The WebOS-based Palm Pixi is a worthy upgrade from Palm's previous low-end smartphone offerings, even for enterprise users. The device offers good integration with Microsoft Exchange and ActiveSync, including the ability to enforce policies from the Exchange management console. However, the unit's battery life is poor with automated data services enabled, and performance was inconsistent during eWEEK Labs' tests.
The Palm Pixi is a more-than-worthy successor to Palm's previous low-end
smartphone offerings, capably offering an enticing mix of features for
consumers or enterprise users looking to move up from a more basic mobile
phone. However, occasionally sluggish performance and weak battery life with
automated data services engaged detract from the Pixi's overall experience.
Palm created the Pixi to replace the old PalmOS-based Centro, positioning
the Pixi as an affordable yet feature-packed upgrade for the low-end consumer
Although the Pixi comes with a sticker price of $400, the price drops to
$100 with a two-year Sprint service contract. In addition, some outlets
may offer the Pixi for as low as $25 to new Sprint customers.
Although not expressly intended for an enterprise audience, the Pixi and its
WebOS operating system provide one of the better e-mail with ActiveSync
experiences available today from a non-Microsoft smartphone (especially at the
Pixi's price point). The Pixi could be worth consideration for companies
looking to offer good mobile e-mail and Web capabilities to users previously
provisioned with only a basic cell phone.
The Pixi is among the smallest and lightest smartphones I've tested to
date. Measuring in at a highly compact 2.2 by 4.4 by 0.4 inches and a very
light 3.26 ounces, I found it easy to forget the Pixi was in my
pocket. The small form factor has its trade-offs, however, as the keyboard
is pretty cramped. The hard, rubberized keys are raised enough, however, that
it was easier to type on the keyboard than I expected.
The Pixi supports Sprint's EVDO Rev A. network, which provided steady and
reliable voice and data coverage-indoors and outdoors (even in heavily crowded
locations like full football stadiums)-during my tests in and around the San
Francisco Bay Area.
Unfortunately, the device does not come with a Wi-Fi radio. This was
disappointing on its own, but even more so since WebOS showed good support for
enterprise Wi-Fi security standards in my
tests of the Palm Pre
The Pixi comes with 8GB of on-board storage; it does not have a MicroSD slot
to add additional capacity.
The device does come with a 2-megapixel camera with LED flash (still
pictures only, no video), as well as a GPS
receiver for location services. The device also has a speakerphone on the
back, although it sounded tinny, particularly when compared with heavier devices
such as HTC's Touch Pro 2.
I performed the bulk of my Pixi testing using WebOS Version 1.3.1, although
the device automatically upgraded itself to 1.3.2 near the end of my tests.
The Pixi made good use of the Palm Profile's automated backup services: I
was able to automatically reload all my e-mail and IM accounts, calendars, and
contacts that I originally defined when I tested the Pre earlier in the year.
(My accounts included a Microsoft Exchange ActiveSync account, a Google Apps
account, Yahoo Mail and Facebook.)
Using Palm Synergy, these accounts are melded together, giving the user
unified views of e-mails, calendars and contact lists from all sources-with the
flexibility to filter down to a source's content, if needed. This allows
users to seamlessly blend personal and work content on the device, without
mixing it up on the back end.
Corporations already using Exchange and ActiveSync will find that WebOS and
the Pixi play nicely with some ActiveSync policies, allowing administrators to
enforce policies defining password complexity and length, screen inactivity
auto-lock periods, and automated (given too many failed password attempts) and
manual remote-wipe capabilities right from the Exchange management console.
Like the Palm Pre, the Pixi can easily burn through battery life-particularly
if background data services are enabled-and the Pixi's battery is even smaller
(1,150 mAhr) than the Pre's.
Although the Pixi is rated for 5 hours of talk time with a 3G network
connection (or 350 hours standby), on numerous occasions I found the Pixi
battery dead in the morning, even when I had fully charged it at the end of the
previous work day and not used the device at all in between.
With the Pixi, it is imperative to limit automatic background consumption as
much as possible. To save battery life, instant messaging and GPS
location services should be disabled, and automated e-mail retrieval should be
performed infrequently (or manually only).
Unfortunately, WebOS does not allow the user to globally set the e-mail
retrieval period for all accounts. Instead, the period must be configured one
by one, as different types of accounts and synchronizations come with differing
default periods. For instance, Exchange and Yahoo Mail utilize push e-mail
services, while Gmail defaults to a 15-minute pull interval.
When actually using the device, I found battery life lived up to the
rated specifications. A solid hour of heavy usage-browsing the Web,
reading and responding to e-mail, and moving between and using other
applications without ever letting the screen dim-would drop the battery by
about 20 percent.
My other qualm with the Pixi has to do with inconsistent performance.
Every now and then, the Pixi would simply stall out during an action,
pausing for several seconds before getting on with what it was supposed to
do. It didn't seem to matter what the action was-it would sometimes
happen, for example, when I opened an application, moved from one screen to
another or opened an e-mail. The behavior also did not seem to depend on
how many applications were open in the background, nor was the behavior
consistently reproducible in similar circumstances.
Fortunately, I found this sluggishness diminished once the device was
upgraded to WebOS 1.3.2, although it did not disappear entirely.
Senior Analyst Andrew Garcia can be reached at email@example.com.