Did HP make the Veer too small?

REUTERS/Beck Diefenbach

HP's tiny new webOS smartphone is easy to carry, but can it do everything you need it to do?

The new Palm Veer is demonstrated after a media presentation on the company's web OS at the Herbst Pavilion at the Fort Mason Center in San Francisco.

How small is too small? That question has been nagging me all afternoon. Of course, I'm thinking about HP's freshly announced Veer smartphone. The Veer will be the first product that HP announced today to ship with a release due sometime this spring (such details were also missing for the Pre 3 smartphone and TouchPad tablets that the company also unveiled today).

The Veer is a minimal 3.3 inches long and just 2.1 inches wide. That makes it ultraportable, but it also makes it tiny. Not only are its overall dimensions small, but its screen measures just under 2.6 inches diagonally with a diminutive resolution of just 320x400 pixels. That's a very limited about of screen real estate.

That brings me back to the question: how small is too small? Or, to put it another way, did HP make the Veer too small?

That question really comes down to what you plan to use the Veer. If your primary needs are messaging (email, text, video/picture messages) or social network related, the Veer will probably work just fine. A number of other common apps will also probably be usable on the Veer – things like calendaring, to-do lists, maps and navigation, restaurant and business review services, basic news headlines, and so forth.

On the flip side, there are a number of common smartphone tasks that are really going to be hampered by such a small screen, some of which can be noticed in Engadget's video of the Veer. Watching video spring immediately to mind, as does working on Word or Excel documents using QuickOffice. Even the idea of browsing the web seems challenged with such a small screen unless you stick almost exclusively to mobile-formatted sites (something that Wired noted in its hand's on report). Gaming seems like a poor fit as well.

While the Veer may not be the most robust mobile device because of its size, it does make a great companion to other devices – a move that builds on HP's concept of a connected device ecosystem. It can be a very portable solution for basic data needs on the go while a TouchPad, iPad, or Android tablet fills the needs of mobile browsing, e-reading, and working with more visually-oriented apps. The webOS mobile hotspot feature really drives home this companion device idea.

Unfortunately, the Veer lacks the one feature HP introduced today that would really make the Veer excel as a secondary mobile device – the touch to share feature that will be available on the TouchPad and Pre3. The omission may relate to the feature's reliance on NFC, which the Veer doesn't include. HP might be looking to get the Veer to market as quickly as possible and NFC development might delay the release. If that is the case, I hope that HP eventually adds NFC to the Veer.

Overall, the Veer isn't going to be for everyone. Ultraportable devices generally aren't because of the tradeoffs that must be made to achieve their smaller sizes. However, that doesn't mean that a market for the Veer doesn't exist. If HP can keep the price of the Veer low, it could be a great handset for teens and users focused just on messaging and social media (marketing professionals and executives seem like a natural fit). However, if the price isn't kept down, the Veer might end up failing to attract users much like Microsoft's Kin One (which featured a similar small form factor).

What do you think? Is the Veer too small? Let us know in the comments.

Ryan Faas writes about personal technology for ITworld. Learn more about Faas' published works and training and consulting services at www.ryanfaas.com. Follow him on Twitter @ryanfaas.

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