It is with great sadness…

that I have left Palm’s WebOS and switched to Android.

I stick by WebOS as being the best smartphone UI there is, and held out great hope for its success. It’s intuitive and easy to learn, the app/multitasking management is ridiculously easy, and its notification system is simple, elegant, and unobtrusive. Unfortunately, there are many things it cannot do right now, due to either hardware limitations (i.e., barcode scanning) or due to Palm refusing to release certain API’s to developers.

The final blow, though, came last week when Epocrates announced that they were discontinuing the WebOS version of their app. While Epocrates itself was never a “critical” app for me, it highlighted another problem. Palm is losing big-name developers – some, like Epocrates, who have been long-term partners with Palm since the early days of the PDAs – and is failing to attract new big-name developers. While there is a booming homebrew community – with Palm’s blessing – it’s just not enough to make up the shortfall. With Epocrates’ announcement, I began to consider my next phone upgrade. I found I could get Sprint’s best available non-4G device online for only $50, so I decided to go to Best Buy to take a look at the physical mock-up and get an idea of size, weight, etc. While there, I had some frustration with the WebOS Netflix app, then found out I could get the same phone upgrade at Best Buy for free.

So, with a free upgrade dangling in front of me, my growing disappointment with Palm’s inability to attract developers, and the immediate frustration of an inadequate app (and with a quick trip to the Best Buy in Roanoke because the Christiansburg store was out of stock), I upgraded to the LG Optimus S.

While there are certainly some shortcomings in the Android UI when compared to WebOS (the most glaring being the app management), the additional capabilities of the hardware and the OS, and the far larger app selection, more than make up for it. (I do miss the Touchstone charger, though.)

Palm, if you can get the hardware up to par, get popular developers on board and staying on board, and open up the OS so those developers can do what they need to do, I will gladly switch back to WebOS for my next upgrade. Your support for the Homebrew community is unparalleled, and the potential of Web OS is exciting. Until then, I’m afraid I’ll have to stick with Android.

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  1. Welcome to the club :).

    I hate to say it, but Palm has been scrabbling for market share for years, even amongst the straight-up PDA market, and unlike Apple and *Nix, they lack the hardcore fanbase necessary to support a smaller market.

    Android is nowhere near perfect, but it works pretty well, and people actually are engaged with it… which is definitely a plus :).

    • Unfortunately, I think Palm had a really good chance with WebOS, but the corporate leadership failed to take advantage of it. Just as one example, one Homebrewer released a patch for the calendar that added a lot of features that users had been asking for on the forums for months. The best response from Palm would have been to contact that guy, pay him for the rights to the patch, and incorporate it into the stock calendar. There were several Homebrew patches they should have done that with. Instead, they essentially ignored the whole Homebrew community, only keeping up essentially passive support. They don’t try to make updates disable Homebrew apps and patches, but they don’t try not to, either – and when they release an update, they release the developer tools for it to anyone who asks, for free, so Homebrewers have the tools to make things work again within a few days.

      Android is nowhere near perfect, but it works pretty well

      True. My biggest frustration right now is with the gmail app – it only gives an audible alert for the first email in a “conversation”. After that, it only vibrates. Given the way I use email, I find I’m missing a lot of emails when they come in; only finding out about them later when a new “conversation” is started, or when I wake up the phone for something else. It’s intensely frustrating, and I haven’t found a way around it yet.


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