DesignWhen first we saw the HP Veer
, it was a miniature Pre 2 in most every appreciable way -- deep black coatings, soft-touch plastics and buttons in all the same places. AT&T's new white version, however, looks and feels like a jumbo chicken egg. It's still cute as a button and that hinge still slides shut with a superbly satisfying snap, but the ultra thin, lightly textured white plastic shell is a little bit creaky and cheap. (Note: the soft-touch black model will also be available.) We found it a little uncomfortable to hold flat against our palms for this very reason, actually, but the fingertip grip is risky too -- like the aforementioned egg, the Veer is relatively easy to drop, and we don't suspect that Humpty will take kindly to many falls. At the same time, we're not at all worried about the screen -- it's covered with a nice big piece of curved Gorilla Glass, and it takes a substantial, weighty press between thumb and forefinger to make any kind of impression on the liquid crystals underneath. There's a little speaker on top, and Palm's gesture area (with LED landing strip indicator) on the bottom.
Circling the phone's edge clockwise, you'll find the volume lock and power button flanking the top right corner -- both solid, metallic, and easy to find and actuate by touch alone, and three-quarters of the way up the right edge, there is Palm's proprietary magnetic charge / sync port. This requires a special USB cable to use, unfortunately, though you do get that fancy MagSafe
effect, and the port does double duty by hosting the included headphone adapter -- because there's no dedicated 3.5mm headphone jack. It's a chore to carry around an easily misplaced little nicknack like the adapter, but it does work here, and the magnets are strong enough to hold up the Veer by your headphone cables (not that we recommend anything of the sort). It's also a little annoying the way the software pauses your music whenever you connect or disconnect the adapter since it seems wholly arbitrary -- when you attach it, the phone rapidly transfers from speaker to headphones, then puts a sudden halt to the tune three seconds later. There's nothing on the phone's bottom edge, but you'll find a well-built silvery volume rocker on the left side, a lanyard loop at the upper-left-hand corner, and a five megapixel EDoF camera and speaker around back.
Slide open that slick little hinge with your thumb and it'll snap into place before long, revealing a tiny backlit QWERTY keyboard with roots buried deep in the genealogy of Palm. The Treo 600 all but finalized the layout in 2003, the curved rows arrived with the Treo 650 in 2004, and 2007's Palm Centro
ushered in the transparent, jelly-like buttons that the Pre and Pixi are now famous for. In short, you'll be right at home here if you're a Palm junkie, but if not, learning could be a chore. The keys are small and set quite close together, which makes it easy to press more than one at once, and unlike the portrait keyboards on most BlackBerrys, there's barely room for two thumbs. That said, the small size and low weight makes the Veer fairly well suited for single-handed text entry, and it makes sense if your missives are short -- flick open the phone, respond and deftly flick it closed, all with a single thumb. The challenge is keeping a firm grip on the keyboard end of the tiny device while doing so, to avoid flicking it onto the floor.
Small definitely has its advantages, though. There's something to be said for dropping a phone in a pants pocket and barely feeling a bulge.
Display / audio / connectivity
The miniature design is hit and miss, and we could say the same about other hardware characteristics too -- the Veer's screen, for instance, gets bright enough to occasionally use outdoors, but the colors wash out a tad when angled, and while apps and UI elements designed to run natively at the Pixi-matching 320 x 400 resolution looked crisp, zoomed-out websites, card stacks and a few games (particularly Angry Birds
) showed loads of jagged edges. The actual capacitive digitizer is responsive to a fault, which makes tossing around cards a breeze, but we found that we could accidentally trigger a variety of actions with stray fingertips, if we didn't make sure to grip the tiny device well away from the screen.
The Veer's speaker is as small as you'd expect, at least judging from the grille around back, but we were actually pleasantly surprised with its capabilities. It's not suited for serious listening or a portable party, but it handles the occasional tune quite nicely -- you can fit a little over 6GB of them here -- and it's plenty loud, just the opposite of the Palm Pixi. Good stuff.
Call quality and reception were fairly average for AT&T in San Francisco, with a few interesting quirks -- despite its size, the Veer has a pair of mics for active noise cancellation, and they work moderately well, drowning out light car engine noise, and a variety of background disturbances. Likely because
of its size, however, those mics don't drown out one important distraction when the Veer is closed: since the speaker and mic are so close together when the keyboard isn't extended, we found the person on the other end of the line could sometimes hear themselves. Data speeds were fairly reasonable though -- we averaged around 2Mbps downloads and 1Mbps uploads with three bars of service, and topped out at 5Mbps down in a particularly generous (and rare) five-bar coverage zone. We wouldn't be terribly comfortable calling those 4G, but they are in line with what we've seen from the Atrix and Infuse in the same zones, and whether on our handset or a laptop (via the Veer's mobile hotspot) it made for quick page loads. We also didn't have much trouble getting a GPS lock.
CameraWe've said our piece
on EDoF (Extended Depth of Field) smartphone cameras, and the 5 megapixel imager in the Veer is definitely one of them -- in short, everything's in focus, everything looks practically flat as a pancake, and you can't take macro shots, just like with the Pre and Pre 2. Not only that, the sensor isn't terribly good -- it snaps passable pictures in daylight, though the exposure compensation is pretty aggressive and makes it difficult to take well-lit shots, and in darker environs, well... it's grainy as all get-out.