10 things I think I think about Palm's Pixi webOS smartphone

10 things I think I think about Palm's Pixi webOS smartphone

Summary: Palm revealed its Pixi webOS-based smartphone this morning, a Palm Pre-like BlackBerry-style handset. Here are 10 things I think I think about the device.

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Palm revealed its Pixi webOS-based smartphone this morning (called it!), a Palm Pre-like BlackBerry-style handset that strikes a balance between the T-Mobile myTouch 3G (customization) and the BlackBerry Curve 8520 (cheap, consumer-friendly).

It's expected to cost roughly $79 to $99 after several rebates.

The facts (techmeme):

  • 2.63 in. capacitive touchscreen display (320 by 400 pixel resolution)
  • webOS-based
  • QWERTY keyboard
  • capacitive "gesture area" instead of centered rollerball
  • 3.5mm headphone jack
  • 2-megapixel camera with flash
  • 0.43 in. thick (Apple iPhone 3GS: 0.48 in.)
  • removable 1150mAh battery
  • 8GB on-board storage (no expansion)
  • no Wi-Fi; EV-DO Rev. A only
  • Qualcomm MSM7627 processor
  • works with Touchstone charger
  • Sprint exclusive
  • Available in time for holiday season 2009

The Pixi, which will replace the aging Centro (it's already gone from Palm's site), will also have available a limited edition run of five artist-designed back plates.

In the grand tradition of SI's Peter King, here are 10 things I think I think about Palm's Pixi webOS smartphone:

  1. Enough already with the pricing hoops. Word is Palm and Sprint are going to offer a $100 instant rebate and another mail-in rebate to get the handset's price down under $100, just as it recently did with the Palm Pre (it's now $150). It's high time consumers started complaining about all these hoops to jump through. If it's an instant rebate, it's not a rebate at all. And mail-in rebates are especially frustrating since you're likely to get stiffed.
  2. It's ugly. I'm sorry folks, but as sites like Engadget and Gizmodo fawn over Palm's new handset, I'm going to go out and say that it's hardly a looker. I recognize that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and sure, it preserves Palm's signature rounded edges and sports the beautiful webOS, but once the screen's off, it looks to me like an ill-designed concept phone that's not ready for production. I appreciate the function of the extra space around the keyboard, but it still looks like a sketch and afterthought to me.
  3. A Sprint exclusive is a mistake. I appreciate Palm's earnestness in getting out another webOS smartphone -- and with Pre sales slumping, it needs it -- but putting it on Sprint is a mistake. Anyone who jumped ship for the Pre already has done so. A cheaper price point isn't going to please consumers who don't trust Sprint, and it won't reassure those displeased with their more expensive Pre, either.
  4. The sub-$100 price point is important. A $79 or $99 price point is the big deal with the Pixi. Why? It gets a smartphone OS into people's hands for the price of a messaging phone. And why would you buy a fancified 'dumb phone' when you can get all the capabilities of webOS for the same price?
  5. No Wi-Fi is a bummer. If Sprint is such a poor carrier choice for so many people, why would you drop the only other way they can connect?
  6. What's with Palm's piggybacking Apple announcements? The press gets obsessed with Apple announcements, no matter how small. I'm not sure I understand why the company keeps fighting over its limited attention.
  7. The inclusion of the QWERTY keyboard targets messaging phones. Love 'em or hate 'em (I could do without them), people -- and kids -- like QWERTY keyboards. Even the ad for the phone (below) reinforces "your conversations" and "your plans" in a teenage girl's voice. My wish? A Pre-style touchscreen phone without the keyboard, T-Mobile myTouch 3G-style.
  8. The smaller screen is a bummer. And it's not just troublesome for developers. With all of that space, it looks as though the smaller (and less vivid) screen was just to cut costs, even though it was just as likely a design necessity. Still -- capacitive on 2.63 inches? Might get a little tight.
  9. Apps are more important than ever. The Pixi will come loaded with a native Facebook app and Synergy integration with LinkedIn and Yahoo. If Palm wants to play ball in this space, it's going to have to ensure that the most popular apps on Apple handsets (Facebook, Twitter, NYTimes, etc.) make their way to webOS.
  10. Business users should still pay attention. Palm might be targeting younger consumers with this device -- fashion, customization, inexpensive, etc. -- but the webOS-based Pixi is a fixed-QWERTY, BlackBerry Curve-like offering that may satisfy business users. Oracle, Salesforce.com and other CRM appearances -- as well as support -- could help Palm re-engage business clients in a way that the Pre hasn't. Since RIM and Apple are both courting the budget-strapped enterprise with cheaper handsets, it'd be prudent of Palm to, too. (Unless it's got something else with a better name in the pipeline.)

Topics: Smartphones, Hardware, Mobility, Telcos

Andrew Nusca

About Andrew Nusca

Andrew Nusca is a former writer-editor for ZDNet and contributor to CNET. During his tenure, he was the editor of SmartPlanet, ZDNet's sister site about innovation.

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43 comments
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  • It looks like my Treo Pro

    Very few differences from the front point of view.
    DonRupertBitByte
  • RE: 10 things I think I think about Palm's Pixi webOS smartphone

    As someone who regularly travels overseas, Palm's latest offerings are completely useless for me. Until Palm gets serious about GSM, they're just not a player for a lot of business people.
    eshafran
  • I don't get it. Is it a common knowledge that

    Sprint is a mediocre wireless carrier? Didn't you all complained that AT&T service sucks? if that is the case, what is left among major suppliers? Verizon? Some of them may even share the network, perhaps even Sprint and Verizon.

    No wifi is not a bummer. There are only few(vacation) places where EVDO on my phone did not work. So, yes, do not expect EVDO on your phone to work in Painted Desert in AZ during sand storm.
    pupkin_z
    • Bad wireless providers out there

      Verizon has a good network, they and AT&T have horrible-horrible customer service. T-Mobile has decent coverage and good customer service. Sprint's customer service has improved. It had to, or kiss Sprint goodbye. If Sprint were to fold and Verizon were to buy them, I would jump off that horrible ship. The best of all possibilities (if Sprint sunk) would be the WebOS on T-Mobile.
      pwabbit@...
  • Heck! I need GSM for God's sake!

    I love the Palm platform, have been a dedicated user for many years, but I travel globally and need to connect to local carriers (and WiFi hotspots), from Rio de Janeiro to Beijing. If Palm insists on Sprint with CDMA, and no WiFi, I will be transitioning to the iPhone soon. Wake up Palm!
    ahebra@...
    • And roaming is cheapest and work flawlessly

      :-P

      magallanes
  • RE: No WiFi is No problem (for me)

    No Wi-Fi is a bummer.

    I do not agree. I had an HTC Touch Diamond on Sprint. The
    operating system was so disjointed on networking that out
    of frustration I just turned off the WiFi and lived
    exclusively on EVDO. It was fast enough (Atlanta area)
    where I live and travel (Southeastern USA) that I never
    really felt the need for WiFi. When it didn't drain my
    battery looking for a connection, it just made me all the
    happier!
    Olderdan
  • RE: 10 things I think I think about Palm's Pixi webOS smartphone

    I agree on the GSM thing but you have to remember that in the US, users are still struggling with 3G performance on AT&T's network (T-Mobile seems to not be in the game). Given that the iPhone has brought AT&T's network to it's knees as reported by ZDNet in an iPhone related article, Palm's launch of a new device on AT&T's network would seem ill-fated. Unfortunately the carrier corporate culture still uses a sell it then build it model. That doesn't work so good when your network doesn't support the load of the newest wiz-bang gadget(s).

    That said, Palm has beaten Apple to the punch on an entry-level media oriented, kid friendly device. It seems to me that even though the iPhone is such a young-person friendly concept, when I walk around my city and look at what kids are using, it is not the iPhone. I see a gajillion Blackberrys, LGs, Sonys and the like in teen hands and iPhones are in the hands of twenty somethings or older that are done college and earning their first real pay-checks and can afford the data bill.

    I say well done Palm - they deserve success. We have them to thank for pioneering and doing the real hard-work for the handheld concepts we take for granted today.
    griffariff
  • Quit hacking Sprint; it's better than AT&T.

    You keep harping that Sprint's network is so bad, but it's not any worse than AT&T's. For speed, it's faster than AT&T in most every location. So, again, why keep using Sprint as a negative? That said, I would like to see it on other carriers, but that's beside the point.
    mikeh@...
    • All I can say

      is it must be location based... I have had nothing but issues with Sprint when i had them - once I left them for AT&T (and iPhone but that's a different topic) I have had far less dropped calls and NO bogus add-ons to my bill. When I was with Sprint I had at least 3-4 dropped calls a week and they tacked on a business internet plan to my account - I already had unlimited internet with the SERO plan I was on... it took 3 months, repeated daily phone calls and emails to finally get rid of that unneeded $15/m drain. The ONLY complaint I have with AT&T's service (other than the lack of MMS) is the echo on the other end of the line - but I had that with Sprint anyhow...
      athynz
    • I'm dumping on both.

      ...for different reasons. With AT&T, it's reliability.

      With Sprint, it's spottier coverage and CDMA.
      andrew.nusca
      • What, exactly, is wrong with CDMA?

        VerizonWireless is arguably a more reliable network than AT&T and - gee whiz - VZW is CDMA/1X/EVDO Everyone is bashing AT&T for their slow network and poor cusotmer service and guess what? They are GSM/GPRS/EDGE and, in SOME places UMTS (alas, a CDMA derivative).

        People bitch about the prices at VZW but few complain about quality of service or support.

        CDMA is certainly no worse, and arguably better, than GSM.
        M Wagner
        • It's not the technology.

          It's the lock-in of Verizon and Sprint I'm no fan of.

          Just to be clear: each carrier has its pluses and minuses:

          Verizon
          Good: service
          Bad: price, lock-in

          AT&T
          Good: iPhone, no lock-in
          Bad: service overload in urban areas

          Sprint
          Good: price
          Bad: service coverage, lock-in

          T-Mobile
          Good: no lock-in, customer support
          Bad: price, service coverage

          But all of this pertains on the broad, nationwide level. Above all, it
          matters what your local situation is.
          andrew.nusca
    • Find a friend in your neighborhood that has AT&T.

      I think you'll realize the negative news about AT&T is from Microsoft folks that hate the iPhone.
      No More Microsoft Software Ever!
      • LOLz

        you're priceless
        tikigawd
    • Sprint stinks!!!!

      Sprint barely covers 1/2 the state I live in. AT&T covers 90% of it.

      Bottom line, any phone sold only via single provider stinks even more!
      Narg
    • If Sprint's network is so great, why are they loosing so many customers?

      If Sprint's network is so great, why are they hemorrhaging tens of
      thousands of customers every quarter?
      draymis
  • Business?

    Only if it offers WIFI. Why are phone companies such idiots about that?
    zclayton3
  • Where's the WiFi?

    The absence of WiFi is a deal breaker for me. And this phone certainly is not going to make me switch carriers.

    Oh and yeah, the minimalist thing is overdone, it's rather ugly.
    Steve Goldman
  • RE: Apps

    Ummm . . . with respect to the apps that come bundled
    with WebOS, NYTimes and a decent Twitter client (Tweed)
    *already* come bundled. Are you referring to something
    else?
    smithkl42