Despite modern technology allowing for smaller and smaller mobile phones, many manufacturers are gravitating towards creating larger, more feature-rich handsets. HP, however, is forging its own path with the Veer -- a webOS smart phone that packs all the latest features -- apps, multimedia playback, Web browsing with Flash support -- in a device with a footprint the size of a credit card.
HP promises it'll be out in the UK in the "early spring" but prices are still to be announced.
The Veer is minuscule. It measures just 55 by 84 by 15mm and weighs a mere 103g, so it'll disappear unobtrusively into almost any pocket, nook or crevice you desire. Its miniature multitouch display, which measures 2.6 inches, takes pride of place on the front of the device above a small touch-sensitive gesture area that, when pressed, returns the phone to its default home screen.
Though the screen is tiny, its 320x400-pixel resolution helps it pack quite a lot of information into a very small space. The Launcher, for example -- which displays a user's most commonly accessed apps -- displays 12 icons simultaneously in a four by three grid. Apps on the top and bottom two rows of the grid don't quite fit on the screen, but there's usually just enough of them on display to identity them and it's easy to scroll up or down to see them, and the rest of the app icons, in their full glory.
Small mobile phones usually benefit from simplified operating systems, but the Veer packs webOS, the driving force behind the Palm Pre, the new Pre 3 and the TouchPad tablet. It seems a tad unsuited to a device this small, simply because the OS is capable of so much and the screen is so very little. We couldn't help but think that pairing the two is akin to putting a shark's brain in a goldfish, but after extended use, we found the pair to be a pretty good fit.
Palm's 'deck of cards' feature still makes an appearance, so if you have several apps open, each is displayed as a large thumbnail on the home screen. You can easily swipe between cards to move between open apps, or swipe a card up towards the top of the screen to close the app. As with larger Palm handsets, users can group cards together so you don't have to swipe quite so much. For example, Twitter and Facebook apps can be stacked on top of each other, making them easier to keep track of.
Despite its size, the Veer is a proper smart phone, so it'll do pretty much anything larger handsets can, including Web browsing and video and music playback. You can play your own multimedia files, dragged and dropped on to the 8GB of internal storage, or fire up applications such as YouTube. Image quality is perfectly fine, but a screen this size is really best suited to showing short video clips. You'll want to claw your eyes out if you watch anything with a running time in excess of a few minutes.
Web browsing is surprisingly enjoyable, too. The Veer's multitouch display lets you pinch and stretch to zoom in and out of Web sites and it'll even play Flash content -- something the iPhone 4 is completely incapable of. Pages are rendered well and the entire browsing experience is smooth, so it never becomes too frustrating.
The Veer's party piece is its sliding Qwerty keyboard, which extends from the bottom of the device with a smooth motion and a satisfying click. This, too, is tiny and at first glance, it would appear completely unsuitable for use by anyone who wasn't born in Lilliput.
Having fired up the text messaging and email application, however, we were pleasantly surprised with how quickly and accurately we could type. It might seem difficult to believe, but we were at least as quick with this tiny physical keyboard as we are on many larger virtual keyboards and even when mistakes were made, the auto-correct feature works well to fix any typographical errors.
Amazingly, the diminutive Veer packs most of the hardware features you'd find in larger devices. It has a 5-megapixel camera that takes stills and records video, a GPS receiver, Bluetooth and 802.11n Wi-Fi, which lets you connect to the Web and allows the Veer to work as a mobile hotspot.
It also has an accomplished email system, including EAS (for access to corporate Microsoft Exchange servers) and personal email support (including Gmail, Yahoo, POP3 and IMAP).
The Veer is small, but it really is mighty. It can do just about anything possible on a larger smart phone (sometimes even more, thanks to Flash playback) and its keyboard is surprisingly usable. It's only let down by the fact its screen isn't best suited to video playback and the number of apps in its App Catalog is limited. That aside, we think it could well be an astonishing handset.
Edited by Nick Hide