HP Veer 4G: First impressions
Hello. My name is Adam and I am a Palm / webOS addict. First, I was a PalmOS smartphone user, starting with the Treo 600 and progressing through the Treo 755p. Then, when Palm announced their new webOS operating system and the Palm Pre back in 2009, I learned everything about I could about them even before they were released. As soon as the Pre was available, i picked one up! Over the following two years, I owned practically every Palm webOS device, including that initial Pre, then a Pixi Plus, a Pre Plus and finally a Pre2. My passion for webOS even got me a job writing for PreCentral.net, the premier website dedicated to webOS.
When an opportunity to pick up the new HP Veer running webOS presented itself, I was excited to check out the latest Palm (now HP) phone and give my impressions of the phone back to the community. In this article, I will give my initial thoughts of the Veer and compare it to the previous webOS devices. In a follow-up article, I will give some more detailed thoughts of the phone after extended use and discuss where I think this phone fits into the current mobile landscape. Also, this entire article was written on the Veer, only using a PC to post it!
The first thing you will notice about the Veer is that it’s small. I mean REALLY small! While not the thinnest smartphone on the market, it is definitely the shortest (to give a sense of scale, it’s shorter than a credit card and can fit in the change pocket of a pair of jeans). In the smartphone world where companies are going bigger, HP decided to go smaller. The Veer’s screen size is identical in size and resolution to the Palm Pixi at 2.6″ at 320×400 pixels, with webOS’s unique gesture area just below the screen. But hiding underneath the touchscreen is a full QWERTY keyboard ready to slide out, just like on the Pre-series of phone.
I was very skeptical of how useable the keyboard was going to be in such a small package, but this keyboard is actually better than any on the prior Pre phones. It is more comparable to the Pixi’s keyboard with its slightly more raised and clicky keys. In addition, the hardware of the device seems top notch. The phone’s processor and memory are able to keep up with the multi-tasking heavy webOS, even allowing you to load up dozens of apps, including multiple 3D games as once.
After having some significant hardware issues with previous phones, HP and Palm seem to have gotten things right with what they included with this phone. The slider is smooth. The HSPA+ radio is able to take advantage of AT&T’s 4G network. Plastic volume/power buttons have been replaced with more industrial-like buttons. Unfortunately, there are a few things missing in the hardware.
Even though it sports a 5 megapixel camera, HP continued to use the Extended Depth of Field fixed-focus camera used in their prior phones and they left off the LED flash in the Veer. This tends to give you relatively poor picture quality unless you are outside or in an area with a lot of light. The other omission due to the size of the phone was the lack of a now-standard microUSB plug and a 3.5mm headphone jack, replaced with a single magnetic connector that doubles as the charging/data port and headphone jack. If you already had a Palm phone, chances are you have at least one of their inductive Touchstone chargers that doesn’t require the charging cable to help with the power issue. But because it is not a standard connector, if you don’t have your charging cable or a touchstone with you when you are away from home there is no way to charge up your phone. And unlike all previous webOS phones, the Veer does not have a user-removable battery. If HP was smart, they should release a microUSB adapter ASAP. If you can get past these issues, the rest of the Veer’s hardware seems to be high qualirty. For a full review of the rest of the hardware and a hands-on video, you can check out this review at PreCentral.net
So how does this phone compare to other webOS phones? Where the Pixi was unable to compete with its Pre cousins in terms of specs (processor power, RAM, etc), the Veer has no issue keeping up. While it’s only 800 MHz vs the 1 GHz in the Pre2 (or the 500 MHz that the Pre/Pre+ ran at) it just runs really great. The Veer is a workhorse and provides a generally smooth user experience. And when the phone does slow down (e.g. syncing large amount of email), it’s more a software issue than a hardware issue and will hopefully be fixed in the next software update. Despite the smaller screen compared to the 3.1″ Pre/Pre+/Pre2 or the 3.6″ screen on the upcoming Pre3, most apps worked fine and were just as usable as on my Pre2.
As someone who considers himself a power user, I was never able to commit to the Palm Pixi+ as my everyday phone. It was just not equipped enough to meet my needs. However, with the exceptions of a few drawbacks (as mentioned in the “cons” section below), I could totally see myself replacing my Pre2 with the Veer, or at least swapping my SIM when I want a smaller phone that day or night. I would definitely suggest heading out to an AT&T store at take a look at one of these phones. You can’t really appreciate what HP has done here until you hold it in your own hands.
- Price! For the same price as a feature phone, you can pick up a fully-capable smartphone
- Compact size, great for pockets, women’s purses or any time you don’t want to carry around a mini-tablet of a phone
- Fully capable webOS device, running webOS 2.1.2 with all the goodies that comes with it (just type search, quick actions, Flash in the browser, Exhibition mode, and so much more)
- AMAZING physical QWERTY keyboard, especially for its small size
- Touchstone capable out-of-the-box for inductive charging (requires Touchstone charger)
- Access to AT&T’s HSPA+ 4G network
- Possibilities for the future webOS ecosystem than HP is creating, with integration with tablets, PCs, printers, other phones and more
- Non-standard magnetic connector for charging, USB mode or headphone jack
- Disappointing camera with no flash
- Non-removable battery