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      Palm Mobile Hotspot now free from Verizon; Pre Plus review

      Palm Pre Plus back

      If you initially brushed aside the Palm Pre Plus or the Palm Pixi Plus for another phone, you might want to reconsider your choice after you hear this latest bit of news from Verizon Wireless.

      Thursday, Verizon dropped the price of its Mobile Hotspot monthly charge to $0. Yes, that TMs right. This gives you a 3G broadband modem on the Pre Plus or Pixi Plus for up to five devices for $60 less than you TMd pay for a MiFi or $50 less than any other tether-capable Verizon handset.

      It TMs widely known that Verizon has been having trouble selling Palm phones. Palm TMs stock has plummeted 60 percent this year. With today TMs announcement, the stock actually has risen five percent.

      To sweeten the deal, Verizon is selling the Palm Pre Plus for $49.99. The Pixi Plus is now $29.99.

      While it seemed that Apple and Droid appeared to be waiting for Palm to fold, this might actually be the spark that the Verizon needs to get sales of the Pre Plus moving forward.

      This review highlights the Palm Pre Plus, but I TMll mention the Pixi Plus throughout, as well.


      The Pre Plus is actually a very nice phone. It has an outstanding display, a rugged build, call quality is top notch and its touch screen is very responsive.

      The three biggest changes from the original Palm Pre are a new touch screen button to replace the tactile front button, the matted inductive-charging-capable back plate and the improved keyboard.

      The new touch screen button on the front gives the Pre Plus a flat, sleek design. It was a no-brainer, as far as design is concerned.

      The inductive backing comes standard on the Pre Plus and allows you to charge the phone wirelessly, if you choose. The charger will cost you about $50.

      The keyboard feels less mushy on the Pre Plus. While it TMs small and took awhile to get used to, it was relatively easy to type on the Pre Plus.

      The camera and flash are on the back. On top, you'll find the power button, silent ringer switch and a 3.5mm headphone jack. A Micro-USB port is on the right side.

      I wasn TMt crazy about the location or the friendliness of the on/off switch. It TMs tough to reach because it TMs so small. Also, I think I TMd like the device better if it had a visual keyboard to compliment the tactile one.

      Mobile Hotspot application

      This feature allows you to turn the Pre Plus or Pixi Plus into a mobile Wi-Fi router that can provide a mobile broadband connection on up to five devices.

      The app is easy to use. Start the app, set a password and turn on tethering. Any Wi-Fi device (laptops, phones) can connect to it as you would any other hotspot.

      I was surprised by the fast speeds when I was testing this feature. I thought that it would surely slow to a crawl by adding multiple devices. But, it didn't. I had an iPhone, an iPod Touch and my MacBook Pro running on it and it performed quite well. I felt that it was faster using the Pre Plus as a wifi device instead of launching the phone's browser and surfing that way. Call me crazy, but that's how it felt.

      Previously, I was bummed by the $40 price tag for this feature. But, as mentioned before, Verizon is waiving the charge altogether.

      Other tidbits of information

      Battery: The Palm Pre Plus's battery is user-replaceable. If you TMll be using the device extensively, you might want to have an extra battery on hand. If you run the mobile hot spot app, be sure to have your charger or another battery.

      Long boot time: Multitasking with the Pre Plus and switching between apps is pleasantly fast. If you have eight or nine apps open at once, the Pre Plus doesn TMt even hiccup. The Pixi Plus does struggle at that point, probably because of a lack of RAM. The Linux-based OS does take approximately two minutes to boot. This was particularly frustrating because I haven TMt seen a phone take this long to boot in some time. But, if you keep it charged and on all the time, you'll rarely have to reboot the phone.

      Flash support: At the time of this review, Flash was not supported on the Palm OS. And, while the Palm OS app store doesn TMt have as many apps as Droid or iPhone, it has enough to be productive.

      Music: Amazon, not Rhapsody or iTunes (Apple blocks this).

      Speaker: While call quality was superb, the speakerphone seemed a little weak.

      Other specs: 3.5 mm headphone jack, 3 megapixel camera with flash, users can import contact and calendar information from Google or an Exchange Server; iCal or Address Book on the Mac; or Palm Desktop or Outlook in Windows.

      Final thoughts

      I TMve always liked Palm, ever since the days of the first Palm Pilot devices. I owned two of them. Their new OS (based on Linux) is user friendly and it works well with Macs or PCs.

      While it won TMt replace my iPhone, the new incentive of having a wireless hotspot at my disposal while on the road makes me stand up and take notice. My wife has been having some issues with her current Verizon phone and this might be a great solution for a replacement. Saving $50-60 to ditch the laptop TMs air card sounds like a great idea to me. If nothing else, give it a second look while shopping for your next smart phone.