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Review of Palm Pixi Plus, the Palm Pre, and Palm WebOS

February 16, 2010

in All Articles,Cellphone reviews

Post image for Review of Palm Pixi Plus, the Palm Pre, and Palm WebOS

Palm Pre Plus with keyboard closedPalm Pre Plus with keyboard open

[From left to right, we see the Palm Pixi Plus, then the Palm Pre Plus with its keyboard closed and extended.]

I recently had an interesting experience: my Verizon media rep gave me a temporary demo phone for review – a Palm Pixi Plus.Cool, I thought, I could finally have an extended look at the new Palm WebOS and the next generation of Palm hardware.

Then, my current phone – a Palm 755p – broke. I’ll save a long story, but at the end of it, I ended up getting a Palm Pre.

At first, I was a little bummed. I thought the Pixi was better than the Pre, but for multiple reasons I was “stuck” with the Pre.

Then, within mere hours of owning the Pre, I was extremely impressed.

The Palm Pre is an excellent phone. So is the Palm Pixi.

This review provides detail on the new generation of Palm phones, specifically the Palm Pixi Plus and Palm Pre Plus. It’s important, because the Pixi and Pre will make or break Palm as a company, and the competition (from Apple and Google) is tough.

First, let’s look at the new Palm operating system.

Palm WebOS – Performance and technique

Palm WebOS is nothing like the “old” PalmOS. WebOS is an Android/iPhone-era operating system. That is, the interface is pretty clean and elegant with just a few buttons, and performance is fine for everything from messaging to full-screen multimedia.

This was one of my original worry-points. One of my clients had a Pre for a while, and ended up returning it because of “slow performance”. And yes, I could see why you’d think that if you don’t have proper training on WebOS. Unfortunately, I didn’t see any information in the quickstart manual or the Palm’s built-in help tutorials to explain this. So, here’s the scoop – my detail on what may be the biggest deterrents to someone considering a Palm:


Palm WebOS is designed to multitask. In the old days, you’d only have one application open at a time. Now, you can have several, and use the phone interface to flip quickly back and forth between whatever applications you want.Starting applications takes a few seconds. Switching back and forth is instantaneous.

My above-mentioned client and I didn’t know this at the time. Here’s what happened. He showed me his Pre, tapped to open the contact list, and said, frustrated, “Look at the horrible speed of this thing! I need fast performance – If I just want to look up a contact, look how long it takes!”

And it did take a long time – about 5 seconds for the Contacts application to start. Then he was able to look up a contact quickly. This behavior wasn’t just with Contacts, either – it was with any application, including the Phone app, the Calendar app, and others. If I had to do that every time I looked up a contact or wanted to call a number, I’d throw that phone through a window. Luckily, that’s not how the Palm is meant to work.

This performance is expected: while the Palm does take a few seconds tostartthe application, you do not – and should not – close them! Open up all needed programs, then, during your day, just switch back and forth to the ones you need. Since the apps are already running, accessing their information is fast and responsive. It’s just like on a home PC – you open a lot of programs at once, and flip around to the one you need for whatever it is you’re doing.

The only slow performance is when you’re starting applications, just like the iPhone and Android. The overall performance on Palm’s WebOS is responsive and speedy.

How do you use Palm WebOS? How do you close programs? How do you navigate?

These questions really annoyed me at first. When I first got the phone and started playing around, I realized thatPalm’s WebOS is not as intuitive as Apple’s iPhone or Google’s Android. However, just as important, the Palm WebOS learning curve is very small. You just need to know three basic skills:

1) How to close a Palm WebOS application

If you’re in the application you want to close, press the center button. The application will “minimize”, and shrink down to the middle of the screen. From here, you can swipe your finger left and right to switch to other applications, if any are open. Or,to close the application, simply touch your finger to the minimized application, and drag it off the top of the screen.

2) How to go “Back” in Palm WebOS

The “Back” command is used all the time: if you’ve finished reading an email, for example, and want to go back to your Inbox list. Or if you’re browsing the Web, and want to go back to the previous page. Look at the center button. See the black area directly to the left of the button? That’s touch-sensitive.To go “Back” in any application, swipe your finger in this area in a right-to-left motion.

3) How to launch applications in Palm WebOS

To start an application, you justtouch the icon corresponding to the program you want to start. The trick is remembering where everything is (and you can customize this, too). There are multiple ways to run a program. Push the center button to minimize whatever application you’re in, and you’ll see the “quick menu” at the bottom of the display. By default, this is the Phone, Calendar, Contacts, Email, and Applications. The first four are quick-access buttons, stuff you use a lot. Everything else is found by pressing the “Applications” button.

WebOS App Catalog and Preware

Just like its competitors, Palm has an application store, called “App Catalog”. Use this to download free and paid applications.

The App Catalog is pretty small, certainly when compared to Apple and Google’s equivalents. However, if you’re a little adventurous, also make sure to install theWebOS “Preware” applicationon your phone. “Preware” is basically an extended App Catalog meant for system tweakers, hackers and customizers. It often contains early versions of programs that eventually appear on the App Catalog. But it’s also full of independent developer’s programs, including OS hacks to improve performance and ease-of-use, more games and applications, and custom Palm WebOS themes.

Differences between the Palm Pixi and Palm Pre

Both phones have the same interface and applications. The difference is in the cosmetics and physical design. Both phones share the same specs (find these shared specs at the end of this article). And here’s what each phone has, compared to the other:

Palm Pre Plus Specs:

• 3.0 megapixel camera with LED flash and extended depth of field
• Slide-out QWERTY keyboard
• Dimensions: 2.35” x 3.96” x 0.67”
• Weight: 4.89 ounces

Palm Pixi Plus Specs:

• 2.0 megapixel camera with LED flash
• Fixed QWERTY keyboard
• Dimensions: 2.17” x 4.37” x 0.43”
• Weight: 3.26 ounces

The Pre is a little heavier, but has a slide-out keyboard and better camera. The Pixi is light and small (this is one tiny smartphone – perhaps the smallest and lightest I’ve seen so far), and it has a fixed hardware keyboard.

Cool things about the Palm Pre and Palm Pixi

Both phones have a Palm trademark – ahardware mute switch, so you can turn off all ringers and alarms on the phone quickly, easily, and visually, without having to fiddle with an onscreen interface. This small feature is one of the most intelligent things ever built into a smartphone. I have no idea why every other cellphone designer doesn’t do this.

Another cool aspect is theproximity sensor– when you’re talking on the phone, the display blanks, so your cheek doesn’t actually hit a button while you’re talking! When you pull the phone away from your face, the screen reactivates. Very cool.

WebOS isopen and hackable– it was designed this way intentionally, so that any developer could build applications for the Palm line. For interested programmers, see my earlier comments about “Preware” to get started.

The Palm Pixi has a matte-finished case material. It’s almost rubbery, and feels grippy. I like it a lot – it doesn’t slip in my hand, and won’t show as many inevitable scratches from daily use.

The Pre, with the keyboard closed, collapses down to be even shorter than the Pixi.

Palm Pre and Pixi problems

The Pre keyboard is a little difficult to use. I can still type quickly on it, but my fingers start to cramp after a sentence or so. It’s partially the key size being so small, and my fingers being admittedly big.

The Pixi keyboard is smaller than the Pre’s. Bigger fingers will probably have problems typing on the Pixi. Test it out first, or you’re better off with the Pre’s (slightly) larger keyboard.

The Pre is slippery! The case is shiny, shiny, shiny. It looks nice, but feels like it’s been waxed. The Palm engineers made sure that – like most other Palms – the Pre could be managed with one hand. But when that one hand is holding a slippery phone, it’s difficult. I was on a phone call on the Pre for about 20 minutes, and when my hand started to sweat (yes, I’m sweaty), I struggled at a couple points not to drop the phone. Palm should use the Pixi case material on the Pre. Since I’m not a fan of wraparound cellphone cases, I’m seriously considering putting some grip tape on my Pre. (If you have dry hands, you’ll be fine with this “problem”.)


The Palm Pixi Plus and the Palm Pre are both excellent phones. Deciding which one to use is pretty much a subjective decision about design and comfort while you’re actually using it. In terms of performance, a techie might care that the Palm Pre is slightly better-performing than the Pixi, but most users won’t notice or care.

Palm needed a big hit to stay in business – they were very close to being overrun by Apple and Google (I still have no idea what Microsoft thinks they’re doing). And Palm did indeed get the big hit they needed. WebOS is incredibly well-designed, and I like it a lot. The Palm Pre and Pixi are both solid phones that will appeal to a wide customer base.I like the Pre enough that I picked one for myself – it’s my new daily phone.(Goodbye, my sweet Treo 755p. May choirs of electronic angels sing you on your way to the Divine App Store in the sky.)

Will the Palm brand survive and thrive? I hope they do. But even if they don’t, you can’t blame Palm – they’ve done a phenomenal job.

This review was completed using a Palm Pixi Plus and a first-generation Palm Pre. However, the Palm Pre Plus and the Palm Pixi Plus are both available from Verizon Wireless.

Following are key features and specifications available on both Pre Plus and Pixi Plus:

  • 16GB RAM (approximately 15GB user-accessible)
  • webOS – Allows customers to run multiple applications simultaneously and provides over-the-air software updates delivered automatically to their devices
  • Palm Synergy™ – Brings customers’ information from the many places it resides into a single, more comprehensive view
  • Unobtrusive notifications and universal search
  • Palm App Catalog – Currently offers more than 1,000 webOS applications for download
  • High-speed connectivity
  • Gesture area – Enables simple, intuitive gestures for navigation
  • Full QWERTY keyboard
  • High-performance, desktop-class Web browser
  • Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g
  • Integrated GPS
  • Robust messaging support (combining IM, SMS and MMS capabilities)
  • E-mail, including EAS (for access to corporate Microsoft Exchange servers) and personal e-mail support (Google Gmail™ push, Yahoo! ®, POP3, IMAP)
  • VZ Navigator SM – Allows customers to get audible turn-by-turn directions to more than 15 million points of interest and share the directions with others
  • USB mass storage mode
  • Proximity sensor – Automatically disables the touch screen and turns off the display when consumers put their phones to their ears
  • Light sensor – Reduces power usage by dimming the display if the ambient light is dark
  • Accelerometer – Automatically orients Web pages and photos
  • Ringer switch – Easily silences the device with one touch
  • Removable, rechargeable battery
  • Multimedia options, including pictures, video playback and music as well as a camera with LED flash
  • 3.5mm headset jack
  • Bluetooth ® 2.1 + EDR with A2DP stereo Bluetooth support
  • Charger/microUSB connector with USB 2.0

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