Palm Pixi

Palm Pixi

The Palm Pixi is the second webOS device, and is in many ways meant to be a successor to the Palm Centro. It isn't a high-powered smartphone, but it does more than your typical featurephone.

For just $99 (or as little as $24.99 from when purchased with a new service plan) it is a good performer that can help keep you organized and connected while on the go.


The Pixi is aptly named, because this device is svelte and rather petite. It's tall and narrow, very thin, and amazingly light. When I first took it out of the box I started looking around for the battery, because I just couldn't believe it was already in the phone -- but it was. The Pixi is the sort of device that you can slip into a pocket and forget that it's actually there, which is especially good for folks (like me) who try to avoid carrying a purse or bag.

Palm PixiThe phone is made entirely of plastic, with a minimal design aesthetic. The exterior is all black, with clear hard plastic keys on the keyboard located underneath the screen. The sides and back of the device are finished in matte black, with a soft texture that improves grip and combats fingerprints.

The only buttons aside from the keyboard are the power button on the top edge of the device and the volume controls on the right side. The headphone jack is on the top, and the charging port is on the right side.

I really like the fact that the charging port is covered, providing some extra protection against dust and accidental splashes, but it is a bit frustrating. When I pry it open with my fingernail, the seamless, seemingly spring-loaded port cover just snaps closed again before I can get a grip on it. I'm sure I'll get better with practice, but it was a surprising annoyance.


The 2.63-inch multi-touch display really is nice. It's relatively small, but text and graphics are crisp and clean. Colors are vibrant, and photos look really great.

I was also surprised to find that the screen is quite visible outside, even in direct sunlight. I have had plenty of frustrations with other devices I've tested, and have spent more time than I wished trying to angle displays, turn my back to the sun, find a spot of shade, anything(!) to make the screen visible when I needed to make a call or read a text message. The Pixi's display is clear and readable in all conditions, and is a real standout.

The area between the display and the keyboard is the gesture area, where most of your navigation will take place. Swipe backward to go back to the previous screen; up into the display to flick away (close) applications, etc.

I found the display to be quite responsive, and I didn't have any issues with my gestures and taps being misinterpreted.


The keyboard is very, very small, and the keys are very close together. This is NOT the sort of device I would recommend to a heavy texter, because they would probably go insane. After using the phone for a week I still find myself "typing" with my fingernails instead of my fingers.

I really don't have any accuracy issues, and I have a fairly reasonable rate of speed with few errors. I just don't want to spend a lot of time with this keyboard. It's not a deal-breaker, unless you're looking for a fabulous physical QWERTY keyboard experience. I can send texts, enter web addresses, and write e-mails, and it's fine for casual use, but that's about it due to my lack of comfort with the key spacing and the material out of which the keys were made.


The Palm Pixi is my first experience with Palm's new webOS, and so far I've really enjoyed it. There's a brief tutorial video when you turn on the phone for the first time, and it walks you through the basics of the gesture-based navigation. I thought it would be hard to give up the stylus with a Palm device, but the gestures for scrolling and such are intuitive. I especially like the "delete" and "close application" gestures -- with a flick of my finger I can close an app or delete an email, and I find myself wishing that I could do the same thing on my iPod Touch.

Overall the Pixi is responsive with snappy performance. opening and switching applications without any noticeable lag. Large attachments download quickly, even though Sprint's network service is relatively poor at my office. I was able to crash the device once, when I tapped on an unsupported attachment type in an email. I didn't get an error message or anything, the Pixi just restarted itself and I was back in business about one minute later. That has happened only once, so at this point I would consider that to be an isolated incident.

Wireless/Call Quality

Voice quality is good in my testing so far, though the volume really isn't as loud as I would like, even with the setting turned all the way up. Calls are clear, with no major issues, and there weren't any background noise complaints from my test callers even when I was outside near a busy street.

Bluetooth works fine, but the Pixi does not have Wi-Fi so all of your browsing will be on Sprint's wireless network. How pleasant (or unpleasant) an experience that will be for you depends entirely on Sprint's coverage in your area.

E-mail and Web

E-mail is extremely important, and I really enjoyed the experience on the Pixi, which offers POP, IMAP, and Exchange options.

I set it up with my GMail account in just a few seconds and everything works flawlessly. One of the niftiest features is the ability to set particular GMail labels as "favorites" so that they appear at the top of the screen. That's a fabulous help for someone like me, who depends heavily on labels and filters to stay on top of the massive amount of email I receive, both business and personal.

Messages load quickly, even HTML ones that are full of graphics, and the gesture controls allow me to move quickly through the deluge quickly, swiping to delete as necessary. And when new messages arrive, an icon pops up at the bottom of the screen so you can see the subject line immediately, as well as an icon that shows you how many new messages you have waiting in your inbox.

The included web browser is very good. When you first start the application you are presented with a thumbnail view of six commonly used sites -- Palm, Sprint, Facebook, MySpace, Amazon, and ESPN, which you can change by editing the bookmarks. When you start entering a web address, the address bar expands to offer you options to search Google or Wikipedia. In other words, everything is optimized to make using the mobile web fast and easy.

Fortunately that does not mean that you're going to suffer through a bad experience. I was quite pleased overall with the web browser's performance. Even complicated, ad-heavy sites display well, just as they would on a desktop computer. Of course you are working with a small screen on the Pixi, and some things may be hard to read. Thankfully you have a couple of options here. You can pinch zoom to make make the view larger, or you can just double tap in a particular spot to focus in.

That feature works very well, automatically zooming in on exactly what you want to see and causing it to completely fill the screen. On for example, double-tapping a particular news story zooms it up to perfectly fill the screen every single time, even if you tap just a bit off center. Scrolling is smooth and fast, with no delays, and I'm glad to say that the Pixi web experience is a really good one.


The included Document Viewer is surprisingly robust and very fast -- even large complicated Excel spreadsheets scroll smoothly. You won't find any advanced features here, and no editing options with the free version, but if you just need to view Office files on the go the Pixi does a good job. There will soon be an upgrade for this app that will allow editing, too.

Calendar and contacts are freaky good -- when I first turned on the Pixi I set it up with my Gmail account and everything got pulled in from the cloud automatically, and in the background. All of my calendar appointments are here, including events on calendars I share with other people, all nicely color coded and ready to go. My contacts included phone numbers and email addresses, as appropriate, and it's nice to see that the webOS aggregation feature does seem to work exactly as advertised.

If you haven't already migrated everything to the "cloud" (and don't intend to do so) you will have to pay for a third-party sync solution such as CompanionLink, Missing Sync from Mark/Space, or Echo or PocketMirror from Chapura. Some of these solutions require a direct cable connection, while others work with Bluetooth. Some of them support only calendar and contact syncing, while others are able to handle all of your Outlook data. If you do want to move to the cloud, Palm provides the Data Transfer Assistant free of charge; it works with both Palm Desktop and standalone versions of Outlook.

The memo pad and task list applications are fairly basic, but they get the job done. The task application allows you to create multiple lists, so the potential is there for some very basic database functionality such as keeping lists of books to read or DVDs you already own (so you can avoid duplicates), etc. The memo pad uses the bulletin board approach, which works well. You can select one of four different colors for your notes, and you can see several at once when they are "pinned" to the board. You do have the option to e-mail individual memos, which is a nice touch and something I'm glad to see since I use that feature all the time on my iPod Touch.

The Google Maps application is also included, and works well. It was able to locate me very accurately each time I tried it, and within just a couple of seconds.


The Pixi's music player is pretty slick. It doesn't offer a lot of fancy features, but it's pretty and the user interface is really nice. You can view your music by artist, album, song, genre, or playlist, with a separate section for songs purchased from the Amazon MP3 app included with the phone. If you're in the mood for randomness, you can just hit the big button at the top to shuffle all of the songs on the device. Album art is nicely displayed, or if you opt for song view you can see what's playing along with a visual indicator of where you are in the song as well as a list of what's coming up next.

In order to get music into your Pixi (or transfer photos, etc.) you can use the USB cable to attach it to your computer, select USB mode from the menu that pops up, then use Windows Explorer to choose the files you want to copy to your device. It worked great with old MP3s and all of my iTunes music -- I didn't have to install any drivers or software, and I didn't even have to worry about putting the files in a particular directory. That's a lot easier than having to disconnect the battery to access a memory card or even worse, crawl through a maze of menus looking for the option or the app that will allow you to use your phone as a USB drive. It's also another example of how Palm is focusing on ease of use with the webOS, and something I appreciate.

The video player is a bit basic, but it works.

The YouTube application works great, and is perfect for those spare moments when you need a little distraction. Since the Pixi is offered by Sprint, you'll also find all of the Sprint applications as well, such as NFL Mobile, NASCAR Mobile, and Sprint TV.

No matter whether you're playing music or watching videos however, you will probably want to use headphones. The external speaker is pretty good quality, but it doesn't really pump out the volume. Even in my quiet office, where there was nothing louder than the fan of the PC running across the room, I had to turn the volume all the way up to really hear what was being played.


The Pixi's camera is only two megapixels, but it takes pretty good photos and the LED flash is a useful tool. One great thing is that it's very easy to take pictures while using the phone with just one hand -- tap on the screen or hit the space bar on the keyboard to take the shot, which I like much better than trying to press a tiny little button on the side of the phone. Capturing photos is almost instantaneous, with no annoying downtime between shots.

However, the photo quality ranges from pretty good to pretty awful, depending heavily upon the conditions. One-handed photo capture is great, but that means that photos are much more likely to come out blurry. For better shots it is necessary to hold the device in both hands. There were also some exposure issues, with early morning photos coming out either too dark or "blown out" when there were shady and bright areas in the same shot. That problem can be pronounced when you want to take portrait shots; be sure the keyboard is on the left and the screen is on the right when you take pictures holding the phone sideways.

The Pixi's camera should be considered strictly a backup -- it's nice to have a camera that's always in your pocket, but be sure to take along a real camera if you're actually planning to take photos. The Pixi's is good in a pinch, but I wouldn't rely upon it for any memorable event, even if it's just a group lunch with a bunch of your friends from the office.

Battery Life
The Pixi comes with a USB cable and a tiny little AC adapter plug for charging purposes. I had some problems with the Pixi not charging at first, but I think I just got a bad plug because I switched it out with another charger and everything worked great.

Since the Pixi is always connected and is constantly checking your email and other web services for you, looking for calendar and contact information updates, battery life can be an issue. I never ran out of juice (once I got a good charger), but the battery meter did drop steadily throughout the day. It's a good thing the charger plug is so small; you'll definitely want to take it with you, even on overnight trips -- just in case.


Palm PixiThe Palm Pixi is a fun little device, and very well priced.

After using it for a week I can say that it's a very good value for the price, but it may not be right for everyone. The keyboard in particular is my least favorite aspect of the device. While it is adequate for basic texting and email, it isn't really comfortable enough to use for long emails. Aside from that and the barely adequate camera and the relatively low volume for voice calls and the external speaker, the Pixi is a great little device that deserves a closer look -- especially if all of your life's details are already on Google and you're a lot more interested in calendar, contacts, email, and the mobile web.

It won't make headlines as the smartphone of the year, but it's a lot smarter than your average featurephone and very easy to use. It won't work for heavy duty corporate types who live and breathe Word and Excel, and are always needing to update their presentations, but it is a good choice for your average (relatively tech-savvy) consumer.

After just a couple of minutes the Palm Pixi user will be connected, organized, and ready to go, with the mobile world at their fingertips.


* Very small size, extremely pocketable
* Gorgeous display
* Intuitive, easy to use controls
* Surprisingly robust music player application
* Excellent email functionality
* Very good mobile web experience


* Keyboard is usable, but not ideal for heavy use
* Relatively low volume output
* Battery life is acceptable, but could be better
* Camera is acceptable, but could be much better