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

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.
Written by Andrew Nusca, Contributor

Palm revealed its PixiwebOS-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.)

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