Has webOS 1.4 won me over to the new Palm Pre Plus?

My earlier review of the Palm Pre Plus found a few hardware faults, but with a new device and the webOS 1.4 update I am singing a new tune. A Pre Plus may soon be added to my smartphone collection thanks to these improvements.

I posted my review of the Verizon Palm Pre Plus back on 17 February and as you can read most of my cons had to do with the hardware. A local Verizon representative reached out and asked if I wanted to try another device since that unit sounded like it my be faulty. I picked up a Palm Pre Plus and Pixi Plus to try out for a couple of weeks and think that a couple of my concerns (wobbly screen and random shutdowns) were related to that particular device. Palm also just released the major webOS 1.4 update for all US Pre, Pre Plus, Pixi, and Pixi Plus devices over the weekend. I still think that better hardware needs to be created running the webOS operating system, but have to say webOS is a pretty sweet operating system with the 1.4 update and if I was a Verizon or Sprint customer I would definitely consider one of these devices. Actually, I may soon be a Palm Pre Plus owner myself. Check out some photos of the Pixi Plus in my image gallery starting here.


Image Gallery:A few photos of the Palm Pixi Plus on Verizon Wireless.
Image Gallery: Four Palm QWERTY keyboards width=
Image Gallery: Palm Pixi Plus in hand

webOS 1.4 update

The full changelog for Verizon Palm Pre Plus and Pixi Plus devices is up on the Palm website. As you can see it is very similar to the Sprint changelog, with the exception of the Sprint apps and Palm Mobile Hotspot on Verizon devices. Some of the key improvements for me that make these webOS devices compelling are:
  • Video capture, editing, and upload capability
  • Customization of calendar notification sounds in the Calendar
  • Full hyperlink support for phone numbers and email addresses in Calendar, Memos, web browser, and Email applications
  • Global Address Lookup appears in universal search as a one-tap option
  • You can forward text messages via email
  • Multiple calls to the same person in call history are grouped into single entry so you don't see a full list of just the same person
  • Better overall performance
  • Custom ringtone

Some other updates that I think enhance the Palm products are:

  • YouTube URL in the App Catalog to show a video of the application in action
  • Better Bluetooth headset support for conference calls
  • You can now Sort emails in more ways (date, sender, subject)
  • You can setup Blink notifications to have the gesture area light up

After playing with 1.4 for several hours on the Palm Pre Plus and Pixi Plus I am also impressed with the startup card appearing and pulsing immediately after tapping an application icon to launch it. Before you would tap and wonder if you actually tapped correctly as you had no status for a couple seconds while the app launched. I think the apps do launch faster, but even if the launch time is the same giving me some sort of status is a nice added feature.

The ease of uploading videos to Facebook is also a nice benefit, especially since the Facebook application currently available for the Palm webOS platform is not that great.

I also have not seen either device freeze up on me, even when using the Mobile Hotspot service and application. This was a problem I had with the previous Pre Plus running on 1.3.x.

Palm Pixi Plus

The Verizon Wireless Palm Pixi Plus has the same form factor as the Sprint Palm Pixi, but includes a WiFi radio inside the same body. It is an extremely compact and pocketable device with a full QWERTY hardware keyboard. The keyboard is pretty tight and does take a bit of getting used to, but is still quite usable. The Pixi Plus does support the Mobile Hotspot application and service from Verizon Wireless. The Pixi Plus has 8GB of storage and a different processor than the Pre Plus so it cannot play the new higher end games that play quite well on the webOS platform. The camera is also only 2 megapixel versus 3.2 megapixel on the Pre Plus

The matte finish back, ringer switch, standard 3.5mm headset jack, Bluetooth and WiFi radios, and 320x400 pixel capacitive display are nice features of the Pixi Plus. I imagine this device will appeal to those looking for a very pocketable device at a low price. I have seen the Pixi Plus for sale as low as $25 through online vendors.

Palm Pre Plus

My thoughts on the Palm Pre Plus were previously posted, but I have to say the hardware on this replacement unit is better than the one I tested previously. The slider is more solid and the device did not turn off randomly like the last one. There still is some very slight display wobble if you move it during the sliding transition, but this isn't a valid complaint since any display would do this during the transition movement and they have on me in the past with Nokia, HTC, and other slider devices.

I found this Palm Pre Plus with 1.4 on it to also FLY through the cards, be snappy at opening apps, and a real pleasure to use. The Palm App Catalog cannot match the other mobile stores at this time, but I honestly found most all the apps I wanted (Slacker, Evernote, Twitter app, ebook reader, Bible app, and more) and am not really that concerned about things like Office editing applications. Games are very good on the Palm Pre Plus, as are the applications that I do have loaded on it.

Gestures took a couple of days to get used to, but now I find myself swiping on other smartphones and think it is actually a fun and quick way to interact with the device.

Palm wrap-up

I suppose launching with Sprint made sense for Palm since Sprint had the fewest smartphones at the time and Sprint and Palm have a good relationship. Sprint also has the best monthly rate plans and included services. However, Verizon Wireless is the largest US carrier who also had a weak smartphone lineup at the time of the Palm Pre launch. I think Verizon has done a poor job of promoting the Pre Plus and Pixi Plus, but can't say I blame them since the Motorola DROID has been a hot seller for them and hasn't been available that long. We heard last week that Palm and Verizon have agreed to change this approach and start promoting the Palm offerings more on their network through Project JumpStart. I am not sure if this alone will be enough to get people excited about the new Palm offerings, but webOS update 1.4 goes a long ways to making the devices better.

If there was a webOS device available now on T-Mobile I would buy it in a second because the OS is quite robust and I have not seen it freeze or lock up since I have been using the replacement devices. I do see my Nexus One pop-up with application warnings from time-to-time asking me to wait or force close. Neither the Palm Pre Plus or Pixi Plus have done anything like this to me since I have been using them. I do think the Nexus One is a more solid feeling piece of hardware and would love to see a webOS device built like this.

That said, I am pretty sure I will be buying my own Palm Pre Plus on Verizon Wireless very soon. Readers know I recently bought my own Sprint Overdrive for those times when I wanted to connect to a wireless network with my laptop and other devices. I guess I am much more of a smartphone user than a tether person as I only used about 300MB on the Overdrive over the last month and found myself rarely using it the last two weeks. I do think it is a fantastic solution for those road warriors who want fast 4G speeds, but on a phone 3G is just fine and for about $10 more per month I can get the latest webOS device and always have the option to turn on the Mobile Hotspot feature when I need it for a show like CES or something.

The Palm Pre Plus and Palm Pixi Plus on Verizon Wireless are the latest webOS devices and offer a compelling experience. With their improved Exchange experience (searching the Global Address Book for one), excellent Synergy service integration, and Mobile Hotspot option these devices should appeal to business user too.

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