Palm Pre: What you need to know about the launch (pt 1 of 2)

Published: May 22, 2009

Having trouble keeping on top of the latest Palm Pre news? Join the club. A lot has come out over these scant few days since the launch announcement ? some of it good, some of it bad, and some of it so unbelievably screwed up, it could make a holy man cuss. 

Taking a page (and a few news tidbits) from, as well as other sources, I put together this summary of details about the Palm Pre launch for your perusing pleasure (or pain). If you?re as flabbergasted by this as I was, you?ll want to check out the more in-depth explanations below. And because there was so much hitting the wires, this article got chopped into two parts, so be sure to check out Part 2 when you're done.

  1. Launch: June 6, Saturday morning. 
  2. Where it's on sale: Sprint retail stores, and Palm, plus select Radio Shack, Best Buy and Wal Mart stores. 
  3. Early sales? Some Sprint stores are having launch parties for Premier customers on June 5th, while others will simply be staying open later that Friday night. The buzz is that people who pre-order the phone will be able to get it on June 5th. 
  4. Recent comments from Sprint: CEO Dan Hesse has made some statements basically indicating that he's already expecting demand to outweigh availability. That practically guarantees shortages of stock on launch day, an assertion that certainly seems to bear out in light of the next item. 
  5. Low supplies: BoyGenius Report received some tips that Best Buy and Radio Shack are only receiving ? get this ? four and two units, respectively, PER RETAIL LOCATION. (I am not kidding.)   
  6. Best Buy situation: 
  • The Pre will sell on-contract for the post-rebate price of $199.
  • Off-contract, the price jumps to an insane $849.
  • The retailer's launch guide validates a two-prong ?deprive first, deliver later? strategy. 
  • Even so, BB Reward Zone members are eligible for Pre giveaways, with 10 smartphones up for grabs.

Best Buy's Pre plans
As reported, Best Buy is fronting the $100 rebate for the Pre at the cash register, so customers will only shell out $199 on-contract. If you do the math, you?ll see that customers everywhere else have to pay $299 (plus wait 10?14 weeks for the rebate). To be fair, Wal Mart's been known to do the same thing, but it hasn't made any announcements about it yet. 

Sounds sweet, but this doesn't make Best Buy a white hat. In fact, the retailer is charging a wallet-blowing $849.99 for a no-contract Pre. That's not a rumor: This nose bleed?inducing figure, which is a whopping $300 more than Sprint's retail price ? is listed on right now. Will it come down eventually? It might. The electronics purveyor has been known to slash opening price tags before. But by then, you will hopefully ? and I truly mean hopefully ? already be holding one.

The big question on your mind probably has everything to do with supply. Estimates on available units have been pegged at around 375,000 devices for Sprint stores, Best Buy, RadioShack and Wal Mart combined. (When the iPhone 3G debuted, Apple sold 1 million units in the first three days.) 

Well, if you believe this tip from a BoyGenius ?ninja,? there's not a lot of good news there. The source said there are only about 4,250 Palm Pres heading to Best Buy stores for launch day. A rep with the retailer said there were around 1,000 locations set to sell the Pre. Again, doing the math, that roughly comes to a measly 4 units for each store. That just can't be right. Then again, Best Buy's own launch guide seems to fall in line with it to some degree. 

The guide outlines a two-pronged strategy designed to leaving people wanting more: 
  • Phase 1 (June?July): Inventory will be meager and marketing will be minimal. Corporate is warning the stores that ?customer demand will outweigh inventory and stores may go weeks after launch with little or no replenishment.? The mandates are: No early sales, no hold lists before the launch, no employee purchases until August, and no more than one phone per customer. Just 300 stores will actually have working demos. And all are instructed to sell through their entire inventory.

  • Phase 2 (late July/early August): Pre inventory levels are expected to be replenished. 

Despite this, it seems not everyone will suffer. Between May 31st and June 6th, Best Buy Reward Zone members will be eligible to try for a Palm Pre giveaway, with 10 phones available as freebies. (Members can sign up for it here.) The devices will come with six free months of Sprint's Simply Everything plan, and Reward Zone membership is free.

What about other retailers? 
As for Radio Shack, another source told BGR that only 721 locations will have the device on June 6. The site did its own math, and figured that each store would get 2 units each. In addition, launch locations will probably be limited to select stores in major coastal areas like New York, New Jersey, California, Miami, and Texas, among others. 

Now this info comes from tipsters, and not from any official statements, so take it with a grain of salt. But, just to be safe, if you?re planning on purchasing from brick-and-mortar locations, GET THERE EARLY. 

But if you really, truly have your heart set on getting a Pre on launch day or soon after, you may have to rethink going to Best Buy or Radio Shack. Sprint stores are likely to have more stock ? although based on the CEO Dan Hesse's comments, it probably won't be bountiful there either. But at least they might be selling some devices early. (See below.)

The media has been wondering if all this talk of low availability was an intentional ploy by Sprint/Palm, a manufactured attempt to increase demand and raise hype to near-hysterical levels. (I find this really easy to believe. What has Palm been doing all these months? It seems crazy that they didn't nail the logistics of manufacturing and delivery in all this time.) If this is just a marketing tactic, that's a dangerous field to be playing in. The companies seriously risk ticking off their customers at a time when Palm really needs to knock this one out of the park. 

Want a Pre early? Go to Sprint
So it appears that, one day before the launch, select Sprint stores are planning to throw a Palm Pre party for its Premier customers. Several people have reported that, even though their local Sprint locations may not be one of them, they?re not totally out of luck: Many of those locations will be staying open later on June 5th ? and doling out Pres early to customers who either pre-ordered or asked to be notified when the device is in stock. 

Here's the big question about that: Are only Premier customers eligible for the early pick-up? Reports vary on this, so if you?re interested, check with your local Sprint shop ? and then report back and let us know what you find out in your area. 

Are you a Sprint Premier customer? Have you gotten an invitation yet? Let us know below. As far as we can tell, a few have gotten them, but the majority haven't. 

Is your head swimming yet? Mine is. But that's not all for Pre news, folks, so click here to go to Part 2 for more. 

[News from multiple sites via,, and BoyGenius Report]

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