Palm Announces Low-End Pixi Smart Phone

Smart phone maker Palm today announced a low-cost stable mate for its Pre device that is aimed at the texting-happy teen market. Dubbed the Pixi, the device utilizes the same WebOS software as the Pre but comes in a more traditional candybar form factor with a touch screen and physical keyboard.

Like the Pre, the Pixi will initially be sold only via Sprint in the United States, and it will debut by the end of the year. Palm hasn't yet revealed the exact pricing, but it will likely retail for about $100, excluding a two-year contract.

In a nod toward the young market that it targets, the Pixi comes with a removable back plate, which allows customers to customize the device. Palm has announced a colorful set of custom back plates that will become available when the Pixi ships later this year.

The Pixi differs from the Pre in another notable way: It lacks a Wi-Fi radio. That will make the device a lot less interesting to business users.

With the Pixi targeting the low end of the market, Palm is now positioning the Pre as its more professional and "serious" sibling. In addition, the company dropped the price of the Pre from $200 to $150, raising more questions about how well the device has sold since its debut earlier this year.

Indeed, it's unclear whether price cuts and a new device can help Palm eat into Apple's lead in the consumer smart phone market. The Apple iPhone dominates other devices in the United States, thanks in large part to a thriving applications store. Although the iPhone starts at $99, that's for a previous-generation product. More modern versions cost $199 or $299, plus a two-year contract.

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