Palm’s original Pixi – the budget, candybar understudy to the Pre – never made it to the UK. This was something of a shame, as we were big fans of its domed keys and build quality, if a little less impressed by the lack of Wi-Fi.
After noting our complaints, Palm has returned with the UK-bound Pixi Plus. It still has a somewhat paltry 2MP camera, but has improved its controls by removing the trackball and now has that missing Wi-Fi.
Improved touch interface
In hardware terms, the Pixi Plus is a real success – light, powerful and easy to use. The camera isn’t as high-resolution as it could be (it’s only 2 megapixels) but at least there’s an LED flash.
There’s also Palm’s trademark ringer switch – a feature now adopted by other phones but always a regular for Palm. And the Pixi Plus is customisable with coloured backs, or one that has metal contacts built into it so you can charge it from the gimmicky but still covetable Touchstone optional accessory.
Slick but different OS
WebOS takes a little getting used to if you’re an Android or iPhone fan – for example, there’s no browser on the icon home screen.
Instead, you start typing from the home screen and are offered choices including searching the phone, Google, Twitter or going to that web address. This launches the browser.
Like the iPhone, the accelerometer is very fast, so tipping the screen sees the orientation snap round satisfyingly quickly: faster than many other phones.
Of course, you can launch the apps screens directly as well, by swiping up from the gesture area. It’s this same gesture which shrinks open apps to miniature cards onscreen and – most satisfyingly – to flick the programs off screen to close them.
It’s all exceptionally easy to use, with multi-touch capabilities so you can pinch to zoom, and regular over-the-air updates, which add substantial upgrades – video shooting features were added to the original Pre like this.
But smartphones nowadays stand or fall on their apps, and Palm isn’t awash with third-party programs yet. After all, Android only launched a few months before Palm’s web OS and there are over 50,000 Android apps, while Palm still has fewer than 2,000.
This will grow, and probably quickly, but for now Palm will be enjoying the fact that it has some pretty big players (EA, GameLoft) on board.
Small screen estate
The 2.6in screen isn’t great for extended browsing, but it’s an inevitable trade-off for such a dinky, pocketable phone.
The Pixi Plus is priced to make it highly affordable. It may not have the quantity of apps it should have, but if you’re after a slick smartphone that’s substantially smaller and cheaper than the iPhone, it’s a strong contender.