Palm upgrades Pre with cool features

SAN FRANCISCO — Palm tried to reinvent itself with the release of the stylish Pre and Pixi smart phones last year. Now, it’s hoping to woo more consumers with updated versions of the handsets, the Pre and Pixi Plus.

Both phones remain sleek and sport Palm’s easy-to-use, attractive WebOS software. Both also get a nifty new feature — the ability to act as a mobile Wi-Fi hotspot for up to five devices. And both switch from Sprint Nextel Corp.’s wireless network to the one from Verizon Wireless, which costs smart phone customers more each month but has better coverage.

It’s really the Pre that benefits from the changes, though, while the cute-but-annoyingly slow Pixi continues to lag behind.

Smoother keyboard

With the Pre Plus, the first thing I noticed was the absence of a white button near the bottom of its shiny black face. That button had been helpful for expanding open applications or viewing them like an array of small playing cards across the screen.

Instead of the button, which the Pixi never had, you now have a glowing, touch-sensitive white dash that makes the phone’s face more like an uninterrupted slate — all the better for swiping your fingers to open the main menu or switch from one application to the next.

The keyboard on the Pre also felt smoother and less sticky than the previous version, which made it easier to type instant messages and e-mails.

Wi-fi anywhere

The coolest feature on both phones, however, is a mobile hotspot utility you can download from Palm’s App Catalog. It lets up to five devices connect to Verizon’s wireless network through the phone, acting as a Wi-Fi hotspot.

Once installed, the application was super easy to use. I just slid a little on-screen toggle to “on,” set a password for devices to connect to my network and started connecting gadgets. In a few minutes, I was watching Hulu clips on my laptop and browsing news Web sites on another smart phone. I could also use the Palm phone at the same time.

Generally, this worked well with Web surfing, but sometimes my devices seemed kind of pokey: Downloading a song onto an iPhone that was connected wirelessly to the Pre Plus seemed to take much longer than it should, for example.

Not surprisingly, the sweet Wi-Fi hotspot feature will cost you. Verizon charges $40 per month for it, and this is on top of the voice, data and texting tab you’ll rack up each month for using the smart phone on its network. Still, it could be worth it if you want to be able to connect a bunch of gadgets to the Web while on the go.

Double the storage

I was also jazzed to get double the storage on the new Pre, for a total of 16 gigabytes, as I tend to take lots of photos and rarely erase them or move them to a computer or external hard drive. I would still love a slot for a memory card, though, so I could have the option of storing more, and larger, files such as movies on the phone.

The Pre Plus also seemed a bit zippier than the previous Pre, which makes sense as Palm doubled the amount of RAM on the phone (though it won’t say how much it had then or now).

Overall, the Pre Plus packs a number of new features and is a little easier to use than the first one — just what you’d expect from an updated device.

Pixi too slow

Sadly, the Pixi Plus wasn’t as lucky.

Despite a few nifty changes such as the aforementioned Wi-Fi hotspot capability, as well as the ability to connect the phone through a Wi-Fi hotspot at a coffee shop, the Pixi Plus is as irritatingly slow as the original Pixi Palm released in November.

The Pixi Plus, available for $100 after a rebate and with a two-year service contract, may appeal to some users looking for their first smart phone, but for another $50 — $150 — the Pre is a lot more fun to use.

Regardless of which handset you have or covet, more features are coming soon: Palm plans to roll out a software update for both the new and old Pres and Pixis this month that will enable video recording and sharing, video and photo editing. It will also include a way for the phones to play Flash videos on Web sites like Hulu, a feature missing from Apple Inc.’s iPhone and upcoming iPad.

It may not be starting a smart phone revolution, but the updated handsets and upcoming changes show Palm is definitely stepping up its game.

Talk to us

More in Herald Business Journal

FILE - In this June 17, 2015 file photo, an Airbus A350 performs a demonstration flight at the Paris Air Show, in Le Bourget airport, north of Paris. Airbus announced Wednesday Jan. 11, 2017 that it delivered 688 planes over the year, primarily in the single-aisle A320 family, compared with 635 in 2015. The company increased deliveries of its long-delayed A350 wide-body. (AP Photo/Francois Mori, File)
Union leaders: As Boeing shrinks, what about Airbus?

They told state senators that old allegiances aren’t worth much in these economic hard times.

Inside the new Quil Ceda Creek Casino's open floor that will contain 1,500 slot machines on Wednesday, Oct. 28, 2020 in Tulalip, Wa. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
An early 2021 opening is in the cards for new Tulalip casino

The 126,700-square-foot Quil Ceda Creek Casino will replace the current one across the road.

The nose of the 500th 787 Dreamliner at the assembly plant in Everett on Wednesday morning on September 21, 2016. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)
Boeing says it has no plans for 787 or 747 factory space

The two models will leave Everett in coming years. Meanwhile, thousands of more jobs will be eliminated.

A Boeing 777X airplane flies over Moscow, Idaho. during a test flight Tuesday, June 23, 2020. The new model of airplane had its first flight on Jan. 25, 2020, from Paine Field in Everett, Wash. The 777X will be the world's largest and most efficient twin-engine jet, according to Boeing. (Geoff Crimmins/The Moscow-Pullman Daily News via AP)
‘The market has spoken’: Jet buyers see a grim Boeing future

The company reports third-quarter results on Wednesday with two key products in deep trouble.

The Hanford nuclear site. (Business Wire)
Longer transition allowed for $16B in contracts at Hanford

The plan will help employees comply with safety guidelines intended to limit the spread of COVID-19.

An Israeli Air Force Boeing AH-64 Apache attack helicopter from the 113th Squadron, also known as the Hornet Squadron, lands during a display for the foreign press in Ramon air force base near the Israeli town of Mitzpe Ramon, in the Negev desert, southern Israel, Monday, Oct. 21, 2013.(AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)
Boeing’s Arizona chopper plant under scrutiny by Army team

The company reported quality problems it says were caused by a derelict technician.

Bill McSherry, vice president of government operations for Boeing Commercial Airplanes, walks back to his seat, Tuesday, Feb. 25, 2020, after testifying before the House Finance Committee at the Capitol in Olympia, Wash. The committee was hearing testimony on a bill introduced at Boeing's request to suspend the aerospace giant's preferential business and occupation tax rate in Washington state unless the United States and European Union reach an agreement on their long-running international trade dispute that would allow the lower tax rate. Last year, the World Trade Organization body ruled that Boeing received an illegal U.S. tax break from Washington state that damaged sales by European archrival Airbus. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
A Boeing executive delivers good and bad news for Everett

The commercial headquarters could indeed come to Paine Field. But demand for big jets will not rebound quickly.

FILE - An American Airlines Boeing 737-823 lands at Miami International Airport, Monday, July 27, 2020, in Miami.American Airlines said Tuesday, Aug. 25 that it will furlough or lay off 19,000 employees in October as it struggles with a sharp downturn in travel because of the pandemic. Flight attendants will bear the heaviest cuts, with 8,100 losing their jobs.  (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee, File)
American plans flights with Boeing 737 Max by year-end

Customers can see on American’s website the type of plane for any flight if they know where to click.

Patrick Ky, executive director of the European Aviation Safety Agency, in Amsterdam on Nov. 27, 2018. MUST CREDIT: Bloomberg photo by Yuriko Nakao.
Boeing Max judged safe to fly by Europe’s aviation regulator

A synthetic sensor to aid pilots when the mechanical angle-of-attack sensors fail is still two years out.

The Boeing factory at Paine Field in Everett. (Boeing Co.)
Could Everett become Boeing’s next jetliner headquarters?

The company is considering selling the Commercial Airplanes division offices at Longacres in Renton.

Cop turned pinup model in Gold Bar charged with $67K fraud

Brenda Cavoretto was injured when a dead body fell on her in 2012. She’s accused of overselling its lasting impact.

Washington unemployment rate drops to 7.8%

Most job growth occurred in leisure and hospitality, construction and other services.