If not for the small Verizon logo above the screen, it would be very easy to mistake the Palm Pixi Plus for the original Palm Pixi. These two smartphones share the same slim design and the same sleek feel. On the inside, though, the Palm Pixi Plus offers two very important updates: support for Wi-Fi networks, as well as the ability to be used as a mobile hotspot for connecting other devices to the Internet.
Price and Availability
The Palm Pixi is available for $79.99 when you sign a new two-year service contract with Verizon Wireless. That makes it $20 cheaper than the Palm Pixi, which Sprint sells for $99.99.
Like the original Pixi, the Pixi Plus is stunning; its design gives new meaning to the word sleek. Unlike the Palm Pre, which sports a slider design, the Pixi Plus is a candybar-style phone. It measures 2.2 inches wide by 4.4 inches tall by .4 inches deep. Place it next to an iPhone 3GS, and the Pixi Plus is noticeably smaller. It also weighs in at a mere 3.3 ounces, which makes the 4.8-ounce iPhone 3GS feel like a brick in comparison.
There are some tradeoffs for the small size, of course. The first is that the phone's screen measures just 2.6 inches diagonally. That's significantly smaller than the 3.1-inch screen on the Pre, for example. I was, however, pleasantly surprised with how big the screen actually seemed when I was using the Pixi Plus. The same is true of the QWERTY keyboard. The keys are tiny, to be sure, but they have a rubbery texture that makes them very easy to use.
Between the display and keyboard is the gesture area. This is where you can swipe your finger to the left to return to the previous screen, or swipe your finger up to access a menu. The touch screen on the Pixi Plus supports multi-touch, too, so you can pinch and spread the screen to zoom in and out.
The Pixi Plus is very comfortable to hold during calls, and the phone offered very good call quality. My callers heard me loud and clear, and vice versa. I did not notice any significant differences between the Pixi Plus on Verizon's network and the Pixi on Sprint's network when it came to call quality. Both networks offer very good coverage where I live, outside of Boston.
The Pixi Plus runs the latest version of Palm's webOS, and the software itself still shines -- its ease of use and slick interface are stunning. I love the "deck of cards" model that webOS uses; it allows you to shuffle through open apps (multi-tasking is available on the Pre, so you can have numerous apps open at once). I also love how you can sling an app up and off the screen to close it.
Unfortunately, though, the experience of using webOS on the Pixi Plus leaves something to be desired. Like the original Pixi, the Pixi Plus was noticeably sluggish on many tasks, such as launching applications or switching screens within applications.
The Pixi Plus ships with a document viewer and a PDF viewer, just like the Pre. And it also offers access to Palm's App Catalog -- but the store still feels a bit incomplete. While it has beefed up a bit since I reviewed the Pre last year, it hasn't really grown all that much since I review the original Pixi a few months ago. The store's selection still pales in comparison to what's offered in the iPhone's App Store or the Android Market.
The Pixi includes built-in GPS, and comes with access to Verizon's VZ Navigation for turn-by-turn spoken driving directions. It also includes Google Maps, which offers text-based driving directions, but not (yet, anyway) access to the superior Google Maps Navigation (Beta) app, which is currently only available for Android-based phones.
Like the original Pixi, the Pixi Plus excels as a messaging device. webOS's multi-tasking allows you to view the sender and subject of new e-mails without closing out of another application.
The Pixi Plus also takes advantage of the webOS Synergy feature. This collects calendar and contact info from your various accounts (including e-mail accounts and social networks like Facebook), and gathers it in a central location.
The Pixi Plus has one major advantage over the original Pixi: it adds support for Wi-Fi wireless networks, something that was sorely lacking from the first version of the phone. It also supports Verizon's speedy 3G EvDO network, so you have plenty of options for speedy browsing.
The phone's browser itself is nicely designed and easy to use. I love that you can pinch and spread the screen to zoom in and out of Web pages. And even though the Pixi Plus sports a small, it never felt overly restrictive.
The Pixi Plus also can be turned into a mobile hotspot, to which you can connect up to five additional devices for Internet access. The process is simple; it's all done through the Palm Mobile Hotspot app. You launch the app, select your encryption, and you're good to go. I created a network, and was able to connect two iPhones and a laptop without problem. Download speeds did seem a bit slow over the network, though. Keep in mind, too, that using the Pixi Plus as a mobile hotspot requires that you subscribe to Verizon hot spot plan, which costs $40 per month.
The Palm Pixi Plus features a 2-megapixel camera that is a major disappointment. Like the camera on the original Pixi, this one took photos that were often blurry and dim. It does add a flash, though, which helped brighten up my images. At this time, the Pixi Plus does not support video recording, but Palm is preparing an over-the-air update to the webOS that will add video recording to all of its webOS phones.
Music and More
Like the Palm Pixi (and any Android-based smartphone), the Pixi Plus offers one-touch access to Amazon's MP3 store, where you can download songs directly to your phone. Unfortunately, though, the Pixi Plus is limited to the 8GB of internal memory it offers; there's no option to expand that, so you're limited in how much content you can transfer to the phone.
The Pixi comes with a USB cord, and when connected to your computer, you can use Palm's Media Sync feature. As of this writing, the Pixi will NOT sync with Apple's iTunes software; Apple and Palm have been battling back and forth about this feature, and it may yet be added in the future.
The Pixi Plus offers a basic music player on the phone, which is easy enough to use. You also get a standard headphone jack, and sound quality was very good. You don't get access to any of Verizon's V Cast services, though.
The addition of Wi-Fi supports makes the Palm Pixi Plus a markedly better phone than the original Palm Pixi. But its sluggish performance and sub-par camera still leave this smartphone with room for improvement.