The Competition: Palm webOS 1.2, Android Donut 1.6, BlackBerry 5.0, Windows Mobile 6.5

While TiPb is still waiting for an iPhone 3.1.1 bug-fix update, not to mention iPhone 3.2 betas to start dropping, it looks like the competition is getting their OS on this week:

  • Palm webOS 1.2 didn't re-enable the iTunes hack (kudos Palm!) but did bring some nifty new features including Amazon MP3 downloads over 3G, the foundations for paid apps in the App Catalog, improved cut and paste, and much more.
  • Android 1.6 Donut is expected to hit now'ish as well. A new Android Market is coming with it, but not multi-touch -- at least not yet.
  • BlackBerry OS 5.0 still doesn't seem to be official, but is leaking out all over the place (would that Apple had such porous pipes!). It'll make your Berry more Berry, though it doesn't seem to integrate a real browser yet, despite what the commercials say...
  • Windows Mobile 6.5 might be on 30 Windows Phones by 2010, though even Ballmer is finally admitting Windows Mobile 7 should have been out this year. Bottom-line, it's a skin-job, and even though it looks hawt'er than a old style centurion, it's still a machine on the inside.

What does that mean for the iPhone? Even if RIM looks locked in stasis, Palm and Microsoft appear to have up-hill battles re-gaining their traction, and Android is still slowly ramping up, Apple can't afford to coast. A new OS from RIM, a Palm-style rebirth from Microsoft, and webOS and Android gaining marketshare are all possibilities. Many of these updates have interesting new features that hopefully Apple is looking at and working their own magic on.

So, let's get on with the 3.2... and 4.0. March is only 6 months away, after all, and Apple needs something else to wow Smartphone buyers with at the next SDK event...

Have something to say about this story? Leave a comment! Need help with something else? Ask in our forums!

Rene Ritchie

EiC of iMore, EP of Mobile Nations, Apple analyst, co-host of Debug, Iterate, Vector, Review, and MacBreak Weekly podcasts. Cook, grappler, photon wrangler. Follow him on Twitter and Google+.

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Reader comments

The Competition: Palm webOS 1.2, Android Donut 1.6, BlackBerry 5.0, Windows Mobile 6.5


Then of course there are the variety of Android implementations that are starting to appear.
There is an interactive Demo of the MotoBlur interface on T-Mobile here:
Its well done, to the point where you can actually get a feel for the phone. Its different than the iPhone. Way different. It integrates all the social networking sites and protocols.
Not my cup of tea, but my 17yr old neighbor who is way into thinks it is exactly what he wants. For him, it works better than a collection of Apps on the iphone.
There are two major areas where the iPhone is held back.
1) UI interface is SO Windows 3.0. Total rewrite in order.
2) Sandbox way too limiting. Apple needs to re-think this and allow App developers to define the types of requests they will handle (methods) and allow other Apps to invoke them (either in the foreground, or silently in the BG) using these methods. Currently Apple reserves this for themselves. Its time to loosen up.

Well put!
Really hope Apple understands this. The OS is what makes the iPhone great, if they don't fix this flaws until v4.0 I will definitely look at Android. To be able to run applications in the background is a must for me to once again buy from Apple. I can find better hardware elsewhere...

@icebike: The moto blur demo is interesting, but they're not providing an easily embeddable version. Marketing fail!
I don't mind the iPhone UI, but the organizational problems need to be fixed, which means the UI needs to be tweaked.
Some sort of trust relationship would be nice between apps. Apple can only hide so much by passing on links or embedding core apps like email and maps.

Apple need to think really really hard on how to implement multi-tasking + notification + interoperability in a elegant intuitive applesque way. Somehow I always felt these three are connected.
Since Steve Jobs' all tablet these days, guess Scott Forstall has to take on the Almighty role.
Let's see what would come out of his vision.


he moto blur demo is interesting, but they’re not providing an easily embeddable version. Marketing fail!

But they never set out to do that. Blur is simply their UI for Android as Springboard is Apple's UI for OSX.
Moto wants to sell phones, not the OS. Under the skin its all Android.
If this UI does not appeal, they can be back with another in three months flat, or adopt the one Google provides as a concept UI.
That's the beauty of Android. The OS will be throughly debugged, enhanced, and extended by all the manufactures and hackers over time, but the UI, proprietary programs, and features belong to the individual manufacturers, and can come and go as handset models succeed or fail in the market.
Those coming from a Windows background, and to a lesser extent a Mac background, don't always grok this interchangeability of UI immediately. To them, the UI IS the OS.
But Blur is just one proprietary UI laid on top of a open source OS. Like Gnome or KDE or XFCE4 running on top of Linux, where you can switch UIs without even rebooting.
As for the iPhone UI, the part that needs fixing is the Springboard. The rest is not so bad. But to me its clear the Springboard was developed before the App store was ever dreamed up.

@icebike: Sorry, I meant that Moto website presentation isn't available on YouTube so I can't easily embed it here on a blog post, thus their marketing lost an easy brand projection opportunity. i.e., I'd like to stick the video up and let people comment on it.

Ah Please don't start the UI subject~~~
Everytime everytime Gnome KDE etc. make me cry while puking.
If that's the best Linux camp can do. We may never see any UI improvement in iPhone ever.

Yikes, UI is so windows 3.0? I suppose it is nearly 2 1/2 years old since it's release... And I would also like to see some improvement, but overstatement only compromised your argument. I still think it's the best mobile UI out there today. Palm is the only one to have come close. Blackberries make me laugh when I see them.

Honey I've seen it all.
While undeniably interesting and technically advanced (really there is not much to get over excited about)
It is overwhelmingly GIMMICKY. Use your finger as a cursor, really? REALLY?
To be honest I have had high hopes about KDE's Oxygen project, boy am I disappointed.
Folks, just visit their websites you'll see what I mean.

Personally, I don't want to drill through app menus and folders on a small screen (especially with my finger in the way). I think Apple's springboard icon method is currently unsupassed (so far) for my taste. Then again, I don't download every lousy app in the App Store, so my only having three home screens could be the reason for that.

Here are my 2 cents worth to make the best of the best
-apple fix the stupid freezing and shutting down problem with 3.1 (hurry up already)
-allow user customizing like jailbreak...maybe not so severe but come on background, txt tone, icons, certain quick menus, etc (hellooo almost every other phone)
-multiple pages kinda like the pre but let's do the mutli screens the apple way and leave things running (with consideration on ram mem takeup)
-wish full thinking would be 5mp camera and HD recording (instinct HD... Without crappy os and interface)
-of coarse a better speaker and maybe oled...hmm (again wishfully)

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