Monday, February 8, 2010

Review - Palm Pre+ and Pixi+

(Disclaimer - I am not being compensated in any way by Verizon or Palm for this review. This is simply my take on a new smart phone and how I am using it in education).

I recently got a Palm Pre+ on Verizon. I have been a Palm user for over 10 years, starting with a Palm IIIxe, then T3, LifeDrive, TX, and Centro on Verizon. I've been anxiously awaiting the Pre on Verizon since it was announced by Palm back in January 2009. My wife got the Pixi+.

I'm not going to write a full review of the Palm Pre+ or Pixi+ because that's been done plenty of times (here is Precentral's Review). I'm going to discuss how Palm's revolutionary operating system (webOS) and the Pre are great for me as an educator.

For more in depth info on the specs of these phones you can go to Verizon's site, or Palm's site (Pre+, Pixi+).

Both phones run Palm's new operating system, webOS. WebOS is built on a Linux base and uses web technologies for programming. This means that it is very easy for people to develop apps for it. It allows for multi-tasking, which is unusual for a smart phone. The user interface is bright, easy to read, and easy to use. WebOS also has unobtrusive notifications of incoming calls and messages, allows you to sync and merge multiple accounts, contacts and calendars. It is very easy and intuitive to use with finger touches and gestures doing most functions. It also supports multi-touch gestures. WebOS's ability to multi-task is great, and all apps are handled as cards think "windows" on a PC. webOS also has "Universal Search". Simply start typing at the home screen and it will search your phone (contacts, calendar, etc) and the internet for the search term. It makes finding anything very easy.

The hardware is beautiful. The Pre+ looks like a black, smooth, pebble and fits nicely in your hand. Both the Pre+ and Pixi+ have rubberized backs to make sure they don't slip out of your hand.

The Pre+ has a larger screen than the Pixi+ and a slide out QWERTY keyboard. The Pixi+ is thinner and has a candy bar format with the QWERTY keyboard fixed in position. The Pre+ has 16GB of memory and the Pixi+ has 8GB. Both have Bluetooth and Wifi. They both have great web browsers, email systems, and MMS (text and picture messaging) and there are thousands of apps available for both phones. Both also have digital camera's and LED flashes. The web browser displays web sites just like your computer's browser does and then you can just zoom in on different parts of the page. This means no more "mobile" versions of web sites.

A very cool accessory is the Touchstone charger. The Pre+ simply sticks to this little round charger using magnets and the phone charges using inductive technology. When the phone is on the charger, the screen displays the time and any notifications.

I use my Pre+ every day in my job as an educator and it truly makes my life easier. When I wake up in the morning I go over to the phone on the charger and see what notifications I have (emails, texts, alarms and alerts). I can address those right away or just put them off until later.

I can quickly look at my calendar for the day (synced with my Google Calendar), check notes in Evernote, check my email, RSS feeds (Google Reader), Twitter and Facebook and get my self ready for the day. I also check the weather using the Weather Channel's free app.

I can use the built in Google Maps and GPS for directions and use the media player to listen to music, videos, or use a streaming music service like Pandora (free) to get some great music.

Once at school, I use it for appointments, reminders (memos), taking notes, checking email, RSS feeds, Twitter, Facebook and more from my Personal Learning Network. The multi-tasking feature means I can have apps open and running in the background while doing other things. I can even have multiple web pages open using different cards, just like I use multiple tabs on my computer. There is also a YouTube app for viewing videos. Full native Flash support is available now and the Flash app is scheduled for release by Adobe shortly. The ability to see Flash in the web browser is very important to me and education since many educational sites and science sites use Flash for demos, videos, and more. The updates are done over the air and can be automatic.

I have a scientific calculator and unit conversion app on it for use with my physics classes. I also use it to take notes, store my lesson plans, access student info and grades, and much more no matter where I am in the building.

The webOS and great hardware allow me to do so much of the things that I can do on my computer with my Pre+. It doesn't matter where I am in the school or what I'm doing, I have my files, a great web browser, email, and apps to get my work done.

I think it's a great smart phone for educators and it's just as good for students. Students can do research, take notes, go online, check email, and use tons of educational apps in their studies. (see the related article below).

The only downside to the phone is that it doesn't have the best battery life. UPDATE: The February update did bring enhanced battery performance and the battery can be switched by the user (unlike Apple products). The update to webOS 1.4 also sped up actions and applications and made a variety of other improvements.

The multi-tasking really makes things easy for me. I can have Pandora on playing music, and have multiple web browsers open, my URL shortener and a Twitter client and be able to post information to Twitter and my blog. Since all of the apps are running, there is no delay when switching from one to the other.

Overall, I am very impressed with the Pre+ (and my wife loves her Pixi+) and have found it to be a great tool for work and for fun. It is easy to use and very powerful.

I recommend it to anyone looking for a new smart phone or looking to purchase their first smart phone due to it's power, usefulness, and ease of use. The Pre+ and Pixi+ are available on Verizon Wireless and the original Pre and Pixi are available on Sprint.

It is also great for education. I'm hoping Palm will come out with a PDA version and maybe a netbook/tablet version with webOS. It is easy to use and powerful - perfect for students.

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