Announced alongside the Palm Pre Plus at CES 2010, the Palm Pixi Plus will be making its way to Verizon shelves on January 25. Like its Sprint counterpart, the Pixi Plus is aimed at those ready to make the jump from a feature phone to a smartphone and although it doesn't bring quite as many upgrades or enhancements as the Pre Plus, it has one major feature that the Sprint Palm Pixi doesn't have, and that's integrated Wi-Fi. The extra connectivity is most certainly a welcome addition and Verizon and Palm sweeten the deal even more by allowing you to use the smartphone as a Wi-Fi router with a new mobile hot spot app.
The smartphone can be sluggish at times, so don't expect this to be your business sidekick. However, it's a good fit for first-time smartphone users, offering ease of use and all the basic organizing features and then some. Unlike the entry-level RIM BlackBerry Curve 8530, you also get the benefit of a multitouch screen and a better browser. The Palm Pixi Plus will cost $99.99 with a two-year contract and after a $100 mail-in rebate a bit more justifiable. Of course, be aware that on top of this price you will need to sign up for voice and data plans (Verizon recently revamped its voice plans, which starts at $39.99 per month for 450 anytime minutes nationwide (you can find the new prices here), while Verizon's unlimited data plan remains $29.99 per month) and if you want to use the mobile hot spot feature, that will also cost you an additional $40 per month.
The Palm Pixi Plus is nearly identical in design to the Sprint Palm Pixi, sharing the same dimensions, 2.63-inch multitouch screen, and full QWERTY keyboard. Verizon also packages the Pixi Plus with the same accessories, which include a travel charger, a USB cable, and reference material. However, in addition to the limited-edition artist series backplates, you can also choose from one of five new colored back covers, available in blue, green, orange, pink, or black. Each costs $29.99 (the artists series cost $49.99 each) and all are compatible with the Touchstone charging dock.
For more details about the smartphone's user interface and look and feel, please read our full review of the Palm Pixi for Sprint. For more add-ons, please check our cell phone accessories, ringtones, and help page.
Obviously, the big news here is the addition of Wi-Fi. Though more of an entry-level device and with 3G support, some might argue that Wi-Fi isn't a necessity, but we'd have to disagree. With all the data-intensive apps on smartphones these days, it's good to have another means of connectivity. Wi-Fi can provide faster speeds for Web browsing, streaming media, or downloads, especially when a carrier's 3G network is overloaded by users; it provides another method for getting online when you're out of a 3G coverage area. In the case of the Pixi Plus, you also get the benefit of using the smartphone as a mobile Wi-Fi router.
How? Glad you asked. At launch, you will be able to download a program called Palm Mobile Hotspot from the App catalog that lets you turn your Pixi Plus into a mobile hot spot or Wi-Fi router and tether up to five devices to share a mobile broadband connection using Verizon's EV-DO Rev. A network. This feature is exclusive to the Verizon Pixi Plus and Pre Plus but we should note, it also comes with a price. You will need to sign up for a Verizon 3G hot spot plan, which costs $40 per month and comes with a 5GB data cap. If you go over the monthly allowance, you will be charged an additional five cents per MB. For comparison, the mobile broadband plans for the Sprint and Verizon MiFi's cost $60 per month with the same 5GB data cap and overage fees.
Aside from Wi-Fi and 3G, the Pixi Plus also offers Bluetooth 2.1 with A2DP stereo Bluetooth support and built-in GPS. As with other WebOS devices, the smartphone comes preloaded with Google Maps, which offers maps with satellite view, real-time positioning, business searches, traffic data, and simple text-based instructions. However, if you're after voice-guided turn-by-turn directions, you'll have to subscribe to Verizon's location-based service, VZ Navigator.
The rest of the smartphone's features are pretty much in line with the original Pixi and runs the same version of WebOS (126.96.36.199). As a phone, the Pixi Plus offers a speakerphone, speed dial, conference calling, airplane mode, a silent ringer switch, and text and multimedia messaging. Voice dialing still eludes the WebOS devices, however. For contact management, the WebOS's Synergy function allows you to seamlessly sync and merge contact and calendar information from your Google, Yahoo, Facebook, Microsoft Exchange, and LinkedIn (contacts only) accounts as well as view your e-mail and calendar appointments in a unified view or separated by account.
The Pixi Plus also ships with a number of personal information management and productivity apps, including Documents to Go for viewing Microsoft Office files, a PDF reader, a memo pad, a task list, a clock/alarm clock, and a calculator. If there's something else you need or desire, head on over to the Palm App Catalog on your device, where you can explore for the apps by category, popularity, or specific title. While it still trails the iTunes App Store and Android Market in terms of number of apps, the Palm App Catalog is starting to fill out quite nicely, and we expect it to grow even faster now that the Palm developer program is open to everyone.