They're not necessarily going to steal potential buyers away from the Droid, and they don't have to. The Palm Pre and Pixi Plus are both a different breed of smart phone, both offering a more elegant and multitasking-friendly user interface and better hardware keyboards. After spending a bit of time with each device, we're more excited about the Pre Plus because of its gaming prowess (as of today webOS is a better gaming platform than Android). Still, the Pixi Plus could find a niche among first-time smart phone buyers who want a better surfing experience than your-run-of-the-mill BlackBerry.
So let's start with the Pre Plus. Cosmetically, it's not all that different than the Pre--at least at first glance. But there are two important design differences. First, the center button is gonzo, replaced by a LED button that's completely flat (just like the Pixi). Second, the keyboard has been tweaked, and we found it be less gummy and easier to type quickly on. What about the performance?
You get twice as much onboard memory (16GB), and Palm promises that you won't hit that too-many-activity-cards-open wall nearly as fast. Speaking of fast, we're really liking the 3D gameplay on the Pre. We tried Need for Speed and found the graphics to be sharp and the accelerometer controls to be pretty accurate. Then again, the processor under the hood is still the same Cortex A8 CPU the original Pre debuted with last January.
The fact that Palm includes the inductive charging cover for wireless charging is nice, but you still need to spring for the Touchstone charger, which is about $50. A cool feature that the Pre Plus and Pixi both share is a mobile hotspot app that allows you to turn these smart phones into a wireless modem, distributing that 3G goodness to up to 5 nearby devices.
As for the Pixi Plus, it's just not as exciting. In fact, other than the addition of Wi-Fi, the Pixi Touchstone Back Covers is the only other big news. They'll be available in pink, blue, green, orange and black. We actually dig the green. You also don't get access to cool games like Need for Speed, although Palm promises that this functionality is coming.
Overall, the Palm Pre Plus and Pixi Plus are nice upgrades, but the big news is webOS 1.4, which will bring new features like video recording and--eventually--Flash playback to these devices and the original Pre and Pixi.
Palm Pre Plus
Palm Pixi Plus