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Impressions Of Palm Pre Plus And Pixi Plus

I've spent the last few days using both the Palm Pre Plus and Pixi Plus. These new Verizon-branded versions of Palm's two webOS smartphones are solid devices, but each lacks a few things here and there.
I've spent the last few days using both the Palm Pre Plus and Pixi Plus. These new Verizon-branded versions of Palm's two webOS smartphones are solid devices, but each lacks a few things here and there.Pre Plus

The first and most obvious difference between the Pre and Pre Plus is that the Pre Plus actually subtracts the navigation button that was on the Pre. I can't quite say why Palm chose to do this, perhaps at the behest of Verizon, but it really changes the way you interact with the device.

The space below the touch screen is also touch enabled, and supports presses and swiping gestures, just as the main display does. This is where you interact with the Pre Plus if you want to go back one screen, minimize the current window or find your way back to the main menu.

Aside from this small physical change, there's nothing else to help distinguish the Pre from the Pre Plus as far as appearances go. The size, shape and feel are all the same. The keyboard is just as small an (for me) unusable. Inside, there is an additional 16GB of storage.

Perhaps the biggest disappointment is that the device doesn't perform any better than the original. I found the device to be sluggish in every application, screen or menu. It just took forever to respond to input. Applications -- especially email -- took ages to launch. Half the time I spent using the Pre Plus was impatiently waiting for apps to open, close or otherwise *do something*.

I will give Palm and Verizon props for offering the Mobile HotSpot application. I tested it out. It is truly awesome. It basically turns the Pre (or Pixi) into a MiFi, offering up to five devices a 3G connection to the Internet. I was able to connect the Pre Plu and tether two laptops via Wi-Fi, stream audio on one PC, stream video on the other, all while surfing the web on the Pre Plus. That's cool.

webOS itself is not significantly different than before. These devices are both running version 1.3.5, which is a shame. Palm is prepping 1.4, which will include a number of serious OS updates, such as video recording. I was hoping to test that out. Oh well.

Pixi Plus

The Pixi Plus is identical in appearance to the version being offered by Sprint. The real difference is that the Verizon version includes Wi-Fi, where the Sprint doesn't.

The hardware itself carries forward the design language seen on the Pre. In order to fit into such a small package, Palm had to make a few concessions. It slows down the processor a bit. It also reduces the camera from 3.2 megapixels to just 2. The camera still manages to take fast pictures, though.

The Pixi is amazingly small. It's probably too small a phone for the likes of me. The keyboard borders on the ridiculous with its scrunched size. Though I was able to type on it reasonably well, I am pretty sure I'd develop cramps after extended use.

Considering that this device is probably headed for the teen segment and not necessarily enterprise users, I am not surprised about the external design too much.

It will be offered with its own new set of interchangeable back covers that include Touchstone wireless charging capabilities.

It runs the same Mobile HotSpot app that's available on the Pre Plus, and also comes with webOS 1.3.5 out of the box. It, too, will support 1.4 when that update becomes available.

Despite the weaknesses of these two devices, I expect they will sell pretty well on Verizon's network. Even so, Palm needs to get some some new hardware out in the market, and soon.

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Sara Peters, Editor-in-Chief, InformationWeek / Network Computing
John Edwards, Technology Journalist & Author
John Edwards, Technology Journalist & Author
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