HP launches new WebOS phones, TouchPad tablet

HP bought Palm last year, and while the company did launch the Pre 2, a moderately updated Pre, a few months later, today we’re seeing the first real fruits of the acquisition. HP just wrapped up its “Think Beyond” event in San Francisco, and the big picture is that it sees WebOS — admittedly an impressive operating system, despite its failure to catch on with consumers in a big way — as a solid foundation to build all sorts of devices on, from phones and tablets (as detailed today) to printers and PCs (in the near future).

HP launched three new devices today: Veer — a tiny, credit-card sized (though of course much thicker) smartphone with a 2.6″ touchscreen — Pre 3, a high-end 3.6″ slider with a giant-crushing 1.4 GHz Snapdragon CPU — and TouchPad, a 9.7″ WebOS tablet with a dual-core 1.2 GHz Snapdragon CPU.  All boast impressive specs (including speedy Snapdragon chips from Qualcomm), and it looks like WebOS finally has competitive hardware to run on.

Read on for details of each of HP’s new WebOS devices.

Veer

Propelled by HTC’s 4.3″ monsters (starting with the HD2 and EVO 4G), the smartphone industry has gone super-sized, with 4-5″ phones grabbing much of the limelight.  HP decided to go in the other direction with the Veer, which has a tiny 2.6″ touchscreen (400×320 resolution) and a slide-out keyboard (albeit a small one).  We’re a bit concerned about how cramped the phone may be (the 3.3″ Pre feels small to us), but children or those with smaller hands might prefer it.

Despite its compact dimensions, however, Veer does pack a punch, sporting an 800 MHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 7230 processor, 512 MB RAM, 8 GB storage, and HSPA+ 3G connectivity (marketed by T-Mobile and AT&T in the U.S. as “4G”).  It also supports HP’s Touchstone inductive charging technology.

No confirmation on pricing, but Veer should hit the market at an entry-level price point when it goes on sale in the spring.

Pre 3

The successor to the original Pre and its mildly upgraded Pre 2 brother, the new Pre 3 eschews its predecessor’s compact 3.3″ form factor, growing to include a 3.6″ WVGA (800×480) touchscreen.  It still includes a portrait-sliding keyboard, but the larger footprint means it’s now one of the roomiest keyboards on the market.

Inside, Pre 3 features an industry-first 1.4 GHz Snapdragon 8×55-series CPU, 512 MB RAM, 8 or 16 GB storage, 5 MP rear camera with flash, autofocus, and 720p video recording, front-facing VGA camera for video chat, both EVDO Rev. A and HSPA+ 3G radios, and Touchstone support.  Unfortunately, though, Pre 3 won’t be on sale till the summer.  No word on pricing here either, but we’d expect it to match the usual high-end smartphone baseline ($199 on a 2-year contract).

TouchPad

HP’s answer to Apple’s iPad in the consumer tablet space (the ill-fated Slate was a business-focused offering), the TouchPad is what results when you join together an iPad-like 9.7″ slate form factor, a dual-core 1.2 GHz Snapdragon CPU, and a tablet-customized version of WebOS.  The TouchPad has a svelte 13.7 mm-thick body weighing 1.5 lb, an XGA display (1024×768- same as iPad), a 1.3 MP front-facing camera for video chat, and a pair of Beats by Dre stereo speakers.

The TouchPad’s version of WebOS includes tablet customizations similar to those Apple made in iOS for the iPad, like drop-down menus and multi-pane apps.  The OS also has a new notifications system, lying somewhere in between a desktop system tray and WebOS’ existing system, and of course retains WebOS’ signature multitasking, which should make it far more productive to work on than the iPad.  The TouchPad supports Touchstone and extends it to include data transmission as well– you can tap a Pre 3 to a TouchPad to share a website URL, for instance.

Like the Pre 3, TouchPad won’t be arriving till summer 2011.  No word on pricing yet.

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