The Palm Pixi works almost exactly like the Palm Pre in terms of the touch interface.
You swipe up to minimise an app and see which apps are open. You swipe to the left to go back a screen (say, to close a configuration screen) and swipe back and forth in a card interface to switch between apps.
It is extremely intuitive, but as we mentioned before, the webOS interface is not quite as intuitive as the iPhone because it uses this dual-design technique between the LCD screen and the gesture pad region.
Still, the webOS users we talked with during the course of reviewing the Pixi told us they prefer the ability to go back in any app without having to use a home screen button, which is the primary control mechanism on Android handsets.
SYNC: The Palm Pixi supports Yahoo contacts, mail and calendar integration
In other words, once you get the hang of the control functions on the Pixi, you will learn to like them more and more.
The Pixi screen is 2.63 inches and its 320 x 400 resolution is just about a finger-width smaller than the Pre. The screen uses 18-bit colour and looks clear and crisp enough, if a little less bright, than the Pre.
Also like the Pre, the Pixi senses orientation, so the screen flips automatically based on how you are holding the device.
There's also an ambient light sensor (for dimming the screen automatically) and a proximity sensor for disabling the screen when you place a call (although, in our tests, this sensor did not always work correctly, especially in outdoor use).
The phone has 8GB of memory, a GPS chip for navigation and supports several built-in Palm services for backing up your data over the 3G connection.
Now, the main detriment to the touch interface on the Pixi, compared to the Pre and other touch phones (especially the new Samsung Instinct HD), is that the processor is a tad slow for modern smartphone use.
It's a Qualcomm MSM7626, which runs at 600MHz for apps and has a separate CPU for 3G access and is theoretically just as fast as the TI OMAP 3430 processor in the Pre, also running at 600MHz.
Unfortunately, in practice, the Pixi feels like it is running on molasses at times. There is an annoying pause when you start some apps or switch between them. It's remotely possible this is a software glitch that will get ironed out, but the phone we tested – updated to the latest release – was sluggish a lot of the time.
ALERTS: Alerts appear in the bottom part of the screen, allowing you to keep working without too much interruption.
Another cause could be that the Pixi does not have as much RAM on-board as the Pre, although Palm does not officially reveal those details. For whatever the reason, touches and swipes felt delayed on the Pixi compared to the Pre and definitely were delayed in a side-by-side speed test with the iPhone 3GS.
By far the most useful feature on the Palm Pixi is the Synergy feature, which automatically combines mail, calendar and IM/text messages into one stream.
This is similar to what Gmail does with threaded conversation: it emphasises the contact over the service.
That means, if Bob Smith sends you an email through Yahoo one day and switches over to Gmail the next, your Pixi won't care – you will still get the message. In fact, all messages from every contact are threaded into one seamless view for easy reading and easy response.
What makes this ideal for the Pixi is that the device is just as "smart" or even smarter than other smartphones, even compared to the super-intelligent Droid.
There are only a few compromises. The Droid does a better job of delineating which service a contact used (say, Yahoo or Gmail) with colour-coding.
And, let's face it, FaceBook is not exactly a good contact manager and encourages friending with anyone who has Internet access, even if it is your long-lost brother-in-law just out of prison.
The Pixi does not seem to know the difference and threads FaceBook and contacts from every other service into one catch-all that is not always that easy to parse.
Still, the Pixi adds Yahoo contacts and catches up with the latest webOS release for Microsoft Exchange and LinkedIn contacts.
The Synergy service has great potential, but needs to learn a few lessons about optional settings to make it easier to customise which contacts you see, from which service and then determine easily which service a contact used.
One other important note about the webOS interface is that, on the Pixi as well as the Pre, the multi-tasking features extend beyond just running multiple apps. It is amazingly helpful to be using one app or talking on the phone and see the frequent pop-ups alerts about upcoming Google Calendar appointments, new emails or new text messages.
These alerts appear below the screen so you can keep focusing on the app at hand, or you can click an alert to quickly answer and email or read a text message. No other phone quite has the same fluid interface control for alerts.