All of us here at Techhuman have been waiting for the tablet invasion to begin; we were getting a bit bored of meeting at coffee shops and airports and showing off our iPads. HTC have released their Flyer as a first go at the tablet market. The oddly named HTC Flyer, which is a 7 inch tablet made from a chunk of aluminium and spiced up with HTC’s proprietary interface Sense. We have been playing with one for the past few weeks and must say we are impressed.
The Flyer from HTC is similar to the Samsung Galaxy Tab which was released late last year. Both are 7 inch Android based tablets with Android. The Flyer, being the newer device runs Gingerbread or 2.3.3 for those that like numbers, and the Samsung currently runs FROYO or 2.2. The Gingerbread update is already available in Europe and should be here soon.
Apple rocked the world of computing devices about a year ago. The iPad 2 which launched in South Africa a month or so ago has continued to sell like mad. What the iPad did is force us all to relook at how we approached computing. Heavy laptops with poor battery life is no longer acceptable, newer gen laptops are getting better, but nothing beats 10 hours of battery life and the portability of a Tablet. When the huge range of apps and readers and of course all the cool time wasting games are factored in, tablets have changed the way we look at mobile computing.
At the January 2011 CES, everybody had a tablet, we played with lots, some were awesome and some were just dodgy but there were over 100 prototypes there. Now they are beginning to hit the market, the Galaxy Tab was first, then the iPad and now the HTC Flyer. Models from Acer and ASUS are also available. We are certain that many more will come in the next few months.
THE HTC Flyer is basically a huge mobile phone, except it has no dialler and can’t make calls. I tried to install one and could not get it to work. The HTC can use mobile data though, and sets up like any other mobile device with a SIM card. The HTC Flyer is made from a single piece of aluminium, similar to how the latest MacBooks are made, broken by top and bottom plastic inserts. The top insert comes off, and this is where you plug in your Micro SD card, up to an extra 32 GIG, and your SIM card, we tried the 3G SIM card from Cell C and this worked really well.
HTC have been developing their Sense interface for years starting with Windows Mobile based phones, and the Flyer runs the latest version of Sense. Sense is much more than just a launcher app, it goes far deeper than that, and actually is what makes the Flyer very different from other tablets. Compared to others I tested, with the logical competitor being the Samsung Galaxy Tab, it is very polished and complete. Sense makes the Flyer very easy to use. There are some unique touches, one that was immediately useful, was the launch from lock screen capability. You can choose your favourite, or most used apps, these are placed on the lock screen, and when you drag the circle to unlock the screen to these icons the app launches immediately. In fact all through the device, from the weather app, to the social media friend’s app, which works the best of all current andriod social media in one place apps, and even to how the app screen is organised, Sense enhances Android. There is also an additional tab in the pull down notification screen, with an added quick setting tab, which allows all sorts of settings from the notification bar.
Overall the interface is that of a standard Android mobile phone smoothed out and optimised by the use of Sense. It took me, and should take most of you guys, very little time to adapt to the big screen, and get to going with the Flyer. The screen is really good, bright clear and really sharp, the resolution is higher than that of the Galaxy Tab, and works well with the 7 inch real estate. I am a 10 inch man mainly because I use the iPad for Varsity, doing lots of reading, research and note taking, and aprt from note taking 10 inches is better overall. The touch is very responsive and the colour and brightness is excellent, watching videos and browsing the web is graphically rich and surprisingly satisfying, despite the Flyer only having a 7 inch screen. Advanced users and geeks can customise the device to their heart’s content, using the integrated Android App store. One huge benefit of Android is the entire store is available in South Africa in Rands, and purchasing is simple using Google checkout, no messing about with vouchers and fake addresses.
Tablet pricing has pretty much been set by the iPad and no tablet , no matter how special, can compete unless it falls within the price brackets set by Apple in South Africa. Currently the Flyer pushes the high end of this envelope going for around R7000, it does include all the extras for that price, such as Wi-Fi and 3G as well as the stylus, and it includes the option of expandable memory. What counts against the Flyer is the screen size of 7 inches and the fact that the Samsung Galaxy Tab started around that price six months ago, and is now available for around R5000, all for a very similar functionality overall.
The Flyer really does deliver, from the superior construction, which may be a little heavy for some, due to the use of aluminium, to the smooth and slick integration of Sense with Android, this is a very complete device. The real benefits are the portability of a 7 inch device, as does the familiarity of the interface, especially if you have used any form of Android before. The big negative tis the price, but if that does not scare you away, then it is highly recommended.
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