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printed July 23, 2014
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Review: HP Veer 4G

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Is It Your Type? Body The Three S's  

Wow, the Veer is small. It is smaller than most flip phones and quick messaging devices, let alone the current crop of smartphones. Hell, it's smaller than a MIFi, and it's just barely bigger than the key fob for my car. The size and smooth, rounded shape make it perhaps the most comfortable phone to carry around. It uses the same "river stone" design as its Pre-decessors, which makes it very comfortable to hold. The Veer is the most pocket-friendly phone ever conceived.

The front face is dressed in plain black garb. There are no fancy bezel designs, just inky blackness all around. The screen consumes most of the Veer's face, though there is a small strip of plastic below the display that is also capacitive and used for some of the webOS gestures. A white light illuminates there when touched.

The volume toggle is on the left side of the phone. It's easy to find and use, and has excellent travel and feedback. There is a switch on top that allows you to silence calls. It is positioned on the lower half of the slider, and is very difficult to use when the Veer is in the open position. The power/lock button is perched in the upper right corner. It sticks out just enough and has perfect travel and feedback.

Looking for a microUSB port, 3.5mm headset jack, microSD card slot? You won't find them. Instead, you'll find a proprietary, magnetized strip on the right side of the phone. Think the mag-safe design on Apple's laptops. The special charging cable adheres to the side of the Veer magnetically for charging and connecting to PCs. What if you want to listen to music? Well, the Veer comes with a magnetic attachment with a 3.5mm headset jack.

Why did HP take this route, you ask? In order to make the Veer as small as it is. In my opinion, the trade-off isn't worth it. There's a reason that the entire wireless industry is settling on microUSB as the standard for charging and data transfer. What happens if you forget to bring the special Veer charging cable (as I did this week)? You're S.O.L. Normal cables won't work. Given that nearly every other smartphone now uses microUSB, this is flat-out unacceptable. Additionally, the magnets aren't strong enough and the charging cable comes disconnected easily if the phone is picked up and moved. So the connector is neat, but definitely not practical.

The slider mechanism works and looks just like that of the Pre. In fact, the Veer very much looks like a miniature Pre. The slider feels smooth and spring-assisted action takes over once you give it a firm nudge.

If you thought the keyboards on the Pre, Pre 2, and Pixi were small, the Veer bests them all in terms of pushing the ridiculous. I don't have exceptionally large thumbs, but I found typing on the Veer nearly impossible. The buttons have the same tacky rubberized covering found on the Pres and Pixi, and offer decent travel and feedback, but the keys are just packed too close together. At least the Veer offers things such as dedicated "@" and period and comma buttons. The Veer's keyboard might be fine for the smaller fingers of younger users, but it is just too small for me.

It's actually quite depressing that, two and a half years after introducing the Pre, HP has yet to knock out a great piece of hardware.

 

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