Palm Pixi Hands On Preview

During Fashion Week, we met with Palm to get a first hand look at the new Palm Pixi, scheduled to grace the shelves of Sprint sometime before the holidays. We hope to get a device in for testing and a full review before it’s released, but here are our first impressions based on our hands-on with Palm’s second webOS device — the Palm Pixi.

palm-pixi-handson

Software

The Palm Pixi runs the same version of webOS that’s found on the Palm Pre. There are no changes to the core OS, but app developers will have to follow guidelines of the Palm’s Mojo SDK to ensure that apps display correctly on the smaller screen that’s found on the Palm Pixi. According to Palm, this does not necessitate the need for differing versions of an app for each phone. If written correctly, the app will adjust for the screen size of the Palm Pixi or Palm Pre.

Essentially, this means that all the webOS updates will come incorporated in the Palm Pixi. More importantly, all of the apps that are found in the App Catalog will work when out of the box on the Palm Pixi.


Palm Pre vs Palm Pixi

First question asked by many is “how does it compare to the Palm Pre?” The Pixi is designed as a entry-level phone, where as the Palm Pre is a prosumer model. If you were considering a jump from the Pre to the Pixi, there are a four major differences between the two phones.

palmpixi-vs-palmpre

  1. The processor, which is detailed here, is not as powerful. No word yet on the amount of RAM. Palm acknowledges that there will be a limit to the number of cards they can have open at any given time.
  2. The screen is 320×400, which is 80 pixels less than the screen on the Palm Pre 320×480. If you watch movies on your device, this is where you’d likely notice it most.
  3. Camera is 2 megapixels vs 3 megapixels on the Palm Pre. Both feature an LEF flash. We could not test picture quality during the hands-on.
  4. This is an entry-level phone. To keep costs down, it does not include WiFi.

The Palm Pixi is a candy bar design. Unlike the Palm Pre, there are no sliding parts. The Pixi feels thin, light and more importantly it’s solid. To accomplish the goals of a 320×480 screen and full QWERTY keyboard, the Pre has moving parts. We don’t know the actual return rates of the Pre due to defects, but we’ll bet those numbers will be cut in half with the Pixi. Tthe microUSB door is easy to open and features a magnetic closure. It’s an improvement over the microUSB door found on the Pre, which can be difficult to open and at times makes we want to simply remove it all together.

palm-pixi-battery-door

The All Important Keyboard
Likely the upgrade path for Centro users, the keyboard on the Pixi also follows the same general layout as the Centro. It would have been nice to see the smile-layout that was found on the Palm Treo. I found the Palm Pixi keyboard to offer more tactile response than the Pre. You get a click when you tap them, which felt great. I had no trouble typing on the Pixi and at no time did it feel small.

palm-pixi-keyboard

Who Will Buy The Palm Pixi?
Palm makes no bones about shooting for the ‘messaging’ young professionals or first time smartphone owner that doesn’t want a BlackBerry (their words, not ours). If that sounds similar, we heard the same thing when the Centro was released and you know what  –  it worked. It might not win the spec war when compared to the Palm Pre, but equipped with webOS, this thin, QWERTY equipped candy bar phone will appeal to many outside of the intended demographic. While it’s easy enough to slide out the keyboard on the Pre, there is something to be said for having a fully exposed keyboard. Let’s remember, Palm built more than a handful of devices based on this formula and it’s worked. There is a large segment of users who like front facing QWERTY keyboard designs. In some ways, the Pixi might be more of a natural device evolution for those died the wool Treo owners. The art series will likely appeal to those looking for a “cool phone”. We were surprised that it was not offered in white. Seems like a no-brainer if Palm was planning on courting young female customers.

palm-pixi-side

Conclusion
The Palm Pixi is a perfect second webOS device. Palm hasn’t released pricing, but most think it will fall in the sweet spot of sub-$100 phones.  It’s not intended for those seeking to check every box on the spec sheet, but doesn’t have to. Forget that it’s small, thin and attractive. The Palm Pixi is also an entry level phone that brings a next generation OS, full QWERTY keyboard, support for multi-touch and a rich web browsing experience. No phone outside of the Pre checks all those boxes.

The onus is still on Palm to deliver killer social apps that will drive sales of this device. The native Facebook app we saw was still in development, but it needs to be on par or better than other platforms (Facebook for iPhone). When it comes to apps, frustration amongst Pre owners regarding the limited number of apps in Palm’s App Catalog has been tempered by the homebrew community. The Palm Pixi is intended for a different audience — one that won’t be entering Konami codes in order to install third party applications. With the release of webOS 1.2 and the ability for developers to sell applications, we’re expecting Palm to pull the beta tag of the App Catalog in time for the release of the Palm Pixi.

Of course, then the challenge for both Palm and Sprint is to communicate this in a simple, yet compelling story in less than 60 seconds. If they do, don’t be surprised if this time next year we’re talking about the Palm Pixi outselling the Pre.

If you’d like to see more of the Palm Pixi, check out our Palm Pixi Photo Gallery.

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