While we're on the subject of messaging, there are some new enhancements. First and foremost, you can finally forward text messages. You can do so by simply tapping on the message as well as copy a single message rather than an entire thread. You can do both by simply tapping on the message, which will bring up a menu with those options. In addition, there are new shortcuts in the e-mail app that allow you to flag messages, mark as unread, or move to a folder. To find these options, open a message and press the E-mail drop-down menu in the upper left-hand corner. WebOS 1.3.1 also improves e-mail formatting when you forward or reply to messages.
As before, you can choose to have all your messages displayed in a unified in-box or keep them separate. If you opt for the unified inbox, again, there's no distinction between the different accounts unlike the Droid, which color codes them. However, it helps that you can now search the to, from, cc, and subject fields within the e-mail folder.
The Calendar functions are largely the same. You can see all your appointments in a layered view, where all your different calendars are combined into one view and each entry is color-coded by what account it came from--Yahoo, Google, Facebook, Outlook, etc. However, if that's a bit too much for you, there is an option to view each calendar separately--a feature that was introduced with Palm WebOS 1.2.1.
Other personal information management tools and apps preloaded on the Palm Pixi include a task list, a memo pad, a clock/alarm clock, and a calculator. The smartphone also ships with Documents to Go for viewing (only) Microsoft Office files and a PDF reader as well as number of Sprint services, such as Sprint TV, Sprint Navigation, Sprint NFL Mobile Live, and Sprint Nascar.
For more apps, you can check out the Palm App Catalog. It's still in beta but the catalog has now increased to around 350 apps and includes paid apps. One notable addition that might interest many is the new dedicated Facebook app. It was truly odd that the Pre could integrate all your Facebook contacts, photos, and events, yet there wasn't any way to actually check your Facebook account. Thankfully, there's now a way to update your status as well as view your news feed, comment or like a friend's status, read in-box message, respond to friend requests, and so forth. Palm hopes to bring the App Catalog out of beta before the end of the year at which point we hope to see the floodgates open. In the meantime, there are also hundreds of Homebrew apps available for download.
As a phone, the Palm Pixi offers a speakerphone, speed dial, conference calling, and text and multimedia messaging. Voice dialing is still not supported. You can pair the phone with mono and stereo Bluetooth headsets, and the Pixi's Bluetooth 2.1 profile supports hands-free kits, personal area networking, phone book access, personal area networking, object push profile, and audio/video remote control.
The Pixi is also 3G capable, working on Sprint's EV-DO Rev. A network. The makes the lack of Wi-Fi a little less painful. We still always prefer having Wi-Fi on a smartphone in case you're happen to go out of a coverage zone or to gain faster speeds but keeping in mind that the smartphone is for a younger audience or for someone new to smartphones, it's not a complete dealbreaker. Plus, you can now download songs from the Amazon MP3 Store over 3G rather than just Wi-Fi, so it's not like you're missing out on any features.
Palm's WebKit browser renders sites onscreen as you would see them on your desktop and you can open multiple windows or "cards" as they call them. You can bookmark sites and add a visual shortcut to the Launcher page for quick access. In addition, the browser now allows you to download files right from a Web page as well as cut/copy/paste support.
Using Sprint's EV-DO Rev. A network, CNET's full site loaded in an impressive 30 seconds, while CNN and ESPN's mobile sites loaded in 10 seconds and 7 seconds, respectively. We also downloaded a song from the Amazon MP3 store, which took 1 minute and 34 seconds.
While Wi-Fi is out, GPS is in. The Pixi comes with an integrated GPS receiver for positioning and navigation capabilities, and comes preloaded with Google Maps, which offers maps with satellite view, real-time positioning and text-based directions, business searches, and traffic data. Recently, Google released Google Maps Navigation beta, which brings voice-guided navigation to smartphones for free. However, it's only currently available on Android phones. Google did not make an official announcement about future WebOS compatibility so for now, you will need to stick with Sprint Navigation to get any voice directions.
The smartphone is a capable navigator. The Pixi consistently found our location in a minute or less as we used the device around San Francisco. Using Sprint Navigation, we plotted a course from CNET's downtown offices to the Golden Gate Bridge, and the app was fast to provide us with a route and checked for traffic when instructed. Once on the road, the 3D maps provided a clear view and the Pixi did a good job of tracking our movements. We wish the voice prompts were just a tad louder and text-to-speech pronunciation of numbered streets in particular were a little off. However, it got us to our destination and was able to quickly reroute us after we missed several turns.
Palm didn't make any major changes to the media player. It supports a number of formats, including MP3, AAC, AAC+, WAV, and AMR music files and MPEG-4, H263, and H264 video formats. The music player offers basic functions: play/pause, track forward/back, and shuffle and repeat modes. In addition to the standard forward/back buttons, you can swipe the album covers to proceed through songs.
Like the Pre, the Pixi offers 8GB of internal memory with about 7GB available to the user; there is no expansion slot. There are a couple of ways you can get your multimedia files onto the Pixi. First, Pixi doubles as a storage device, so you can sideload music and video by connecting the smartphone to your computer via a USB cable, selecting the USB Drive option and then dragging and dropping your files.
When you connect your Pixi to your computer, you'll also see the Media Sync option. When the Palm Pre first debuted, you could select this option to automatically launch iTunes and then sync any non-DRM tracks (no videos) from iTunes to the Pre. However, as some of you may know, Palm and Apple have since played a cat-and-mouse game with features. Apple released an iTunes that disabled the capability but then Palm struck back its own update and fix; this back-and-forth has gone through several cycles with no real solution. As of this publish date, iTunes 9.0.2 does not allow the Pixi to sync with iTunes nor does Palm WebOS 1.3.1 offer a fix. However, there are third-party applications that will allow you do to do this, such as DoubleTwist.
Drama aside, music quality on the Pixi is quite good. We plugged our Bose On-Ear Headphones into the standard 3.5mm jack and enjoyed rich-sounding music for most genres. We also checked out an MP4 video trailer of the new Sherlock Holmes movie and enjoyed clear picture with synchronized audio. The Pixi also offers a dedicated YouTube app and Sprint TV for more entertainment, and though the screen is small comparatively speaking, we were still able to enjoy the clips.
The Pixi is equipped with 2-megapixel camera and unfortunately, with the lower camera, the picture quality suffers. Images had a bit of a hazy look to them and colors weren't as rich or vibrant as those taken with the Pre's 3-megapixel camera. Editing options are still nonexistent as well as video recording capabilities. However, you can upload your photos to Facebook or share them via e-mail or MMS.
We tested the dual-band (CDMA 850/1900; EV-DO Rev. A) Palm Pixi in San Francisco using Sprint service and call quality was mostly good. For the most part, we enjoyed clear calls and despite its diminutive name, the Pixi can crank out some serious volume. There was very little background noise and during breaks in the conversation, the line was so silent at times that we weren't always sure our caller was still on the line. They were and we didn't have any dropped calls during our testing period. That said, there were a couple of occasions where calls sounded a bit muffled and callers reported that they could hear an echo at times.
Speakerphone quality was OK, but there was a slight hollowness to the sound. We could still make out what our friends were saying, and they reported no major issues. We had no problem pairing the Pixi with the Logitech Mobile Traveller Bluetooth headset and the Motorola S9 Bluetooth Active Headphones.
The Pixi is the first handset to ship with Qualcomm's MSM7626 chipset, which combines a 600MHz applications processor with a 400MHz modem processor that can take some of the load off by taking advantage of 3G networks. Palm said that with this chipset it didn't anticipate any major difference in speed or multitasking between the Pixi and the Pre, which had a TI OMAP 3440 processor and a dual-band MSM6801A processor, but we did notice a difference. There were longer delays when launching applications and the transition between screens and menus didn't feel quite as smooth. While we were still able to open up to eight applications, there were slight stalls and hiccups for even simple tasks such as opening an e-mail or switching to weekly view in the Calendar, and that was with only one other app running the background. The sluggishness wasn't constant and though the Pixi isn't meant for the power user, it was still a little frustrating.
The Palm Pixi features a user-replaceable1150mAh lithium ion battery with a rated talk time of 5 hours and up to 14 days of standby time. In our battery drain tests, we only managed to get 4.5 hours of continuous talk time on a single charge. Also, with the GPS radio on, IM off, and real-time delivery of corporate e-mail, the Pixi lasted about a day on a single charge. However, with more heavy use, including music playback and Web browsing, the battery was down to 20 percent within a few hours, so keep your charger handy.