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HP Veer review: HP Veer

HP Veer

Bonnie Cha Former Editor
Bonnie Cha was a former chief correspondent for CNET Crave, covering every kind of tech toy imaginable (with a special obsession for robots and Star Wars-related stuff). When she's not scoping out stories, you can find her checking out live music or surfing in the chilly waters of Northern California.
Bonnie Cha
9 min read


HP Veer

The Good

The <b>HP Veer 4G</b> has a cute, compact design. WebOS continues to shine in areas such as multitasking and universal search.

The Bad

The Veer 4G's tiny screen makes even the simplest tasks difficult. The smartphone uses a proprietary connector and requires a separate adapter if you want to use headphones. AT&T's "4G" data speeds are slow.

The Bottom Line

The HP Veer 4G looks cute and packs in a good amount of features for the price and size, but ultimately the smartphone's compact design hinders usability and limits its appeal.

Back in February, Hewlett-Packard introduced three new WebOS devices in three sizes: small, medium, and large. For this review, we're looking at the smallest gadget, the HP Veer. Heading to AT&T on May 15 as the HP Veer 4G, the WebOS smartphone sports a ridiculously small but cute design, packing in a good number of features for a wallet-friendly price of $99.99 with a two-year contract. As smartphones are getting bigger and bigger these days, there's certainly an appeal to such a device, but HP might have shot itself in the foot by making the phone too small. Read on to see why.

The HP Veer 4G may just be the cutest phone we've ever come across. Evoking memories of the Kin One but with a much more attractive and streamlined design, the small, pebble-like Veer catches your eye immediately. The petite handset measures just 3.31 inches tall by 2.15 inches wide by 0.59 inch thick and weighs 3.63 ounces, in line with HP's claims that the Veer is no larger than a credit card and no thicker than a deck of cards. It sits comfortably in the palm of your hand, and at that size you'll have no problem slipping it into a pants pocket or purse. However, at that size, the question is whether its diminutiveness hampers the phone's usability, and unfortunately the answer is yes.

The HP Veer 4G is adorably cute but its small size does more harm than good.

The first issue is the 2.6-inch touch screen. It's not so much the 320x400-pixel resolution--sure, it's not the sharpest or brightest display on the market, but we weren't expecting either in a device of this class. Plus, the display is still clear enough that we had no difficulty seeing and reading what was onscreen. No, the problem is that the limited screen real estate makes it difficult to view and interact with a lot of things, particularly Web sites and maps. For such tasks, pinch-to-zoom will become your best friend, and even a simple task like reading e-mail requires a lot of scrolling since you have such a small viewing window.

Thankfully, you don't have to rely on the small screen to enter text, as you get a slide-out QWERTY keyboard. Much as with the Pre models, you simply push the screen up to access the keyboard, and the Veer's sliding mechanism is smooth and sturdy. When it's closed, there's very little give, so you don't get any of that rickety movement while you're holding the phone up to your ear. That said, we preferred to keep the phone open while on a call, since it felt weird to hold such a small device up to our ear.

The Veer's QWERTY keyboard definitely isn't spacious, but it's usable.

The keyboard itself might surprise you. It resembles those of previous Palm devices in its look and feel, with gel-like, rectangular keys. Obviously, with less space to work with, the layout is a bit more cramped than on the Pre. Though the buttons are small, with some practice you can learn type on it pretty quickly. Basically, it's not ideal, but it's not completely unusable.

One other area where the Veer's small size becomes a problem, and it actually might be our biggest point of contention, is the connector ports. The Veer's tiny chassis apparently precluded putting in a headphone jack or a Micro-USB port (though we have to wonder about this; the Kin One had both), so instead there's a magnetic connector where you can attach the headset adapter or the charging cable. Where do we even begin with this one?

The headphone adapter is flawed for several reasons. It juts out from the side, making it an eyesore, and though the magnetic connection feels strong, if the adapter were to get caught in anything it could easily be ripped off. In addition, the accessory is so small that it could easily get lost. In fact, we misplaced it numerous times during our review period.

Now, the magnetic charger seems like a cool idea, until you realize that the proprietary port means you always have to carry a special cable. If you're ever in a situation where you're running out of battery, you won't be able to just grab the nearest Micro-USB cable to charge your phone, so don't leave home without the Veer's cable. Of course, you can also use HP's Touchstone dock to juice up the battery, but that's an extra $50 accessory.

The smartphone's proprietary connector and required headset adapter are pretty much deal-breakers.

The rest of the Veer's design is pretty standard. Above the magnetic connector is a power button. There's a volume rocker on the left side, and you'll find a silent ringer switch on top and the camera on back. As on the previous Pre models, there's also an area below the screen where you can use touch gestures to return to the previous page or bring up the app launcher.

The HP Veer 4G comes packaged with an AC adapter, a magnetic charging and sync cable, a 3.5mm headset adapter, and reference material.

The Veer ships running WebOS 2.1.2, so you get the platform's excellent Synergy contact, e-mail, and calendar management system. With Synergy, you can sync content from multiple accounts, including Microsoft Exchange, Google, Yahoo, Facebook, and LinkedIn. In addition, with the release of WebOS 2.0, HP opened up Synergy to third-party developers, so now you can sync up even more accounts, such as Skype, YouTube, and Photobucket.

WebOS 2.0 also brought several other wonderful enhancements, including Stacks and Just Type. Stacks expands on the impressive multitasking capabilities of WebOS by grouping together similar tasks in the deck-of-cards view. Some tasks are automatically grouped together, but you can also manually stack cards together or reorder them by doing a long press and dragging one on top of the other. The feature helps you better manage your tasks, and we certainly found the organization to be better. Before you had to swipe through individual cards, which could get a bit unruly if you had a number of apps open, but stacks help reduce the clutter.

Just Type is just what it sounds like. From anywhere on your phone, you can simply start entering a search term and the phone will search through your contacts, e-mail, apps, the Web, Google Maps, Wikipedia, Twitter, and the Palm App Catalog. You're not restricted to search either. You can start typing a short note or a status update and use the built-in Quick Action function to post to Facebook or create a memo.

You can read more about Just Type and the other benefits of WebOS 2.x in our review of the Palm Pre 2.

Despite its small size, the HP Veer 4G has a decent amount of features. The quad-band world phone offers a speakerphone, speed dial, conference calling, airplane mode, and text and multimedia messaging, but no voice dialing. Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, and GPS are all onboard, and AT&T also touts the Veer as a 4G device. With its HSDPA Category 10/HSUPA Category 6 radios, the smartphone is capable of maximum download speeds of 14.4Mbps and upload speeds of 5.7Mbps, but we saw nowhere near those speeds during our testing (see the Performance section for more). You might want to keep that in mind if you're interested in the smartphone's mobile hot-spot capabilities.

The Veer comes preloaded with a number of apps and personal information management tools, including the Quickoffice suite, a PDF viewer, a tasks list, a memo pad, and alarm clock. AT&T also throws in a couple of services onto the device, such as AT&T Navigator and YPmobile. You can download more apps from the Palm App Catalog, including many popular titles like Facebook, Yelp, Pandora, and Angry Birds, but you simply won't find the same sort of selection that you would in the Android Market or iTunes.

You do get access to the Amazon MP3 Store and a dedicated YouTube app for on-device multimedia options. You can also transfer media from your PC to the handset using the included connector cable and using the USB Drive mode to drag and drop your files. Be aware that while the Veer has 8GB of internal memory, only about 6GB of that is available to the user and there's no expansion option.

The Veer's 5-megapixel camera took decent photos, but we wished for a flash and editing options.

The Veer 4G comes with a 5-megapixel camera with video recording capabilities (no 720p HD), but like WebOS devices before it, it has no editing options. There isn't even a flash this time. Fortunately, the camera does a pretty decent job. Picture quality was sharp and colors were pretty bright, even on photos taken indoors. The lack of a flash did hurt nighttime shots, though. Also, video quality left much to be desired, as clips looked pixelated and murky.

We tested the quad-band (GSM 850/900/1800/1900) HP Veer 4G in San Francisco using AT&T service, and call quality was decent. On our end of the conversation, the audio was clear without any background noise to distract us or muddy the sound. That said, voices were occasionally muffled, which made it slightly difficult to understand our callers. Friends were mostly happy with what they heard on their end of the call. There were a couple mentions of some echoing, but no major issues.

HP Veer 4G call quality sample Listen now:

Speakerphone quality was passable. The audio was clear enough that we could understand our callers just fine, but we had to adjust the volume to high to hear the conversation, and at that level the audio sounded a bit blown out. We connected the smartphone with the Logitech Mobile Traveller Bluetooth headset and the Motorola S9 Bluetooth Active headphones and had no problems making calls or listening to music wirelessly.

As we mentioned earlier, AT&T's 4G speeds were less than impressive. We averaged around 1.4Mbps down and 0.29Mbps up. Just as a comparison, we got 3.89Mbps down and 0.93Mbps up on the T-Mobile's HSPA+ network using the T-Mobile G2. As a result, browsing the Web on the Veer proved to be an exercise in patience. CNET's full site took 1 minute and 44 seconds to load, while the mobile sites for CNN and ESPN came up in 7 seconds and 24 seconds, respectively. Also, though the browser has Adobe Flash support, the small screen size and the slow data speeds didn't make it worth it to try to play video or games.

The Veer 4G is equipped with an 800MHz Qualcomm MSM7230 processor, and though we've seen other devices with the same processor and had no problems with general performance, the Veer 4G was a bit of a mixed bag. At times, it could be responsive, launching and switching between apps pretty quickly, and at other times there were noticeable delays. We never experienced any system freezes or crashes, but the sluggishness could get frustrating, and, not surprisingly, it only got worse as we opened more apps.

The HP Veer 4G ships with a 910mAh lithium ion battery with a rated talk time of 5 hours and up to 12.5 hours of standby time. The Veer fell half an hour short of its rated talk time in our battery drain tests. But, anecdotally, we were able to get about a full day's use out of the smartphone on a single charge. According to FCC radiation tests, the Veer 4G has a digital SAR rating of 1.38W/kg.

We definitely see where HP was going with the Veer 4G. There are plenty of customers wanting to make the jump to a smartphone but not necessarily wanting to give up their compact feature phone for a bigger, bulkier design. In that sense, the Veer certainly seems like a good compromise, with the added bonus of a budget-friendly price tag. However, HP went a little too far in shrinking the phone's size, as it affects the usability and appeal of the device. Though some might still find it to be attractive, we say you'd get more out of AT&T's other smartphones in the $100 price range, such as the HTC Inspire 4G or the Samsung Focus.


HP Veer

Score Breakdown

Design 4Features 6Performance 6