Sprint today announced that it will launch the much-anticipated Palm Pre on June 6. The new smartphone will debut for $199.99 with a $100 mail-in rebate and purchase of a two-year service agreement.
The price point was about what everyone expected, said Kevin Burden, research director of Mobile Devices at ABI Research. “That’s the price I think most of us were expecting. They couldn’t go much higher. The question is how long are they going to be able to keep that $199 price point. We might see some discounting in the late fourth quarter,” he said.
While Sprint said its Everything Data plans will offer savings of up to $1,430 over two years versus comparable AT&T and Verizon Wireless plans for smartphones and PDAs, a report from UBS Investment said the comparable plans from AT&T may be a bit closer than Sprint claims.
UBS said the Sprint plans start at $69.99 per month and include unlimited text messaging. Plans offered by AT&T for the iPhone and BlackBerry start at $69.99 but with limited text messaging.
Burden agreed that Sprint’s savings claims were a bit aggressive.
The Pre features some standout features like global search, multi-tasking capabilities, linked contacts and layered calendars. The Palm webOS allows users to keep multiple activities open and move between them like flipping through a deck of cards. Users can move back and forth between text messaging and e-mail, or search the Web while listening to music. The iPhone, a natural competitor for the Pre, cannot currently multi-task.
Burden said that while the multi-tasking function is interesting and could be a boon for Palm, it’s not something he expects Apple will rush to match. “As much as iPhone reset expectations for the smartphone, it certainly showed there’s room to grow. But I’m not entirely sure Apple is going to rush to multi-tasking as the next frontier,” he said.
The Pre will arrive just days before the kickoff of Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference (WWC), which runs June 8-12. Burden said he’s uncertain as to how that strategy will work for Sprint.
“I don’t know which way that’s going to go. Is Palm going to steal the thunder from the Apple event, or is Apple going to drown out the Pre? I certainly agree that Palm would have served itself a lot better if they had this on the market a little while longer before the Apple event or the announcement of the new iPhone OS,” Burden said.
The Pre will be available in Sprint stores and online, as well as at Best Buy, Radio Shack and select Wal-Mart stores.
In early trading, Sprint shares were down to $5.24 from yesterday’s close of $5.32, and shares of Palm were down to $11.42 from yesterday’s close of $12.06.