Palm Pixi - First Look review

The Palm Pre is clearly a device that is aimed at your top tier smartphone user, with a high cost price and even higher monthly subscription. But what about the rest of us without all the bags of cash?

In steps the Palm Pixi, a smaller, lighter, cheaper offering that promises to offer a starting point into the wonderful world of smartphones. But can the Palm Pixi be as popular and successful? We had a brief play with the new handset when it visited New York shortly after it's official announcement.

As soon as you pick up the Pixi you notice two things. It's light, and it's small. For those interested it's 55 x 111 x 10.85mm and weighs under 100 grams.

That miniature size is down to a smaller 2.63-inch multi-touch screen with a 320 x 400 pixel resolution. It certainly makes a difference in size compared to the Palm Pre's 3.1-inch offering and even smaller than Apple's 3.5-inches on the iPhone. Unsurprisingly the smaller screen means everything is slightly smaller, but the crisp display and good resolution put paid to any real fears of not being able to do anything.

Sporting a candy bar design there is an even smaller QWERTY keyboard to be found underneath the screen. To keep things minimalist there is a single touch sensitive home key that appears and disappears when used.

Aside from a digital camera lens on the back, charging, volume and 3.5mm jack slot the handset is clean and simple.

That clean and simple approach really works. Take away the keyboard (you can't) and this phone looks like your average MP3 player and for that reason is likely to be hugely popular both with a female audience (smaller hands) and those that want a feature-rich handset without putting a bulge in your pocket.

In use and the touch sensitive button is easy to use while the keyboard has a good feel to it, even if you have to be nimble about how you use it. The buttons are raised and curved which helps, but it's funny how it seems to be smaller than most on-screen keyboards available on competing handsets.

Of course getting a phone to be small, light and cheap does take a toll on the feature set. There is no Wi-Fi for example. The Pre's 3-megapixel camera has been reduced to a 2-megapixel variant, while the Qualcomm chip isn't as powerful. MicroSD support is also gone.

It still has GPS, 8GB of on-board storage and the swanky WebOS interface that has made the Pre so popular amongst those looking for the ability to mutlitask its applications.

The demo unit we played with was fast and nippy, surprisingly so, and we could load up applications, surf the web and generally do what you do with a phone with little concern that it was about to all grind to a halt.

The WebOS has been resized to fit the smaller screen and resolution, however this didn't seem to affect performance either.

Like the Pre the Pixi will support Palm's Touchstone wireless charging device although you will have to buy a new back plate with the correct dongle, just as you do with the Pre.

Luckily for the style conscious, there are a range of funky backplates to choose from rather than just black. The launch designs are restricted to just 5000 with the promise of more, different, designs being made available when the first batch runs out, prompting the promise of designer tie-ins for months to come.

Verdict

The most intriguing element of the Palm Pixi is that rather than try and expand the Palm love on other carriers, Palm has opted to keep the Pixi on the Sprint network for the time being. This means would be unlockers won't be able to sign up and transfer it to T-Mobile for example, or take it to the UK after a quick shopping trip in the US.

However carrier love and exclusivity aside, the Pixi has the potential to open up the WebOS to a massive market not serviced by Android or Apple at the moment.

It's a clever move as it makes the iPhone look large and over bloated, even if it promises and delivers on most fronts.

Expect Mrs Pocket-lint to be putting one on her Christmas list when the phone launches later in the year.