My webOS experimental period is over

Broken Veer webOS phoneSo, I had been following Palm's webOS work for a while and it sounded like it had amazing potential.  Reviewers were saying that the webOS interface was more advanced than the iPhone's interface (some of the same people worked on both), and it was a truly different smartphone.  But Palm was in trouble and I wasn't sure they were going to survive long enough to make it worthwhile to buy a webOS device.

Then HP bought Palm, poured a bunch of money into webOS, and announced a new gaggle of devices they'd build.  They worked really, really hard on them, and eventually started releasing the devices to the marketplace in 2011.  I bought a TouchPad tablet in July 2011 at full price (about $600) the weekend it came out, partly at the suggestion of my brother-in-law, who thought it would be interesting if between us we tried all of the major mobile operating systems.

The table was a little thick and heavy, but its interface really was cool and intuitive, and I liked how the apps looked.  It was buggy, though: they had huge pressures to release the product but they really should've held onto it for a while longer.  Heck, even a month's worth of improvement would've made a huge difference in stability.  Anyway, it got frequent updates and it got better, reasonably quickly.

A couple of months later, I got the HP Veer, a tiny little webOS phone unlike anything you've ever seen.  Here's what it looked like after it fell from my hands as I got out of the car, breaking the poor thing, and ending my experiment with webOS:

Cracked HP Veer webOS phone

But I'm getting ahead of myself; back to that in a moment.

The Veer phone was both fun and aggravating at the same time.  The idea, according to HP / Palm, was that many people who went mobile would have both a phone and a tablet with them.  The TouchPad and Veer were designed to be used together; you bound them to each other by lightly tapping one device against the other one (they have these inductive coil sensors in them used for charginig and also for limited communication), and from that point on, incoming calls on the Veer would be routed to the tablet's speakers and microphone; SMS messages would be routed to the TouchPad's screen, and so on.  Basically, this would turn your Veer into a little base station that you could keep in your pocket, while you used your tablet as a relatively huge smartphone screen.  The idea intrigued me, so I bought the little Veer instead of the larger Pre.  I thought it would be fun to be different.

But as with the TouchPad, the Veer just had too many bugs.  It was unstable, WiFi didn't always work in public areas as well as other devices did, the phone's Bluetooth had bugs from time to time...just enough things went wrong that made the phone a chore.  Oh, and the connectivity to the TouchPad that I talked about?  It was never completed.  HP announced they were killing off the webOS products just seven weeks after they launched the TouchPad, so although bug fixes still came along, they came at a slower and slower pace, until finally they stopped.  They never did finish that magic integration between TouchPad and webOS phones.

But I was still on contract; I had a solid year left before I could be eligible for a discount on a new iPhone, my previous platform.  I tried my hardest to make due, but it was just frustrating and unproductive.

The last straw was when HP changed the phone's Maps application to use Google Maps instead of Bing maps.  Somehow, that update broke my Maps app, meaning I no longer had mapping availability on my phone.  What phone doesn't have maps anymore?  I used that feature all the time, even on that little screen!  Try as I might, I just couldn't get the damned Maps application re-installed correctly and working.

HP really blew it with webOS.  The platform was really cool, the vision behind their product line of mobile devices was unique, which I find rare in the mobile marketplace today.  They just killed the product after investing hundreds of millions of dollars, but before giving the product a full chance to gain validity in the marketplace.

My little Veer broke on me; it fell face down onto the floor of the garage; it's still usable, but gives my fingers splinters as I swipe across its face to use it.  I'll tell you, I honestly  tried to get a replacement for it.  I called AT&T and told them my situation, and asked if they happened to have anymore of the product in stock, even though HP had canceled the product almost a full year earlier (hey, you never know).  They didn't; I had no options left but to switch to a different phone platform.  Instead of going with Android, I decided to go back to Apple.  I'm happy I did, but feel a little bit melancholy about giving up that cute little Veer.  (it felt really good in my hand; not cheap, but had a nice heft)

I rooted my TouchPad and put the Cyanogenmod Android ROM on it.  The TouchPad is dual-booted, but I haven't booted into webOS in months.  Eventually, I'll get rid of the TouchPad and get an iPad.  It's just a better device.

R.I.P. webOS.  Hey, maybe LG can revive it now that they bought the technology from HP.  I wish them all the best; I really do.


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