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The Last of a Dying Breed
Palm's dominance in the PDA market has long been forgotten since the rise of smartphones, in particular the iPhone and Android powered smartphones. Palm, was at one point, a dominant player in the market and they hoped to return with the release of WebOS on the Palm Pre. The Palm Pixi was also another attempt at marketing WebOS in a different form. Both the Pre and Pixi were released through Sprint, but it seemed the marketing gurus missed the ball and Palm was easily lost in the shuffle again.
Enter Verizon, who took the Pre and Pixi and added a Plus. The Palm Pixi Plus is the Verizon exclusive version of the original Palm Pixi, adding a few slight additions and a whole new marketing group behind the phone. Even with the dominant Verizon and slight changes, does the Palm Pixi Plus stand out, or does it look to be easily lost in the crowd?
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Design and DisplayRating
The Palm Pixi Plus comes in the usual candy bar design, with rounded edges and a 2.63 inch touchscreen display. Below the display is a gesture area, unique to WebOS, and a full physical QWERTY keyboard. The design itself looks like the Motorola Droid Pro, just a bit more regal looking with the finished black gloss. On the right edge of the Pixi Plus resides the silent ringer switch, volume rocker and microUSB. Up top is where you'll find the 3.5 mm headphone jack and rounding out the back is the 2 megapixel camera with flash.
The phone has a very vibrant display and, while small, the clarity on the touchscreen is actually very clean and clear. The keyboard design is also very scrunched together, however, the keys themselves are elevated fairly high, making them easy to feel. Overall, the design and display of the Pixi Plus is decent and solid in hand.
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The Palm Pixi Plus runs on WebOS, which means it has a touchscreen interface, very much like iOS, Android and WIndows Phone 7. Like all other touchscreen interfaces, WebOS, is very easy to learn. In fact, some would argue that WebOS is among the easiest platforms to use. The phone also has a gesture area right underneath the display that bridges the physical border of the phone with the small display. Simply click the gesture area and a light shines through from the center. Sliding through the gesture area is very much like sliding on the screen itself and there are various gestures you can make in the gesture area to interact with the screen.
The little innovation of the gesture area ensures that, even though the screen is small, you can still read the screen while interacting with it. This little addition makes the Pixi Plus easier to digest as a smaller smartphone. The keyboard underneath the gesture area, while small and slightly cramped, is actually easy to use due to the keys being raised higher and being very responsive. The keys, when pressed, click solidly with no real grab or slip, making the Pixi Plus keyboard one of the better smaller keyboards around.
WebOS does have its limitations, however, as there isn't as much room for customization as Android. However, as a whole, the multitasking abilities of WebOS make the Palm Pixi Plus a pleasure to use.
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The Palm Pixi Plus was very responsive to touch, though there were some slight pain points with lag here and there. Scrolling through long contact lists can be met with a loading screen, while occasionally an application would cause memory errors if too many were loaded. Overall, however, the phone was able to handle multiple applications and was able to be used intensively with few problems.
The call quality on the Pixi Plus was also fair, with incoming calls coming in fairly clean, though, at times it was hard to hear what the person on the other side was saying. Outgoing calls sounded clear and outside noise seemed to be filtered decently, although the occasional honk or car passing by did make it through. Verizon's network was more than impressive with voice calls, with no dropped calls during the testing.
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There aren't a lot of features to be talked about when it comes to the Palm Pixi Plus. Running on WebOS means that it has access to extra applications, however, the market for WebOS is relatively small when compared to iOS, Android or even Windows Phone 7, which is very unfortunate. Hopefully the market place of applications will grow stronger as time goes on and with HP's involvement now, maybe some more growth can be stimulated.
The camera is a bit of a disappointment, coming in at 2 megapixels. It's definitely lacking when it comes to pictures, they tend to turn out slightly fuzzy and not as crisp and clear as one would like. The included flash does help in dimly lit areas, but overall the camera itself was rather unimpressive. Having a separate digital camera would be a much better idea when carrying the Palm Pixi Plus.
One of the small updates that this device has over the original Pixi is the inclusion of Wi-Fi. The Pixi Plus can now access wireless networks and utlize them rather than being stuck on Verizon's network. It is a handy update, though one does have to wonder why it was released with the Plus version and not the original. The phone can also act as a wireless hotspot, however, there is an additional cost associated.
Finally, the last feature is Touchstone, a wireless charging device. The unfortunate aspect of Touchstone is that it must be bought separately at a cost of around $80, which is a disappointment. The idea that you can easily just place the Palm Pixi Plus on the Touchstone and watch as it magnetically clings on is great. The fact that it works slightly differently when attached to the Touchstone is also great. However, the fact that it must be purchased separately can be a deal breaker for some and it's unfortunate that it isn't included in the whole package.
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The Final VerdictRating
Overall the Palm Pixi Plus ranks in as an 'Average' smartphone. While the design and performance were decent and the user interface was great, the features were a bit lacking. This is not a smartphone to be scoffed at, however, and is easily a contender against the likes of the Droid series and the iPhone on Verizon. With the soon to be released successor to the Palm Pre 2, the HP Pre 3, on the horizon, one has to wonder if the Pixi will also make its appearance under the new owners of WebOS.
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- Sources: Author's experience.
- Image Credits: http://www.palm.com/uk/en/products/phones/pixiplus/index.html