The "Plus" in the Palm Pixi Plus smartphone really means one thing: the addition of Wi-Fi connectivity.

Other than that, the phone is identical in specs and design to its predecessor the Palm Pixi. While the keyboard isn't perfect and WebOS performance can be sluggish, the Palm Pixi Plus is a solid, inexpensive smartphone - and Wi-Fi only bolsters its abilities.

Because there are so few differences between the Palm Pixi Plus and the original Pixi in hardware and software, we have focused here mainly on the updates and new features. For a closer look at WebOS and the hardware specs, see our in-depth review of the Palm Pixi as well as the Palm Pre.

The lightweight Palm Pixi Plus feels really nice in the hand, thanks to its rubberized back and slim body. It's also superpocketable, measuring 56x112x10mm. Like the Pre Plus, the handset offers a touch area with a light-up bar; you simply tap it to shrink an app to card view.

Although it is narrower, the Palm Pixi Plus's keyboard is slightly easier to use than the Pre Plus's. Yes, it feels a bit cramped, but it doesn't have the sharp bezel lips (which sometimes interfere with typing) found on the Pre Plus's slide-out keyboard. As we noted in our original review of the Pixi, we really wish that Palm had rethought the keyboard design for a phone that's marketed toward heavy messagers - it is simply too small.

Another issue is that, unlike the Pre Plus, the Palm Pixi Plus did not get a storage boost. You're still restricted to 8GB of internal memory. While 8GB isn't bad, people who are planning to keep a large music collection and download a lot of apps onto the device might opt for the 16GB Pre Plus.

The Pixi Plus runs WebOS 1.3, but users will be able to upgrade to 1.4 via an over-the-air update in February. The WebOS 1.4 update will deliver video capture to the Palm Pixi Plus (and to other members of the WebOS family).

According to Palm, the update will also improve performance and battery life. We hope the performance improvement will be significant: navigating through the Pixi Plus's menus can be a bit slow. The touchscreen also occasionally lagged when we tried to open up an app. We'll update this review with WebOS 1.4's new features when they become available.

Unlike the Palm Pre and Pre Plus, the Palm Pixi Plus won't be able to download Adobe Flash Player 10.1 right away due to some unspecified hardware issues. While this is unfortunate, watching video clips longer than three minutes on the Pixi Plus' 2.6-inch display is less than desirable, so perhaps Flash isn't that big of a loss.

Call quality over the network was also quite good on the Pixi Plus.

The Palm Pixi Plus is currently available only in the US, and there's no word of when it will be out in the UK.

In the States, the addition of Wi-Fi also gives you access to Verizon's 3G Mobile Hotspot application. Basically, this app lets you turn your Palm Pixi Plus into a Wi-Fi access point for up to five other devices such as your netbook or portable media player. Setting it up is as simple as downloading the free app and connecting to a Wi-Fi network.

We were able to connect five devices with no issues. While connected to the Mobile Hotspot, we could still receive phone calls without interruption. If one of your devices goes idle (like another smartphone, for example), the Mobile Hotspot will disconnect it from the network. Once you activate it, however, it reconnects instantly. The range is pretty decent, too. As long as your devices are in the same room, they'll stay connected.

NEXT: our expert verdict >>

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Palm Pixi Plus: Specs

  • CDMA dual band (1900/800MHz) mobile phone
  • 1xEV-DO rev.A
  • 3G Capable
  • 111x55x10.8mm
  • 92g
  • Li-Ion battery
  • 20x400 pixels, 262 144 colours, TFT, 2.63in, Capacitive, Multi-touch touchscreen
  • 2.0 megapixels camera, LED flash
  • plays MPEG4, H.263, H.264, MP3, AAC, AAC+, eAAC+, WAV, AMR
  • 8192MB storage
  • WebOS 1.3.5
  • Predictive Text Input, full qwerty keyboard
  • microUSB, 802.11b/802.11g, 2.1 Stereo Bluetooth, 3.5mm
  • PhoneBook
  • PIM
  • IMAP/POP3/SMTP/Microsoft Exchange/Microsoft Direct Push email
  • GPS
  • CDMA dual band (1900/800MHz) mobile phone
  • 1xEV-DO rev.A
  • 3G Capable
  • 111x55x10.8mm
  • 92g
  • Li-Ion battery
  • 20x400 pixels, 262 144 colours, TFT, 2.63in, Capacitive, Multi-touch touchscreen
  • 2.0 megapixels camera, LED flash
  • plays MPEG4, H.263, H.264, MP3, AAC, AAC+, eAAC+, WAV, AMR
  • 8192MB storage
  • WebOS 1.3.5
  • Predictive Text Input, full qwerty keyboard
  • microUSB, 802.11b/802.11g, 2.1 Stereo Bluetooth, 3.5mm
  • PhoneBook
  • PIM
  • IMAP/POP3/SMTP/Microsoft Exchange/Microsoft Direct Push email
  • GPS

OUR VERDICT

If you want an unobtrusive smartphone for messaging and social networking, however, the lithe Palm Pixi Plus is a good fit - even if the keyboard needs some work.

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