Monday, January 25, 2010

Palm Pixi Hands On Review

The Palm Pixi is the Palm's low-cost, consumer friendly Palm Centro replacement. I have been test driving the Sprint Palm Pixi for the last two weeks. The following are my impressions of Palm's new webOS powered smartphone.

[Editor’s Note: Starting today, January 25, 2010, Verizon Wireless will begin selling the new Palm Pixi Plus. The Sprint Pixi and the Verizon Pixi Plus are identical phones with the exception that the Verizon edition hardware includes a Wi-Fi 802.11b/g radio.]

The Hardware

I was really impressed by the size and weight of the Pixi when compared with other phones from Palm. The difference is noticeable as soon as you pick it up. The Pixi seemed much lighter than my Palm Treo 755p. I was also impressed by the thickness of the Pixi. Compared with my 2G Apple iPhone, the Pixi was the same high and thickness. The Pixi is slightly more narrow than the iPhone. The physical keyboard on the Pixi is completely usable, however, I found the Palm Pre’s keyboard to be more roomy and also felt more sturdy. The Pixi keyboard’s tactile feedback was good, and you know that you pressed a key, which is something you don’t get from an on screen virtual keyboard. If you plan on sending a lot of email or text messages, you will appreciate the Pixi’s hardware keyboard.

The Pixi’s 320x400 pixel screen measures 2.63-inches. I found the screen to deliver a sharp, crisp image and I had no trouble reading the screen. Viewing photos, watching video, or even surfing the web was easy on the eyes.

Starting with the Pixi, Palm has chosen to remove the center button that appeared on the Sprint edition Palm Pre. If you have never used a Palm Pre before, you will never miss the center button. To zoom out of the current application card on the Pixi, simply flick your finger upward from the gesture area to the screen. To zoom back in, tap the card you want to bring to the foreground.

For the Pixi, Palm included an EVDO Rev A CDMA cellular radio, a GPS receiver, Bluetooth 2.1 with EDR and A2DP support, 8GB of storage space (about 7GB is available for use), and a 2MP camera with LED flash. The You won’t however, find Wi-Fi or an microSD card slot in the Pixi.

The Palm Pixi has an 115mAh removable battery. During my test period, I was able to use the Pixi for about about 14-16 hours before I started to think about where I could plug in the phone to charge up. I had the Pixi checking 5 different email accounts on varying schedules, I referred to my personal and business calendars frequently, snuck in the Smartphone Fanatics Facebook page and Twitter accounts, and surfed the web. During my day, I don’t spend much time talking on the phone. Milage will vary with your usage pattern. In my opinion, if you like to talk, send a lot of text or email messages, or surf the web constantly, you will want to carry a charging cable or a spare battery with you. (I recommend the same thing for Pre owners.) I did like the rubber microUSB port cover. I am always concerned that I am about to break the door off my Palm Pre each time I connect my Pre to my MacBook to access the USB storage partition. Thanks to the Pixi’s rubber door, I wasn’t worried that I would break the phone.

The Software

The Palm Pixi is the second smartphone from Palm to run their new Palm webOS operating system. My demo Pixi was delivered to me running Palm webOS 1.3.5.1, the same version of webOS that I am running on my Palm Pre.

Palm webOS is a modern mobile operating system that retains all of the ease of use that made Palm OS devices so easy to use. Synergy, the data synchronization technology built into webOS, keeps all of your data organized and in sync on your phone. You will be able to easily access your corporate Microsoft Exchange account, Google Gmail account, Yahoo account, as well as your Facebook account and standard POP/IMAP email accounts.

Universal Search is another major improvement over the search feature in Palm OS. Universal Search will not only sift through your contacts, but also searches your email, the applications on your phone and offers to continue the search on Google, Google Maps, Wikipedia, or Twitter if the search term can’t be located on your phone. Universal Search is a powerful feature that I use every day to quickly locate information on my phone or to launch applications.

For those folks who like to have all of their stuff with them all the time, the Pixi comes preloaded with useful applications for taking pictures, playing music and audio files, accessing Facebook, and viewing Microsoft Office and Adobe Acrobat documents. Today you can only view Word, Excel, and PowerPoint files on the Pixi, however I understand that DataViz is working on a full version of Documents To Go for Palm webOS. Palm has done a good job writing the Synergy interface with Facebook. When you login to your Facebook account after downloading the client from the Palm App Catalog (think Apple’s App Store), Synergy downloads your contact information in the Pixi’s local contacts database. I’m hopeful that a more feature rich version of the Facebook application will be released by Palm soon. While the Facebook contacts integration does work well, and the status feed is OK, there are many other features of Facebook that you simply can not access from the webOS client. Heavy Facebook users will want to access the mobile Facebook site, x.facebook.com, if they want to do more than just update their status or comment on their friend’s status.

Conclusion

After spending a few weeks with the Sprint Palm Pixi, I am convinced that it is a good low cost, consumer smartphone that can do double duty as a business phone. The Pixi’s small candy bar form factor means that you will carry it with you all the time. The lack of Wi-Fi on the Sprint edition Palm Pixi shouldn’t be a deal breaker for most people as the Sprint EVDO network is fast enough in most cases. Depending on how you use your phone, battery life could be an issue.

Pricing and Availability

The Sprint Palm Pixi is available now for $99.99 when you purchase it directly from Sprint after a $200 instant savings and a $100 mail in rebate when you also sign up for a qualifying 2-year service agreement. The Sprint Palm Pixi costs $399.99 when you purchase it without a service plan. You can save yourself some extra money if you shop around for the best deal on a new Pixi. For example, Amazon is selling the Pixi for $24.99 when you sign up for a 2-year service plan.

For more information about the Palm Pixi for Sprint, visit the Palm website.

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