Palm Pre: paucity projected, pricing pondered

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Rebates and shortages and service plans. Oh my!

As the release of the Palm Pre, the physical keyboard-toting, cloud operating system-running, multitasking, iPhone-slaying second-coming of Palm approaches zero-hour, many tech fans find themselves facing tough decisions. Aside from staring at the countdown clock on Sprint's website, here's what they've got to consider:

Switch itch? Sign a new contract with Sprint (and possibly pay your old provider an early-termination fee) or wait till your old one expires? Last summer, 30 percent of iPhone buyers bailed on their old carriers to switch to AT&T. This time around, Sprint and AT&T are expected to engage in a price war. Sprint claims that their $99/month "Simply Everything" plan is the best deal in the business, but rumors surfaced last week that an AT&T iPhone service-plan price drop is on the horizon.

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Camp out or chill out? Stand in line for the Pre (Sprint says to expect shortages) or cool your jets for two days to see what Apple unveils at its Worldwide Developers' Conference? A revised iPhone is a possibility (or not, according to analyst Gene Munster), but will waiting to see what Apple has in store lead to Wii-like wait times for a Pre?

Rebates – really? Sprint's product announcement initially said that the Pre would carry a price tag of $299, with a $100 mail-in rebate (bringing it down to the $199 gadgets sweet spot), but Best Buy Mobile and Radio Shack are reportedly offering to save you the 42 44 cent stamp and honor the rebate instantly. Why anyone would head elsewhere and plunk down an extra Benjamin is beyond me, but the aforementioned shortage may force some early adopters' hands.

Of course, rebates, ETFs, and competing product announcements aside, the real best bet – impossibly difficult as it may seem – may be just to wait.

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