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Does flirting with the Pre mean the romance with iPhone is over?

June 5, 2009 |  9:18 pm

IPhone v pre
Credit: Michelle Maltais / Los Angeles Times

My iPhone is jealous.

It caught me with another phone. It was more flirting than cheating, really. And, no, it doesn't mean an end to our marriage -- I am bound to have and to hold it for at least another year. (Besides, as in any divorce, it would cost me to leave.) But I know it can sense I have lust in my heart.

You see, I've been spending time Palm-in-hand with the Pre. It's not that I was at all unhappy or looking for a replacement.

Way back before phones were smart, my first love was a Palm. And even when I went gaga for the iPhone and became addicted to its offerings, I still longed for some of the comfort and convenience I'd grown so fond of in my PDAs. We had our own special language -- taps, dashes, swoops and loops. It did what I needed -- that is, before I knew I could have more. 

So when Palm announced in January that it was going to step into the ring to try to go head to head with the two market heavyweights, Apple's iPhone and RIM's BlackBerry, I felt a slight nostalgic tug at my heart. I felt a bit as if I were going to come face to face with my high school sweetheart at a reunion I'd be attending with my husband, knowing it could spell disaster either way. Seeing how the ex had been transformed after all these years might have been heart-racing or heartbreaking. 

My colleague David Colker and I took a look at Palm's 8-gigabyte hope, pitting it against the iPhone in an eight-round bout. (The last round will probably come next week, during Apple's WWDC, which we'll be covering live on Twitter, @latimestech.) It was a close match, with solid blows and a few stunning knockdowns.

It's funny, the effect that something shiny and slick and new can have. As we compared them, next to the black, compact, curvy, oval Pre, the purple case I dress my iPhone in began to make the device look a bit reminiscent of the old Tandy cellphone I had back in college, when no one had cellphones. And yet, it's still the same thrilling device I fell instantly in love with just from a brief introduction at a coffee shop.

Relationships, whether with technology or people, can be tough, full of trials and triumphs, compatibility and conflicts, and sometimes both love and hate. And there will always be a hotter, newer model to be tempted by. 

As with any affair -- um, I hear -- spending time with the Pre felt both foreign and familiar. I've been asked repeatedly whether I'd leave my current digital companion for the Pre.

Sure, the Pre has a real keyboard that offers a tactile response when touched; it's not simply flat, unmoved. Even though on nearly a daily basis I curse the cold unresponsiveness of the iPhone's virtual keyboard, it really knows me -- it completes my words, even when to the eye they seem unintelligible. (So what if that's not really my fault they were gibberish to begin with.)

No, I won't be seduced by the animations that help forge subconscious psychological connections to the device, or the slick and seamless linking of SMS and IM conversation strings and of contacts and calendars from my Facebook, Gmail, Microsoft Exchange, Yahoo and MobileMe accounts that make my iPhone's current offering seem a smidge antiquated.

But then there are the apps, my beloved apps -- nearly 300 of them at last count -- that I'd need to consider. Can the Pre promise that kind of engagement? It's a risk. So far, there seem to be about 30 offerings to sift through this weekend.

Although I'm both intrigued and tempted by the new hotness that is the Pre, I think I'll love the one I'm with -- well, at least for another year. Hey, I'm only human.

-- Michelle Maltais

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