Palm dials down the density and cranks up the cute with its lightweight, post-Pre smartphone. But can it find a place in between Android and the iPhone?
It only seems like yesterday that we were welcoming the Palm Pre into our lives, and proclaiming it an iPhone-killer.
It never did quite reach those heights, but that hasn’t stopped Palm from fashioning its second WebOS phone – the compact, cute Pixi.
Build quality is exceptional, from the subtle touch-strip under the screen to the chic matt-black rubber casing.
The Pixi’s QWERTY keyboard is a dream come true for anyone who loves bursting bubblewrap. The pop-tastic keys are small but perfectly formed for rattling through threaded conversations.
Look at the screen itself and you'll enjoy all the colour and multi-touch splendour of the Pre, squashed into just over 2.5in of real estate.
On the home screen, a universal search of apps and contacts can be accessed simply by starting to type – although media files and documents aren't invited to take part.
Off to never-never land
Don’t be fooled by the Pixi’s high clock speed, courtesy of its 600MHz ARM processor – the Pre’s 500MHz Cortex A8 chip powers through tasks about a third faster than its little brother.
With more than a couple of apps open, the Pixi increasingly floats off to never-never land, where time stands still. The phone never crashes but it does hang at awkward times – especially when running demanding apps like Google Maps.
The data connection is pretty reliable – fortunately, as the Pixi strangely lacks Wi-Fi – so you can usually keep streaming or downloading even when everything else is jammed up. Despite the sluggish performance, the battery fades in a handful of hours if the Pixi’s working hard.
Patchy app provision
The latest version of Palm’s multi-tasking OS lets you sync (very slowly) contacts, mail and calendars from Yahoo!, as well as Gmail, Facebook and LinkedIn, and adds Microsoft Exchange support.
Third-party apps, though, are still very thin on the ground and generally offer less than iPhone and Android versions.
Picks of the bunch include Pandora's music streamer, a Twitter client called Tweed sporting direct photo upload and large profile pictures, and Where? – until Google brings Android’s free sat-nav to WebOS, this hyper-local app remains essential.
Snaps from the Pixi’s 2MP camera look fine onboard but view them on a larger screen at your peril – you’ll think a loony has been let loose on them with those Photoshop ‘art’ filters.
The built-in speakers sound great, and don’t forget to budget a few quid more for a cool Touchstone inductive charger.
Android trumps WebOS on apps, but Palm’s UI makes the menus on rivals like the Motorola DEXT look medieval. It’s a surprisingly charming pocket messenger – as long as you’re happy without Wi-Fi.
Palm Pixi review
Tasty but underpowered, the Pixi is a lightweight phone you can enjoy between meals without ruining your appetite for smarter handsets