Palm Pixi Review

The Palm Pixi represents the second webOS device from Palm and what many proclaim as the successor to the companies Centro line of smartphones. It’s geared for young professionals who are shopping for their first smartphone or perhaps looking for a phone that won’t break the bank. Given it’s aging OS, the Centro was surprisingly popular. To Palm’s credit, the Centro was more capable than a feature phone, came in a variety of fun colors and was priced right. For smartphone buyers shopping the sub-$100 market, it’s gotten crowded with the iPhone 3G, Droid Eris and an assortment of BlackBerry devices. In addition, Palm’s flagship webOS powered Palm Pre can be had for $99 at Amazon. Unlike the Centro before it, the Palm Pixi enters a crowded field.


Editor’s note: Throughout the review, we’ve highlighted differences between the Palm Pre and the Palm Pixi. The comparisons are highlighted in yellow.

Out of the box

  • Great packaging, experience.
  • Standard battery
  • AC Phone Charger
  • Micro USB Sync Cable
  • Getting Started Guide
  • Features Guide

Palm has always had nice packaging with their devices, but they’ve gone a step further since releasing the Treo Pro. The clean looks and  environmentally friendly packaging make a good first impression. Despite it’s price, everything about the packaging gives an heir of quality.  When it comes to packaging, Palm gets branding. Sure it’ll end up in closet, but it sure feels like someone cares about every part of the product. I’d imagine this is important to anyone who plunks down $99 (after rebate). The packaging should give you a feeling that you’ve bought something of good quality and that the manufacturer cares about you, the customer, from the moment the box hits your hands.

In case you haven’t heard, the Palm Pixi is small. Really small. Really thin. Incredibly light. When we got our first chance to preview the Pixi, I was impressed with how thin and light the device was in my hand. Having spent the last few days working out Motorola’s Droid, it felt like getting out of a HUMMER into a Prius. Over the years, Palm has been a company that has been lambasted by users and tech journalist for bulky devices. That era is clearly over. You want a pocketable device, stop reading this review and get the Pixi.


Unlike the Palm Pre, the Pixi lacks any moving parts. By default, this gives it a more solid feel and it’s likely more durable than a Pre. The backplate features a black matte finish, that unfortunately is not Touchstone compatible (see Palm Pixi Accessories below for more information).

The Palm Pixi features less moving parts than the Pre and likely prove to be more durable. The Pixi is thinner and lighter than the Pre. With the keyboard hidden the Pre is not as tall. When opened, the Pre is about 1 inch taller than it’s sibling. Both devices are  pocket-able.


Taking a quick trip around the device reveals nothing out the ordinary. The ringer switch allows you to quickly move the Pixi into silent mode. Power button at the top left is easily accessible and volume jog buttons adorn the top, right side of the device. We did notice the power button to be a bit finicky and felt it should be easier to turn the device on/off. There’s been some talk about the microUSB door being difficult to open and then requires too hands to hold open. It wasn’t an issue for us. In fact, anyone with a Pre would welcome the Pixi’s micro USB door with open arms. It’s easier to open, doesn’t feel like you’re going to accidentally rip it off. When you close the door, those unfamiliar with the device would be hard-pressed to even find it, which was Palm’s intention with both the Pre and the Pixi. They didn’t want any exposed ports and it was a job well done on the Pixi.

The door on the Pixi is easier to access than on the Pre. It also closes flush to the device, which effectively hides the door to anyone not familiar with the device. Advantage: Palm Pre

Those of you interested in lanyards rejoice, as there is a lanyard attachment. Does anyone actually use a lanyard? Does Palm expect the Pixi to become the new wristlet?

Palm Pixi vs iPhone 3GS

Palm chose to put a 2 megapixel camera with LED flash on the Pixi. Taking pictures is easy enough using the space bar or onscreen button. Despite using the flash, photos taken with the Pixi were dark and at times pixelated. We don’t necessarily think it’s the flash since an iPhone 3GS (does not have a flash) outperformed the Pixi is the exact same lighting.

While it wasn’t particularly bright in the room where these photos were taken, you can clearly see the difference between the two cameras. It’s easier to get great results from any camera in a nice, well lit environment, but that’s not reflective of how you’ll use the phone on a day to day basis.


There is no video camera on the Pixi.

The Palm Pre features a 3 megapixel camera with LED flash versus the 2 megapixel with LED flash of the Palm Pixi. The Pre took superior pictures when compared to the Pixi. Both are lacking the capability to shoot video and that’s a big disadvantage for both devices. Advantage: Palm Pre

We were real impressed with the keyboard on the Palm Pixi. It’s improved over the Palm Pre, offering a more tactile response when typing and typing on it was a pleasure. If you have larger hands, the smaller keyboard might be an issue. For those considering a move from a Centro, Treo Pro or even Pre will find the Pixi’s keyboard to be an upgrade. In our testing, we were immediately typing out messages without fail. Palm managed to deliver a super-slim device, without any detriment to the keyboard.


The Palm Pre features a slider that when opened exposes a full QWERTY keyboard. The keyboard is always on the ready when it comes to the Pixi. The Pixi is “less gummy” and keys feel more responsive. Advantage: Palm Pixi

Unlike desktop computers, companies don’t typically put the processor name on the outside of the box. Even if they did, it’s not information that would likely provide any insight to the average consumer. The Palm Pixi features a Qualcomm MSM7627. In our testing, it was very capable. Apps launch at an acceptable speed. With a few apps open, we had no issues swapping between cards and the Pixi felt quite peppy. Once you get to 4 to 5 apps opened at the same time, you start to notice a slight lag, but nothing that really deterred us from working. Flipping through the included Wallpaper images found the processor on the Pixi struggling to render images.  The same issued occurs when browsing the Internet. When you swipe down, it appears the Pixi is a bit behind in rendering pages, as you’ll notice checkbox backgrounds while it completes the page.

Palm’s webOS as a whole can be laggy. Palm’s engineers are aware of the issue and it’s expected to be resolved with a future webOS update. Not a dealbreaker, but something that you should consider when test driving either device. In the end, both devices will benefit from the eventual speed bump that is coming. With the Palm Pre, we’ve seen reports of the Calendar app taking a long time to launch. This didn’t happen in our tests on either the Pre or the Pixi.We’re assuming this is related to those with an active calendar.

The Palm Pre features a faster processor and allows for more apps open at once. The Pixi is limiting, but for most it will be more than capable. Where power users might find frustration, those upgrading from a feature phone will find the Pixi’s speed perfectly acceptable. Advantage: Pre


Both the Palm Pre and the Palm Pixi feature 8GB of memory.
Advantage: Draw

Palm’s new Pixi features a 320×400 capacitive touchscreen display. Our Pixi shipped with the brightness dialed way down, we suspect to improve battery life out of the box. Unfortunately, we found the Pixi screen to be dark. Pushing the brightness to the maximum showed some improvement.

Less pixels means less real estate. It’s one of the compromises you’ll make when deciding to go with the Palm Pixi. We were comfortable browsing the web, using applications and menu buttons were easy enough to select. The aspect ratio of the Pixi’s display is not optimal for watching movies which are normally in 16×9 ratio.


The Palm Pixi supports multi-touch and you’ll notice it when browsing the web or viewing photos. Using your thumb and index finger, the ‘pinch and zoom’ technique works very well and it’s something you won’t find on other platforms outside of the iPhone OS. Editor’s note: While the Android OS offers some form of multi-touch support, it’s not supported on the browser, where it’s most needed. support for multi-touch in the browser is device dependent. The HTC Hero supports multi-touch, whereas the Droid does not.

The Palm Pre is larger, brighter and the aspect ratio lends itself better to watching widescreen movies. Advantage: Pre

Gesture Area
Below the screen and just above the keyboard is Palm’s gesture area. We’ll get into this later in the review, but this area is central to navigating through webOS.


For those new to webOS, it’s Palm’s new operating system that debuted earlier this year. In the 5 months or so since it’s release, Palm has released 4-5 updates, which is proof enough that the company is committed to delivering timely updates to their new OS. As with any new operating system, there are growing pains, but a number of those have been addressed in the early going.

Our Palm Pre review provided a comprehensive look at webOS and largely remains on point. For the purpose of this review, we’ll highlight the key points surrounding webOS. If you are a current Palm Pre owner, you can skip this portion of the review.

webOS: Running Multiple Applications
webOS supports multi-tasking, which allows you to run multiple applications at one time.  Each time you open up an application, it gets a ‘card’. Tapping on the center of the gesture area puts you into card view, allowing you to easily switch between any of your currently running applications. Cards in webOS is pure bliss and simply the best handling of multi-tasking available on any mobile platform. Platforms such Apple’s iPhone OS do not support multi-tasking. Android does, but it is not close to elegance and attention to usability found on in webOS. For example, webOS allows you to have a music player open, browse you calendar and check the web with great ease. Whatever applications you use on a daily basis can be left open and you can easily move between them without having to close and re-open. In our opinion, it’s the highlight of webOS, which is the highlight of Palm’s devices.


webOS: Notifications
Another gem of webOS is the handling of notifications. If you receive a new email, voicemail or various alert from a third party app, you’ll see a small popup at the bottom of your screen. Palm’s webOS allows you to manage the notifications by:


  • Deleting the notification if you do not need to be reminded.
  • Dismissing the notification which then puts a small icon in the bottom right corner as a subtle reminder that you need to follow-up on the notification.
  • Finally, you choose to click on the notification and you’ll be transported to the application sending the notification. (ie. your email inbox).

Notifications are stellar and another shining example of how intuitive Palm’s webOS is at managing your life on a device.

webOS: Included Applications
Palm’s webOS includes a host of included applications, similar to the Palm Pre. Visit our Palm Pre review for in-depth review of the apps that come standard with the device.

Both the Palm Pre and Palm Pixi ship with the same set of applications.

webOS Synergy
Next to multi-tasking, Synergy is one of the bigger features on webOS devices. Gone is the Palm Desktop application that syncs your contacts from your Mac/PC to your phone. It instead gets replaced with “the Cloud”. Contacts sync to the device using an assortment of services including Facebook, Exchange, GMail, LinkedIn and Yahoo. Once you enter login information for the various services, webOS neatly brings all your information from “the cloud” to Palm Pixi. The beauty of synergy is that it updates your contacts, without you having to update them. Let’s say a friend updates their phone number on Facebook, the Pixi will be updated automatically. Palm’s Synergy links these within one contact.


The flip side of Synergy is that it does pull down all your contacts from the cloud and then some. Google does a horrific job managing your contacts, so now this information gets pushed down to your Palm Pixi. Same goes for Facebook. Let’s face it, you probably have someone who is a friend on Facebook that you aren’t planning to call or email anytime this century. This person is now on your phone.

webOS: Universal Search
Finding applications in Launcher or sifting through your contacts can be difficult, as we illustrated. Universal search within webOS helps ease the pain. Start typing on the Pixi and it immediately begins searching your contacts and your application. You can select on of the results or choose to search the web using one of the preset services that include:


  • Google
  • Google Maps
  • Wikipedia
  • Twitter

Handy and a necessity. Universal search does have it’s limits, it will not search calendar appointments or email(s).

webOS: Usability and Gestures
As we noted in the hardware portion of the review, the Palm Pixi features a gesture area. Gestures allow you navigate the Palm Pixi by swiping your fingers across the gesture area in a specific direction. The most common would be the back swipe, which allows you to move backward in an app or process. Gestures work great on the Pixi and become very natural within a day of using a webOS device. Gestures are easier to use than physical buttons and another shining example of how advanced and fun it can be to use Palm’s webOS.

webOS: Third Party Applications and Palm’s App Catalog
Launched back in June of this year, Palm has it’s very own App Store titled the Palm App Catalog. Just a month ago, it saw the introduction of paid applications and there are roughly 360 applications available at the time of this review (November 13th, 2009). The App Catalog is currently in beta, but we expect that will end next month. What’s that mean to you? It means Palm is steadily improving the underpinnings of the store and offering developers an opportunity to make money selling applications. With the release of the Pixi, there should be more webOS devices on the market, which should help attract more developer interest.

The current crop of applications are average and we’ve yet to find that killer app. Apple has one with their Facebook for iPhone app, despite the developer quitting the project. At the release of the Pixi, Palm has released a native Facebook application, but it pales in comparison to similar apps on both iPhone and Android operating systems.

Palm does provide developers with an SDK that provides help with developing apps within a prescribed user interface guidelines. Apps look and feel as if they belong on the device, no different than on Apple’s iPhone. The same cannot be said for Android, where there appear to be no interface standards.

Although the Palm Pixi features 8GB of memory, applications are limited to 256MB. This limits both users who want to install a plethora of apps and more importantly developers who want to develop robust applications, without worrying about size constraints. We expect Palm will correct this issue and there is a good chance you will not bump into the current limit.

Sites like to throw out numbers about available apps for specific platforms. iPhone: Over 100,000. Android: Over 12,000. webOS: Under 500. If you are considering the Pixi, ask yourself what apps you’ll need and then see if it’s available on the Pixi. Despite the numbers, there is a good chance you might find what you need. For me, Facebook and Twitter are critical for me. There are several Twitter clients and Palm’s Facebook app is certainly capable enough. Are they best available on a mobile platform. No. They are squarely in the middle. However, the quality of apps is offset by webOS in general and the tied for best in class web browsing experience.

The Palm Pixi uses EVDO, which is another way for saying 3G. If you have good Sprint coverage in your area, the Palm Pixi will provide a fast Internet experience.

If you fall out of coverage, the Pixi does not have built-in support for WiFi. WiFi support is great when you are in an office building or simply want to latch onto a fast wireless connection.

Would it be nice to have WiFi? Sure, but it depends on the you, the customer. Does your current phone have WiFi and if so, do you use it often.

The Pixi supports Bluetooth 2.1 and A2DP (supports stereo headphones). Like our Palm  Pre, the Pixi refused to connect to our car kit. It did work with a variety of other Bluetooth devices including a Jawbone and Garmin. If your car has Bluetooth, we’d suggest you test to ensure it works in your car. Despite being listed as compatible, we still experienced trouble. Surprisingly, our test Palm Pre did work, so we’re not sure why the latest and greatest is not working. iPhone, Droid, BlackBerry all worked. After further testing, the Palm Pixi did not experience any issues connecting to a variety of Bluetooth devices, which was contrary to our earlier findings. We’re attributing the change to either a software update or pilot error on our part.

The Palm Pre supports WiFi, whereas the Pixi does not.
Advantage: Palm Pre

Call quality on the Pixi is on par with the Pre. I find it difficult to compare and contrast devices, since part of the mix is the wireless carrier. We’ve been testing the Motorola Droid and one it’s strengths has been call quality. The best we’ve heard from a mobile device. If not for using the Droid earlier in the week, we wouldn’t have had any issue with the call quality of the Pixi and neither should you.

The loudness level of the ringer is similar to other smartphones.

In our testing the Pre is louder, but ever so slightly. The Pixi however sounded clearer. Advantage: Draw

Battery Life

Battery level is highly dependent upon how you’ll use your phone. In the few days we’ve used the Pixi, battery life was similar to the Palm Pre. If you are coming from a BlackBerry device, expect a drop-off in battery life. We’d recommend you purchase a car charger. Of course, the Palm Pixi does have a removable battery, so a spare battery can easily double your battery life.

To remove the battery cover, simply insert your fingernail into the left side of the Pixi and you should get seperation. Battery cover removal was quite easy and at no time did we feel like we were going to snap either the cover or the device.

Palm Pixi Accessories

In order to work with Palm’s Touchstone charging dock, you’ll need to purchase a compatible back cover. With the Pre, you could purchase Touchstone bundles that included the back cover. We’d suggest checking with your local dealer or even our store regarding Pixi Touchstone Bundles. The Touchstone is expensive, but an excellent companion to the Pixi. Simply place the Palm Pixi on the Touchstone and it automatically begins charging. This alleviates the need to open the micro USB door, unless you are connecting to your Mac or PC.


Finally, Palm is offering ‘Artist-series’ backplates as a way to customize the look of your Palm Pixi. Check out our Palm Pixi photo gallery to view the available backplates, which are priced at 49.95. For a low-end device, we think the pricing is a bit high for the backplates.


  • Ultra-thin, super light, pocket-friendly phone
  • Form factor will feel right for those moving from Treo, Centro, BlackBerry or Windows Mobile smartphone
  • Webkit based browser, combined with support for multi-touch makes web browsing a pleasure
  • Keyboard provides excellent tactile feedback and makes it easy to type error-free messages.
  • Nice bundle of included apps includes Sprint Navigation, Integrated Messaging, Multimedia and PIM apps
  • Feels solid and durable
  • Under $100 combined with Sprint’s unlimited data, messaging plans make this an affordable smartphone
  • Synergy makes it easy to get contacts on your phone
  • Notifications system is best of any mobile platform


  • webOS can at times feel sluggish
  • Processor struggles to finish rendering photos, web pages
  • No video camera
  • Keyboard may be too small for some
  • Camera produced dark images
  • No WiFi
  • No killer apps, yet
  • No Desktop app
  • Does not sync with iTunes
  • Bluetooth didn’t work with our car kit
  • Unable to edit Office documents
  • Why doesn’t this come in glossy white?


The Palm Pixi is a curious device in that it launches only 5 months after the Palm Pre and on the same wireless carrier. Not only will the Pixi be competing with other sub-$100 phones (iPhone 3G, Droid Eris), it will be sitting adjacent to perhaps it’s biggest competitor, the Palm Pre.


If you lined up the spec sheets of the Palm Pre vs the Palm Pixi, it would be game over for the Pixi. People like me love specs, but consumers don’t necessarily care about specs. They care about getting a phone that works for them.  In the end, the form factor of the Pixi will likely be the deciding factor for people who select this device over it’s older sibling. They’ll pick up the Pixi and fall in love with how it feels right in their hand and their pocket. webOS still provides an elegant user experience and the current crop of App Catalog entries should fit the needs of mainstream consumers.

At it’s current $99 price point, the Pixi offers a great tactile keyboard, terrific web browsing experience and an elegant next generation operating system that is consistently being updated with improvements. For what it lacks in specs, it makes up for in fun.

Related Posts:

Palm Pixi Photo Gallery

Palm Pixi Hands-On Preview

Palm Pre Review

Disclaimer: Palm provided us with a Palm Pixi for review purposes. Upon completion of this review, the device will be sent back to Palm.


  1. Great Review Agree with all Cons that Palm might overpass with some simple fix. Excellent design form factor for future webos devices with full features to take in.

  2. Both HTC Hero (Android) and HTC HD2 (Windows Mobile) support multi-touch in browsers – I have seen it myself, so you are not telling the true above.

  3. Christopher Meinck says:

    @Edward We were referencing the Droid and have made the correction. Motorola/Verizon dropped the ball on this one — there is absolutely technical reason why they cannot support multi-touch on the Droid. They attribute their decision to “product differentiation”.

  4. owenguerrini says:

    Is the Pixi compatible with Mac?

  5. since the pixi doesn’t have wifi, will the internet not work if you’re roaming?

  6. bjackson12 says:

    Since the pixi doesn’t have WiFi, will you still be able to get internet in roaming?

  7. Is it possible to download or install Flash onto the Pix-? There are a ton of internet music sites that i would love to use as my source of music while using the Pix-, but they all require Flash. Any ideas?

  8. angellesmelle says:

    sounds fkin tight I think that the screen being darker than the pre is an advantage too, that means it takes less battery! and seriously, what fool watches movies on his phone? Ok my dad, but he’s old and foolish! The pixi is awesome it’s like the centro but without the dip into the screen which is what I’ve always dreamed of! I love palm!! I have a verizon contract though…

  9. I actually got the Pixi, and in spite of some problems with downloading apps (had to reset the whole phone, then troubleshoot using their “webOS doctor”) I like it. Just one question… has anyone been able to use voice activated bluetooth? I just assumed the Pixi would have a voice-activated feature, but haven’t been able to get that to work (yet). Hints/suggestions?

  10. Tiffani says:

    I actually just got the pixi. I noticed one of your cons states the pixi will not sync with i-tunes. It’s strange because when i plugged it into my computer, itunes appeared and was asking me to set up my new ipod, the palm pixi, and it synced every song that i have in my itunes…so umm, odd

  11. I got the Palm Pixi via Sprint. I am kinda leaning towards liking the phone but still am trying to work out some bugs. Maybe it will get better. But The phone it self is awesome… IPHONE EAT YOUR HEART OUT!

  12. Heather says:

    I also thought that the Palm Pixi did not have a video recording option but it does. It required that you set it up to automatically update but once you set it up to update it will have all the latest features. The video feature is quite cool. It does not compare to the quality of say a high mega pixle camera but it holds its own. You can even edit video strips. The camera option still seems to lack in comparison to my prior phone which allowed me to change color take multiple pictures, and change other settings. The Pixi does not seem to have that option.

  13. Heather says:

    Re: Monica’s question. When I got this phone I do not remember seeing voice calling as one of its features. With that I assume it would apply to bluetooth voice calling. Meaning that if the feature is not available with the phone it would not work with the bluetooth either. There might be an application out there for that. I do not know all that much but I assume it is possible. good luck.

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