What's Good: Addition of Wi-Fi and Mobile Hotspot make the Pixi Plus a better alternative to the original Pixi.
What's Bad: Battery life (particularly when using Mobile Hotspot feature); laggy at times.
If you're happy with Sprint and are carrying the original Palm Pixi, the inclusion of Wi-Fi and Verizon's Mobile Hotspot option aren't worthy of a carrier jump. That being said, if you're in the market for a smartphone to replace your featurephone, the Pixi Plus should be one of the top five devices on your list.
The Palm Pixi Plus ships in a small box. Inside, you'll find the device, battery, an AC adapter, USB cable (which doubles as the cord for the AC adapter), and instruction manuals. Coming in at 4.37 inches long by 2.17 inches wide by 0.43 inch thick, the device weighs 3.51 ounces, making it one of the lightest smartphones on the market. The thickness of the device is a great selling point for women (that want a less cluttered purse) and those that want PIM features without additional bulk. The Palm Pixi Plus offers a 2.6-inch LCD display with 320 x 400 pixels. While the screen is decent for a first-time smartphone user, there are larger and more colorful alternatives on the market (iPhone, Nexus One, DROID) that will appeal to experienced smartphone users.
In regards to exterior buttons, the Palm Pixi is rather bare. The top of the device contains the 3.5mm headphone jack and the power button, while the volume rocker and microUSB charging port can be found on the right side of the device. The front of the device contains the QWERTY keyboard and the touch navigation area. The camera, flash, and speakers can be found on the back of the device.
The Pixi Plus ships with webOS 220.127.116.11, and Palm tells us that webOS 1.4 is on the way. As I've said in reviews and columns in the past, I'm quite fond of webOS. While it retains a level of simplicity found in competing devices on the market, it offers multitasking and cloud computing with Synergy. What's more, thanks to webOS' "cards" function, I can keep messaging, Twitter, e-mail, and YouTube open without trouble. Like other webOS devices, the Pixi Plus offers a useful built-in search option. From the home screen, the user can type a search query, and the phone automatically searches programs and contacts. If nothing matches, the user can search via Google, Google Maps, Wikipedia, or Twitter.
While the Pixi Plus' keyboard may be a bit small, I found myself enjoying it after a few days of use. Yes, it takes a while to get used to (particularly if you're coming from a device with large numeric keys), but the keyboard is surprisingly tactile, and the audible click is a nice feature. The device offers several personal information management and productivity apps, including Google Maps, VZ Navigator, Documents to Go, a PDF reader, a memo pad, a task list, a clock (which doubles as an alarm clock), and a calculator. The Pixi Plus isn't a speed demon; as a result, there were many times where it would take 2-3 seconds for an application to load. In the case of the Palm Pixi Plus (and other webOS devices, for that matter), I view it as a tradeoff between multitasking and speed. As someone who has worked with hundreds of wireless devices, I can say that it was somewhat frustrating after extended use, but given the crowd that this device will appeal to, I don't see it as a deal-breaker.
The device offers a 2.0-megapixel camera with a flash, and in my testing, picture quality was mediocre at best. There are no editing options, and at times, the flash made the picture hard to see. Video recording will be enabled in webOS v1.4, which should be out in the coming months. If you're a music buff, the Pixi Plus comes pre-loaded with Amazon's MP3 app, which will allow you to download songs directly to the device. Verizon's music option (V CAST Music with Rhapsody) isn't on the device at the moment, though it could be added at a later date.
Despite the numerous features that the Pixi Plus offers, the primary purpose of a cell phone is to make calls, and the device didn't disappoint. Though it lacks visual voicemail, the interface is very clean and works well. There are quick access buttons to voicemail and recent calls on the bottom of the screen. The device was tested in the Charlotte and San Francisco areas, and call quality was fantastic. Callers were able to hear me well, and call quality was clear and trouble-free on my end. Additionally, when visiting a known Verizon trouble spot in the Charlotte metropolitan area, I found calls to sound reasonably clear, with occasional fading. When testing the speakerphone in a noisy department store, I was able to hear my callers without a problem. On the other hand, they noticed the background noise, but were able to hear me. I successfully paired my Plantronics Voyager Pro Bluetooth headset to the device without a problem, and callers were unable to tell that I was using a headset.
Verizon's Palm Pixi Plus offers EVDO Rev. A (3G) connectivity, so browsing speeds were very fast. The full CNN webpage loaded in about 20 seconds, and the PhoneDog homepage loaded in 32 seconds. Other data-intensive tasks such as Palm's App Catalog, Google Maps, and YouTube loaded without a problem. Unlike the original Pixi, the Pixi Plus includes Wi-Fi connectivity. Activation was quite easy, and browsing speeds were very quick. Much like other smartphones on the market, webOS (which is the operating system that the Pixi Plus uses) offers pinch-to-zoom support in the browser. Overall, the Webkit-based browser that the operating system utilizes is a pleasure to use, and comes in second place to the iPhone in regards to usability.
Perhaps the most notable improvement in the Pixi Plus versus the Pixi is the addition of Mobile Hotspot. Through the feature, users can use the device like a Mi-Fi unit. The service costs $40 per month through Verizon Wireless, and while that may seem like a steep cost in addition to the traditional data plan ($30), it is slightly cheaper than purchasing a data card separately ($59.99/month). In my testing, the feature worked very well; I used it for an entire day off-site, and had no problems connecting or staying connected to Verizon's 3G (EVDO) service.
The Pixi offers an 1150 mAh battery with an estimated talk time of 5 hours. Thanks to multitasking, browsing the web, and using the App Catalog, the battery life declines very quickly. Though Mobile Hotspot is a neat feature, it absolutely destroys the battery - I was able to make it about 6 hours before the device powered down. With moderate use encompassing text messaging, calling, e-mail, web browsing, occasional use of the Mobile Hotspot feature (not turned on all day), and use of the App Catalog, I was able to make it about 8.5 hours before the device powered down. With little to no use, and Mobile Hotspot turned off, the device lasted just under two days. As with any fully featured smartphone, I expect my battery to last at least one full day, and it's a bit frustrating to have to worry about the battery dying throughout the day.
As always, battery numbers will vary with the level of usage that they're subjected to between charging cycles, but I would highly recommend a car charger and additional AC adapter for visiting with friends. For consumers that are frequently away from the home or office, or those that need a battery warrior, an alternate charging solution is absolutely essential.
As much as I love the overall design and form factor of the Palm Pixi Plus, the device is clearly marketed towards a particular demographic: women and first-time smartphone buyers. If you're migrating from a feature phone and are looking for a nice entry-level smartphone that is easy to use, the Pixi Plus (and webOS) is perfect for you. If you're an experienced iPhone, BlackBerry, or Nokia N900 user, the Palm Pixi Plus is going to be a downgrade. Much like the original device, the Pixi Plus is marketed as the budget device in the webOS lineup, evident by a smaller screen and a less powerful processor. That being said, it offers some advantages over the Pre Plus, such as size, lack of moving parts, and a lower price tag. It's a great device, but be sure to check it out at your local Verizon Wireless store to ensure that it's the right device for you.