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- Hotspot capability
- Speedy Internet connection (EV-DO)
- Nice form factor
- Painfully slow boot-up
- Price is a bit high
- Multi-tasking (bogs system after a while)
- Limited application selection
- Hotspot requires additional costly monthly charge
The Bottom Line
No matter how many rumors one keeps hearing of a Verizon-based iPhone, as of now, there isn’t one. Instead of dreaming and waiting for something that may not happen for some time, an alternative is the Palm webOS-based phone. The Pixi, the baby brother of the Pre, comes with a keyboard below the screen and does all the stuff the Pre can. While it’s no iPhone, the Pixi is also no joke. Palm made a fine phone in the Pixi and Verizon made it a Plus with the Hotspot ability.
Palm introduced the Pixi last year through Sprint soon after it wooed the world with the Pre. The candy bar format smartphone now gets a Plus added to its name and Palm is hoping that it, and the Pre, sale like candy. But is the added Wi-Fi Hotspot ability enough to satisfy your sweet tooth?
The Pixi Plus has a smaller screen than it’s big brother and lacks the slide out keyboard of the Pre. This gives the Pixi a nice advantage allowing to easily carry it in a shirt or pants pocket and not feel like a brick is your pocket. The sleek two tone black color is a perfect fit to this smaller webOS running smartphone. The phone weighs in at 3.26 ounces with dimensions of 4.37″ (H) x 2.17″ x (W) x 0.43″ (D). The Lithium Ion Battery (1150 mAh) claims 312 minutes of talk time and up to 350 hours of standby. We did find that talk time was long and healthy on the Pixi Plus. Of course, heavy use such as web browsing, music streaming, along with phone calls will require a daily charge.
The Pixi Plus is Hotspot capable. This means for an added cost, you can purchase the ability to turn the Pixi Plus into a Wi-Fi Hotspot that will allow up to five users to connect to. Unlike other Verizon phones, there is no way to tether the phone to a computer as the wireless option is the only way to use the speedy Verizon EV-DO network. In out tests, we connected two laptops to the Pixi Plus and rocked the connection streaming video on both PCs. As out contributor Tom Jones put it, “The hotspot worked almost flawlessly; very impressive.” The Hotspot feature is so impressive that Tom has decided to kiss off his current Internet provider for Verizon’s EV-DO.
The Pixi Plus has other tricks up its sleeve such as VZ Navigator (additional charges apply) that gets you to point B safely and quickly. The Palm unit users both Assisted and Standalone GPS to get its bearings so you will always be able to find your way with the Pixi Plus. While listening to music, the GPS will fade out the audio to announce its directions. Once completed, the audio fades back in. If you have a Bluetooth 2.1 capable stereo or headset, you will be able to hear the audio through your car speakers or headset. A nice touch. Tom did find issues with connecting his older Plantronics headset which uses the older 1.0 standard. Tom had to constantly manually tell the Pixi to connect his headset every time he used it instead of just turning on his Plantronics and go. The Pixi also lacks voice recognition for hands-free dialing.
The contacts application seems slow to responding to tapping a number. We found that when you tap on the number listed in the address book, a few seconds seemed to pass by before the phone would invoke the call. The Palm Pixi was noticeably slower as a whole when left on without a reboot for a few of days. Like a malware riddled PC, the Palm Pixi seemed to get really slow as a whole with applications taking tens of seconds, some up to a minute, to open. This is due to the multi-tasking of the operating system and a reboot clears this all up. Oh yea, the boot process took nearly five minutes. Yes, five minutes!
Palm’s gesture navigation is a bit tricky to get down at first, but once learned, it makes traveling around the Palm very easy. With a thin white LED light in the mic, the light will follow your movement indicating the command you just brushed over it. Cool trick. Moving and closing screens as well as opening are all done on the touchscreen itself and is pretty fluid in movement.
Since the Pixi Plus is smaller than the Pre Plus, its keyboard is thus smaller as well. Unlike the Pre Plus, the keyboard is not concave which made it easier for me to type on. While everyone talks about a real keyboard being better than a virtual keyboard, I found myself making a lot of mistakes, more than on the iPhone or Android devices. It’s not a bad keyboard, it’s just not a good one either.
Palm’s application store pales in comparison to Apple’s App Store and if anyone has spent a few minutes with an iPhone, you quickly see the lacking in Palm’s store. Sure, you’ll be able to find a few duplicates you could grab on the Apple store, but when you start digging, you’ll be hard pressed to find much more diamonds in the ruff. Palm needs to greatly entice the developer community or its application marketplace will all be but lost.
Even though the Pixi Plus only has a 2.0 megapixel camera, the pictures are pretty nice. Helped by the built-in flash, the Pixi Plus will snap a mighty fine picture for you when you don’t have a dedicated camera with you.
Palm’s web browser opens to show small “pages” of sites you can tap on to visit. Think of them of large bookmarks. When traveling to a site, the speed of the browser seems to indicate the connection may not be the best but tests show its really the browser. When we used the Pixi Plus as a hotspot, the same site we loaded on the phone came up much faster in Firefox on the PC than the Palm Pixi Pluses web browser. The Pixi seems to be taxing the processor to shrink down the site to an itty bitty screen. Now don’t get me wrong, it’s not horribly slow, just not fast. Again, the iPhone bested it in speeds.
As to old school features, the phone itself sounded great. Callers never complained of poor quality and we never heard anything but a good sounding connection. SMS and MMS were also easy to use and fun to do in the webOS.
Tom Jones contributed to this review.
Price: $179.99 with 2yr contract ($399 retail)
Carrier: Verizon Wireless
Website: Company Website