchange contacts, and the Hero (unsurprisingly) offers the most desktop-like Gmail of any phone. When messaging, the auto-complete system is as intelligent as the iPhone's, slotting in correct spellings so fast, you'll be merrily mistyping whole emails without missing a beat (or word).
Winner PRE - it's a new and super integrated way to communicate, and the iPhone could learn a thing or two

Camera and music

Camera is decidedly lacklustre, at 3.15 megapixels and no flash or even autofocus, but pictures in daylight are decent and the shutter release is quick. Audio quality is great and there is that all important 3.5mm audio jack, but the Pre can't sync to the latest version of iTunes (after a back'n'forth feud with Apple), so to get your music on, you're stuck with being on an older iTunes, manually dragging and dropping, or downloading a third-party app.
HTC HERO Unfortunately like its Android brothers from any manufacturer, the Hero doesn't have a flash, so low light shots are pretty blurry, and it doesn't produce true colour in daylight snaps either. Music-wise, sound quality is fine, and there's a 3.5mm audio jack, but while the music player interface is easy to navigate, new playlists annoyingly order songs alphabetically.
Winner TIE (and it's not so a much a tie for first place as it is a tie for last)



PALM PRE The Pre falters here, and hard - there's a distinct lack of official apps from popular services like Twitter or Skype, and even Facebook is only a recent (and barebones) addition. The App Catalog has been in business since June and it's still drier than tumbleweed in a desert. Add that to the fact that Palm is restricting submissions to trusted developers who've worked with them before and it just doesn't seem like it's going to spruce up anytime soon.
HTC HERO Oh joy, finally a competitor to Apple's App Store. The Android Marketplace is nowhere near as fully stocked yet, but it offers a similarly diverse range of apps, costing from free to a fiver. And Google's open-source Android code means that many more apps can really interact with the phone's other features, e.g., a news app that lets you email or SMS an interesting story.

Winner Hero - its Marketplace has about 12,00 apps, compared to the iPhone's one hundred thousand and counting, but the possibilities are oh so exciting, thanks to that open source code

Mobile Choice verdict: HTC HERO
It was like squeezing blood out of a high-density silicon chip, but we managed to pick the iPhone killer of these two extremely worthy contenders. Though the Pre is an incredible messaging device with serious business power and an awesomely fresh approach to the phone interface, the Hero edges it for its customisability and openness of a very powerful OS. Plus, you ain't got much if you ain't got apps, and webOS just can't compare when it comes to the fun, productive and totally time-wasting ones on Android.

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Mobile Choice

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