So, what about the Pre3? Yeah, we hear you: Sprint.
Two weeks ago my colleague Tim Stiffler-Dean wrote up an excellent editorial on the HP Pre3 and how we need to have patience. After all, relationships between carriers and manufacturers take time, as does certification and software development. And as we expected, the comments filled in quickly with a metric tonne of readers asking, nay, pleading for a Pre3 on Sprint.
We hear you, dear commenter. We’ve heard you in practically every article posted on this site in the past month (seriously, it's a bit crazy). We’ve heard you all over the forums. And we can’t say that we have anything that amounts to good news about Sprint getting the Pre3. In fact, apart from the collection of Sprint reps who have said with no degree of authority that Sprint will get the Pre3 at some point in the future, we have no news whatsoever. Meanwhile, we’ve at least heard about the Pre3 coming to AT&T and Verizon.
And believe us, we understand. There’s something about webOS that’s addicting. While there are still at least tens of thousands of Palm Pre owners on Sprint, we hear all the time from those that have switched to Android, iOS, and Windows Phone 7 that they miss webOS and would consider coming back for better hardware.
And then there are all of the aforementioned Sprint Pre owners, many of whom purchased on launch day more than two years ago. They’ve fallen in love with webOS and invested in apps, promoting it to friends, family, and strangers, and for some – buying replacement devices when Sprint offers none. They’ve watched with hope and envy as Palm and now HP released newer and better devices onto AT&T and Verizon and other carriers around the world, only to be disappointed by these new powerful phones not being available on their carrier of choice. They waited patiently for the promised webOS 2.0 update that would breath new life into their tired old phones, only to be let down in a most frustrating manner. And it was only yesterday when all of the disappointed webOS users and fans learned what HP meant when they said they were going to "make it right" after these mess-ups, though we can't say too many of you are thrilled with what's been offered.
webOS fans are a funny bunch. That’s not meant in a “you’re humorous” type, which you are, but that you’re the kind of fan that’s puzzling to marketers. You’re like the fans that tried to the to raise enough money to finance a fifth season of Star Trek: Enterprise. You’re like the people that wait outside a restaurant for hours so that they can pay for a meal, just because it’s that good. You’re super fans, and that makes you awesome. Despite every way you’ve been disappointed by Palm and HP, and all the amazing new devices released by Apple, HTC, and Samsung, you’ve stood by your OS. And it’s important to note that you’re webOS fans and not Palm or HP fans. It’s the OS that’s kept you around this long.
We know that HP is giving a $50 discount on the 32GB version of the TouchPad to fulfill that promise they made 5 months ago, but is that really enough for you? It’s an interesting question, because right now we’re sure many of you would just accept the Pre3 being available on your carrier of choice as enough to make things right. You want that new phone, with its new OS and fancy processor and gorgeous screen. In fact, that’s just about the only way it can be made up to you – HP’s certainly not going to invest the energy into making webOS 2.0 run well on the Pre and Pre Plus, and without webOS 2.0, you can’t have the new App Catalog and HP can’t even give you discount codes to go and buy a bunch of apps.
HP could, theoretically, offer a discount on a Pre3 on AT&T or Verizon, but that puts the Sprint Pre owner into yet another bind. While many have stated that they’ll dump Sprint after several years as a loyal customer for the Pre3 on another carrier, plenty more have voiced their unwillingness to leave Sprint. The only thing that’s going to satisfy them is a Pre3 (or better webOS smartphone) on Sprint.
Of course, it’s entirely possible that HP wants to offer the Pre3 on Sprint. Why wouldn’t they? It’s a carrier with a modest, but fiercely loyal webOS userbase already in place, one that’s clamoring to buy a Pre3. The problem is Sprint. They’ve got to be hesitant about carrying a new webOS phone after the marketing, sales, and quality debacle that was the Pre and Pixi. Sprint likely still looks at webOS with a wary eye, given all that they invested in it and the poor results they got in return. Since then, Sprint’s gone all-in with Android and actually enjoyed a reasonable amount of success. To this day the year-old HTC Evo 4G is one of the best-selling Android devices, and it’s soon to be followed-up by the even-more-impressive Evo 3D.
We know that the fans have been bombarding Sprint with requests for the Pre3, through official and unofficial channels. There's the previously mentioned billion comments on every article here, plus posts on Twitter, Facebook, our forums, Sprint's forums, and everywhere else. A number have even taken the step of contacting Sprint - and Sprint CEO Dan Hesse - directly, which has usually been met with a form reply about how they don't comment on unannounced products and that they have several worthy Android devices to choose from. But the barrage of emails might be getting through to Sprint, as just this weekend one of our readers reported that Sprint replied to him with an email that at least acknowledged the number of requests for the phone. Does that mean much? Not really, but it's a sign that Sprint at least knows there are plenty of webOS fans who want the phone.
Even for fans like these, patience is a limited resource. Eventually, if nothing’s been done to “make things right” to their satisfaction, they’ll release their grip on their old Palm Pre and grab something else on Sprint. There’s no shortage of quality Android phones on the carrier, and while these fans will always look with longing at webOS, they’ll never speak well of HP.
It’s like that restaurant that has amazing food, but also has horrible service. Yeah, that one. Somebody’s asking what’s good around here, and you’ll say, “Montana’s has amazing steak, but the service is just awful.” Nobody’s going to hear that and say “I want to go there!” Just like nobody’s going to be enticed to pick up a webOS phone after being told, “webOS is awesome, I love it, but HP let me down too many times.” Word of mouth is a very powerful tool, both for and against products. It elevated The Hangover to smash hit status, while word of mouth seriously hurt Microsoft after customers started expressing dissatisfaction with Windows Vista.
Loyal fans like those thousands of Sprint Pre owners are the best advocates HP could buy. After two years they’re still using a phone that’s woefully underpowered by today’s standards, and can’t even run the latest software. They’ve accepted all of its flaws and disappointments because the love it, but every day they’re tempted by a new piece of hardware and a newly updated competing OS that has that one feature they’ve been waiting two year for it to come to webOS.
They want to stay on webOS, they want to be satisfied by HP. They want to be able to recommend to their friends that they should buy this phone, because the OS and company behind it are awesome and are doing great things. But right now, they just can’t. Even if the Pre3 on AT&T and Verizon is awesome, the massive disenchantment that would result from it not getting on Sprint would cause a horrible backlash.
webOS fans are a funny bunch. But they’re a loyal and vocal bunch. They want for HP and Sprint to make it right, and HP has offered what they think is a reasonable solution with that TouchPad discount, but it's still not enough for those users waiting for a new webOS smartphone to use as a daily driver. The ball's in your court, HP, let's make something really happen now, for the sake of all that is holy and just, and the sanity of us all (especially though original Sprint Pre owners), please make something happen.