If we had one disappointment with the Palm Pixi it was that it didn’t support WiFi. Not only does the Palm Pixi Plus support WiFi it also lets you turn the cell phone into a Mobile HotSpot so that you can share your data connection with up to 5 WiFi-enabled devices. A pretty neat trick, but it will cost an additional $40 a month. It also runs Palm’s latest webOS, has an 8GB internal hard drive, and the ability to have contact information from multiple accounts appear almost seamlessy in one contact window. All and all if you’re looking for a pocket friendly smartphone that’s easy to use, the Pixi Plus is worth consideration.
Design & Features
Look and feel: The first thing you’ll notice about the Palm Pixi Plus is its diminutive size. Combine that with its rounded edges, black rubberized back, and plastic keys and you might mistake it for a toy. While it’s fun to use, it’s definitely not a toy and it feels a lot sturdier when held in the hand. Read: The Palm Pixi Plus is durable. The Pixi Plus is slimmer and bit longer than the Pre Plus. It can easily get lost in a dark purse or pocket. You might even want to get a different back so it’s easier to find. The display is bright, sharp, and viewable in direct sunlight. In The gesture bar is located between the keyboard and the screen and to shrink the size of application windows simply press the line that lights up when the display is illuminated. The spine of the Palm Pixi Plus isn’t littered with buttons. There are volume keys, a button to turn on/off the cell phone’s ringer, a 3.5mm headset jack, a hidden microUSB connector and a power button. On the back of the cell phone are two speakers a slightly indented camera lens and a flash.
Keypad: The QWERTY keypad found on the Palm Pixi Plus sports similar plastic raised keys as those found on the Palm Pre Plus. However, the actual shape of the keys is slightly different sporting a more rectangular shape. We found we had better accuracy using the Pixi Plus’ keypad then that found on the Pre Plus. We should point out that the keyboard is likely a better fit for someone with smaller fingers.
Usability & Performance
Call quality: We found call quality on the Palm Pixi Plus to be pretty good. For the most part, callers were clear on our end, however, occasionally we did accidentally hang up on people when we held the cell phone to close to the face. We did appreciate how easy is to adjust the cell phone’s volume with the corresponding buttons on the side of the Palm Pixi Plus. The quality of calls done over the speakerphone was acceptable as well and while we could speak simultaneously with callers, occasionally the beginning of words would get cut off. That said, we did appreciate how easy it is to activate the speakerphone while on a call. Simply press the button on the display that says speakerphone. Additionally, there was no degradation in call quality when we used a Bluetooth headset.
Audio quality: The playback of music on the Palm Pixi Plus’ speaker is loud. For the most part songs sounded clear through the smartphone’s speaker and even better when using 3.5mm stereo earbuds. As noted, the cell phone sports a 3.5mm headset jack, so you’ll be able to use your own high-end headset with the Palm Pixi Plus to listen to music, however, you won’t be able to conduct calls using one of those headsets. Finally, the Palm Pixi Plus supports stereo Bluetooth so if you prefer to go wireless, you can always listen to tunes and take calls via an optional Bluetooth-enabled stereo headset.
Ease of Use
Menu/phone book: The Palm Pixi Plus sports the Palm’s webOS v. 126.96.36.199. There’s a lot to like about the webOS. For starters, it’s fairly intuitive out of the box. When the cell phone is first activated it asks you to create a Palm account if you don’t already have one. The point of this is so that your contact data and downloaded apps are stored. Next, it asks for your user name and passwords for your email accounts and social media accounts (such as Facebook and LinkedIn). Once you’ve entered those, the cell phone will retrieve all the contact information from those accounts and automatically populate the Pixi Plus’ address book. It will even retrieve available pictures for picture ID. It does it’s best to combine information from multiple accounts into a single account. However, you may need to do a few edits of your own to combine some information into a single contact entry. In our tests, we found we had to update about 5 percent of the over 200 contacts imported. Contacts aren’t the only thing it automatically imports, it also imports your email of the accounts entered. While it won’t get all of your e-mail history initially, it will go back a few days. We were able to read attachments and even edit them via Documents To Go. You can also sync multiple online calendars with the device including Google, Microsoft Exchange and Yahoo calendars.
Using the Pixi Plus is just as easy. It’s all about the gestures. To maneuver the screens of the phone simply swipe your finger back or forth across the black space (a.k.a. the Gesture area) that separates the keyboard from the display to move back or forward between screens. When you’re finished with an application press the white bar on the Gesture area, it will shrink and then you can swipe the smaller card towards the top of the cell phone screen and it disappears. On this version of the OS the application screen can shrink two sizes. No need to quit or shut down applications. At the base of the display in the main menu mode there are short cut keys to the phone, contact, messages, and calendar, and menu launch key. When you’re in an application, you can still access those keys simply by swiping your finger up from the Gesture bar up towards the top of the display and a floating bar with those one-touch access keys will appear on the display.
Like the case with other smartphone OS’ available, there’s an app store. You can also sync the cell phone with your computer. In our tests, we synced the Palm Pixi Plus with a MacBook Pro. We were able to sync music and pictures using iTunes 9.0.1 (Note, not all versions of iTunes will sync with the Palm Pixi Plus). Also on board you’ll find Amazon MP3, YouTube, VZ Navigator, and Google Maps.
Camera: The Palm Pixi Plus has a.2-megapixel camera with a flash, but lacks a tiny mirror for framing self portraits. Overall, picture quality is decent when snapping pics using the Palm Pixi Plus. We found colors appeared a bit washed out, but it handles details well. Beyond auto focus and flash, there’s not much else in terms of picture taking options. We should note that the Palm Pixi Plus lacks a video recorder, but you can watch videos from the web and the YouTube app on it, although the screen is a bit small.
Music: As noted, the Palm Pixi Plus has a music player as well. You can listen to songs stored in MP3 and AAC (Apple’s audio format), sorry there’s no support for Microsoft’s WMA format. There aren’t many music-centric features included in the player, but it has the ones we’ve come to expect: Repeat, Shuffle, and Playlists that are transferred to the device as a Playlist. One plus is that when the music player is on and the phone is locked a mini player appears on the screen so you can still skip, forward, or pause songs without having to unlock the cell phone. The Palm Pixi Plus has an 8GB hard drive, so there’s plenty of room to store music and pictures on this cell phone.
Connectivity/Bluetooth/WiFi/Mobile HotSpot: We were happy to see the Palm Pixi Plus support WiFi. Not only does it support WiFi it also offers a way to share the cell phone’s 3G data connection via WiFi with up to 5 other WiFi-enabled devices. That’s called Mobile HotSpot and it costs an additional $40 a month. It’s fairly easy to use once it’s configured: simply turn it on, select Open from the Security menu and start sharing a data connection. In our tests we found that it does take a toll on battery life. Additionally, we ran a bandwidth test when we connected a mac to the Mobile HotSpot and got the equivalent of DSL speeds. As noted earlier, in addition to being able to take calls using a Bluetooth headset, the Pixi Plus also supports stereo Bluetooth, which we tested using the Motorola T505.
Battery Life: We wish battery life on the Palm Pixi Plus was a bit better, however, it will definitely get you through a day or so depending on usage. If you use the cell phone frequently to make calls, listen to music, as well as send/receive text messages and e-mail, the Palm Pixi Plus will probably need to recharge nightly. However, if you consider the Pixi Plus primarily a cell phone and less of a multimedia device, you’ll get about three days of battery life from it. We also found that leaving WiFi activated tends to drain the battery life faster. We should note that when you attach the Palm Pixi Plus to computer to sync it, you could select to just charge the battery. Additionally, it works with the Palm TouchStone Charging dock.