HP's Veer 4G Is Useless For Everything But Messaging [REVIEW]

hp veer 4g title image

Photo: Ellis Hamburger

The HP Veer 4G is the first WebOS smartphone branded with the HP name since their big acquisition of Palm just over a year ago.HP knows the smartphone market is dominated by Android devices and Apple’s iPhone, so, it’s really trying to provide something completely different with this phone when it launches May 15th on AT&T for $99.99.

Click here to see photos of HP’s Veer 4G >

The Veer is the smallest 4G smartphone in America by a long shot. This thing is absolutely dwarfed in comparison to an EVO 4G, Thunderbolt, Atrix, or Droid Charge.

But, is that a problem in itself? Part of the reason those mammoth phones are so big is because they have enormous 4+ inch screens to browse the internet at 4G speeds.

Read my full review below to find out if the Veer is a pocket-sized 4G monster, of if it’s just proof of great things to come from HP and nothing more than that.

Hardware
The big thing that sticks out about this phone is its incredibly small size. It’s basically a micro-sized Palm Pre. The Veer is not the thinnest at 15 millimeters thick, but it is incredibly short, barely taller than the screen on the iPhone 4. The rounded corners on this phone make it feel even smaller, and you might even forget it’s in your pocket entirely.

The Veer has a 2.6 inch screen that’s sharp, but not impressive in any way. It’s the smallest touch screen I’ve used on a phone.

The phone’s slider mechanism is very solid. It’s a lot more solid than the one used on the first Palm Pre. It’s tight and sturdy.

hp veer 4g headphone dongleThe headphone jack is a separate accessory.

Photo: Ellis Hamburger

There’s a sleep button on the top right corner of the phone, which is a different spot than where sleep buttons are usually placed. I realised by mistaken assumption when my thumb landed right on top of it when I held the phone.Another surprise is that there’s no headphone jack on the Veer. You can only use headphones with the Veer by attaching an ugly and utterly lose-able magnetic dongle to the side of the phone. But this is also where the charger plugs in, so charging your phone while listening to music is impossible straight out of the box. Maybe HP will come out with a multi-purpose dongle, but until then, you’re out of luck.

Messaging Is Wonderful On The Veer
Despite its tiny size, the Veer is full of surprises. Like the slide-out keyboard which is cramped – but actually remarkably usable for sending out messages.

Which you will be doing a lot of, because the Veer is amazing in the messaging department. This phone is a teenage girl’s dream; she can connect to Google Talk, AIM, and all of her other favourite IM services.

Your SMS conversations hang out on the same screen as your chat conversations, and you’re persistently signed in to AIM, Google Talk, or any other chat service. With this phone, you’ll always be in touch.

WebOS is built for messaging. The effect is emphasised by the tiny size of the device when you think about how effectively you can communicate with it.

With the keyboard out, the Veer looks like a smaller version of a BlackBerry Torch. But to navigate through the Veer, there’s no trackpad like on the Blackberry. Instead, there’s a gesture area that allows you to “go back,” and also open the multitasking “cards” view.

The keyboard is very small, but I got used to it pretty quickly. I forgot how nice it used to feel to be able to feel the keyboard on a phone as you’re typing. I missed my old Blackberry Curve for a split second.

The Veer’s keys are like little rubbery jewels, versus plastic buttons on a Blackberry. 

Android phones and iPhones often have other software buttons besides “home” and “back.” You’ll find these in WebOS on the Veer as well, but the software buttons end up taking up half the screen when combined with a URL bar or email title, subject, and more. (Check out our pictures below of the Veer to see for yourself.)

WebOS Is Tons Of Fun, But 4G Is A Big Fail
The Veer runs on AT&T’s incredibly lackluster HSPA+ “4G network.” Internet on the Veer is only marginally faster than any other 3G phone on AT&T.

In my tests around New York City, I never got better than 1-2 Mbps, which is not much better than I get on my 3G iPhone on AT&T.

So even if the speeds get better through AT&T infrastructure upgrades (that they promise they’ll make), the internet experience ends up being subpar because of the small screen. The 800 Mhz processor often chokes on displaying large pages, too.

The phone’s ability to display Flash content is very impressive, but there’s almost no use for having Flash on the go on such a small screen. Interactive Flash content, like games, is a total miss. Watching the occasional Flash video is convenient, however.

The Veer’s lack of size, however, prevents it from utilising WebOS to its full potential. Multi-tasking is supposed to be easier and more intuitive on WebOS phones, but the Veer slows down significantly when you have 4 or 5 apps open. Another problem is that the Veer can’t run all WebOS apps because of its lower resolution screen.

The Facebook app and Angry Birds both worked without a hitch, but were frustrating because of the small screen.

Nevertheless, I had a lot of fun on WebOS. There’s so much potential here for greatness, and I can’t wait to get my hands on the Pre 3 when it comes out this summer. It has everything the Veer

The 5 MP Camera Is Mediocre, And The Battery Life Is Average
The Veer’s 5MP rear camera is just OK. Camera shots looked decent, but often grainy or over-exposed, and the video is just plain poor.

Even though the Veer has a 5MP camera, it’s nowhere near as good as the 5MP camera on the back of the iPhone 4. 

The battery life on the Veer is great in standby mode, but just OK if you’re using 4G a lot. If you have a bunch of cards open and are surfing the net or watching Flash videos, the phone can get a little hot.

Should You Buy It?
Despite all my gripes with the underpowered processor and small screen, I’d still recommend the Veer 4G to a specific niche of people. Why? Because at $99.99, it’s the cheapest and most fun-to-use ultra-portable smartphone on the market. Key words being “ultra portable.” This thing will turn heads.

A $49.99 iPhone 3GS is a better bet if you don’t need super portability or if you prefer a big screen. But if you want portability and wonderful messaging features, the Veer 4G is a great bet.

If you love WebOS, wait for the Pre 3 this summer. It’ll have a more powerful 1.4 Ghz processor, a 4 inch screen, and a much bigger keyboard.

The Veer is tiny, but feels great in your hands. Your thumb will rest right on top of the sleep button

The headphone dongle attaches magnetically and looks ridiculous

Here's the magnetic port where it attaches to the phone. The charger also attaches here.

In the man-hands of Business Insider's Robert W. Johnson, the Veer looks like a toy

Here's the phone with the keyboard slid out

When you combine the software buttons at the bottom, the notification bar, the URL bar, and the bar at the top, WebOS makes the 2.6 inch screen feel even smaller and more cramped.

Sorry I had to blur the email contents, but you get the gist. Software buttons and a notification bar crowd an already-crowded screen.

Here's the box. Even the packaging is tiny.

I love the simple, rounded design.

This is the smallest touchscreen phone I've ever used

WebOS 2.1 is a delight to use

Web browsing is a bit slow. It's also hard to read full web pages on such a tiny screen

Here's the keyboard when you slide it out. You can also see the open apps on the screen. Multitasking is a dream with WebOS

Here's the camera. It takes decent photos, but nothing special.

Here's a close up of the keyboard. The keys are raised enough so you don't accidentally hit the wrong one

This is the HP boot up logo. It took forever to turn on.

The magnetic charging slot is on the side. You can see the power button on the curved upper corner too.

The other side has a volume rocker

There's a lock switch at the top of the device

It's way shorter than the iPhone 4

...But about the same height with the keyboard open

It's also slightly thicker than the iPhone 4

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