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The HP Veer is a seriously little deal, and that kind of makes it a big deal. Don’t let the small size of the Veer fool you - it’s packed with high-end chips that make it a fast little bugger. The Veer, as announced at HP’s Think Beyond event, is an HSPA+ smartphone, which means its capable of download speeds approaching 7.2Mbps (which equates to about 0.9MB a second). The Veer is faced with a small 320x400 screen, the same size as the Palm Pixi, and behind that screen you’ll find an 800 MHz processor and 8GB of storage space, with a 5MP camera around back.

What we know:

When HP announced the Veer, SVP Jon Rubinstein introduced it as the power of the large phone in a more compact size. The Veer is that indeed: it is a high-powered phone in a tiny package. It measures 15.1 mm thick, and before you go and call that bulky, it does have a sliding physical QWERTY keyboard (portrait orientation, like all Palm devices before it), and is 54.5 mm wide and 84 mm tall. It’s a seriously tiny phone. If you’re looking for a comparison point, take a Palm Pixi and lop off the bottom with the keyboard and slip it under the screen. If you don’t have a Pixi around for reference, the Veer is a millimeter shorter and a half a millimeter wider than that credit card in your wallet, and just under two millimeters thinner than a Pre (or 20 credit cards thick, if you happen to be that way).

Inside that tiny package HP has managed to cram an 800MHz Qualcomm Snapdragon MSM7230 processor, 512MB of RAM (same as the Pre Plus and Pre 2) and 8GB for storage. For connectivity the Veer has modern standards: Bluetooth 2.1, GPS, Wi-Fi b/g/n, and an HSPA/GSM radio. If you’re wondering about that HSPA, it’s of the 7.2Mbps variety, and is compatible with AT&T’s 3G bands (no T-Mobile 3G here), as well as most European GSM networks.

There are tradeoffs to be made for this small size and powerful internals. The Veer loses some physical features from its webOS predecessors, chiefly the micro-USB and 3.5mm headphone ports, a camera flash, and the removable battery. The Veer’s integrated battery weighs in at 910mAh, compared to the 1150 in preceding webOS devices. To charge it you’ll have the option of using a Touchstone inductive charger or hooking up via USB using a special cable that attaches to a low profile magnetic connector on the Veer’s side. That little five-pin magnetic connector is also how you’ll get your headphone/headset hook-up; the Veer includes a somewhat bulky adapter (by the nature of the 3.5mm standard) that attaches over the connector and provides a downward-facing headphone jack. We’ll just recommend you use a pair of Bluetooth headphones, even though you won’t be able to charge them with the same cable.

The Veer does have dual noise-canceling microphones, a first for webOS, but fast becoming a standard feature for smartphones.

HP webOS 2.1 will be the shipping version on the Veer. Version 2.1 includes features like voice dialing, Exhibition, Flash 10.1, and plenty more. We don't know whether or not the Veer will support the next-generation of webOS apps, based on Enyo, but if we had to guess we'd say that support will come in a later update.

What we don’t know:

For all we know about the Veer’s hardware, there’s a lot about it’s launch that we don’t know. HP gives the timeframe of “planned for late spring” this year as the launch window, but the purposeful vagueness of that date could mean sometime around May, or even later if that “planned” date slips. HP had several Veer phones out on display at Think Beyond and was allowing unsupervised play time with the devices, which tells us that at the very least the hardware is ready, though we’re not entirely sure the software is ready. It felt fairly ready to us.

HP didn’t announce any carriers when they unveiled the Veer, nor did they hint at pricing. We can’t imagine that the Veer will be priced too high on contract, but then again, we don’t know who it’ll be available on contract with. Of course, the radio is only compatible with AT&T in the US, along with most European carriers. We’re not going to speculate on who might get the Veer, but if Palm and HP’s track record with launching the Pre 2 is anything to speak of, the Veer might not see wide distribution. And that would be a shame, because it’s a deceptively cute phone that if priced well could be the Palm Centro-style hit that the Pixi wasn’t. But first it has to launch.

UPDATE: The Veer will be available on May 15th in white and black from AT&T, going for $99.99 with a two-year contract.