Sunday, October 7, 2012

My $32 Smart Phone

picture of a palm pixi plus
picture of a palm pixi plus (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Recently my trusty first generation Droid X went missing. The screen has several dead spots from having been dropped one too many times as well so it seemed like a good time for a new phone.

We'd used my upgrade for something else though and I'm not eligible for another until February of next year. Add in the fact that I'm not that excited about any of the current Android phones and buying a long term solution wasn't in the cards. What I needed was something to tide me over for the next three to six months and I didn't want to spend a lot of money.

Amazon is my default search engine when I'm thinking about buying something. Google is a great general purpose search but falls down when it comes to niche cases like sales.

I found some Android phones for under $100 with no contract including the original Droid phone at about $85 but all ran 2.X versions of Android and were likely to be a similar but inferior experience to my Droid X. Oddly the first generation Droid X is still going for $160 or so without a contract. It was a great phone two plus years ago but these days that price seems high.

Enter the Palm Pixi Plus. HP bought Palm a couple of years ago so the phone is an orphan which explains the low price; $32. The Pixi runs WebOS 1.4.5 which is a totally different experience to Android or iOS. WebOS was called PalmOS before HP bought Palm. I just looked on Amazon and its $46 now. Still a good deal and I would have pulled the trigger at that price as well.

I had zero experience with WebOS so this phone also provided an opportunity to learn about a new platform. The version of WebOS on the Pixi is fairly old at this point though so I'm not going to draw any firm conclusions from my experience. HP has a way of screwing things up. It's a company in need of major changes. Having said that, I really like WebOS. It's reasonably intuitive if you give it a chance and easy to interact with.

While the price was a major upside to this phone, there are downsides. The App store is a ghost town and a lot of what is available doesn't actually work once you download it. I couldn't find a free Facebook or Twitter app and I wasn't willing to pay in case what I downloaded didn't work either.

What I do have is access to my email and the ability to text and make phone calls. The screen on the Pixi is small enough that I won't be using the browser much. It also syncs my calendar and contacts from Google which is a nice feature.

Battery life is impressive. In light use the battery meter drops about 1% an hour meaning its good for three days plus between charges if you're just checking your email or texting occasionally. Extended talk time would kill that estimate of course but who talks on their phone these days?

Based on my experience the Pixi Plus was a good good entry level smart phone when it was released. It would have been interesting to see where Palm went from there if they had the cash on hand to stay independent. 

Looking towards the future,  the Samsung Galaxy Note 2 might be my next phone. I like the new split screen capability that allows two applications to run in the foreground at once and I don't think the size would bug me. Another possibility is the next Google Nexus phone. It's nice to have the option

While the Pixi is a closeout it does illustrate an emerging trend. Technology is getting very inexpensive. If you can afford to feed yourself then chances are you can afford some sort of computing device. The real barrier to entry is the cost of Internet connectivity and there are ways around that as well.

There has been a lot of talk about the transition to mobile devices and how they allow us to always be connected. We're also seeing the emergence of ubiquitous computing. There has been talk for a long time of every device in our houses being Internet connected and controllable. I'm not sure that is a good idea but it just might be economically feasible in the next couple of years if it isn't already.

In case anyone is interested in the phone, here's the link. Full disclosure, I'd get a few bucks if you bought via the link.

Verizon Pixi Plus Link
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