Lost In Mobile

Shaun McGill

07412 655899

Lost In Mobile is the continuation of PDA-247 which, under various names, provided news, reviews and commentary on the mobile world for 10 years.

I have been writing about the mobile industry, mobile products, apps and everything else in between and beyond for more than 10 years, and currently write freelance for Imagine Publishing and also undertake one-off projects upon request.

I welcome your comments and thoughts and if you want to get in touch, please do so via the email address or phone number above.

Thanks for stopping by.

Shaun McGill

HTC Flyer review: day one

Available from Clove for £562.80

 

Price

 

Let's discuss the price first. I can see some of you thinking 'How much?!?' when you look at the price tag for the Flyer, but there are some points to bear in mind. A 32GB iPad 2 with 3G and Wi-Fi costs £579. The Flyer has 32GB plus 3G, Wi-Fi and the ability to add up to 32GB of extra storage. It also comes with a digital stylus which I will cover at length later on. The Flyer is a 7" tablet which many see as the sweet point for tablet screen sizing, but the rest feel that the 9.7" iPad display is sweeter still. Again, I will cover this later on. I don't believe the Flyer is overpriced.

 

What's unique?

 

It is all too easy to look at any non-iPad tablet and presume that it cannot compete and this is an understandable feeling. No tablet yet has come close to the iPad 1 let alone the 2, but things are gradually changing. Here are some notable quotes from Clove which sum up the unique areas of the Flyer-

 

"Built into the HTC Flyer is HTC Scribe technology which provides the ability to accept input via a stylus or digital pen. Such a feature means you can use the Flyer as if it were a normal notepad – except everything will be stored digitally, not something many other tablets can do! Such a feature demonstrates how the Flyer could easily fit into personal and business scenarios. Whether it be for making notes in a meeting, getting customers to sign for delivery of something, the Scribe technology gives a world of opportunities. What good would this technology be without a digital pen? Well thankfully a HTC digital pen/stylus is included."

"For the ‘power user’ a feature called Timemark enables you to capture the audio of a meeting in line with your written notes, so tapping on a word in your notes instantly takes you to that exact place in time in the audio recording of the meeting. Notes are also integrated with the calendar so when there is an appointment reminder you are automatically prompted with an opportunity to begin a new note or in the case of recurring meetings, to continue where the last meeting left off. In an industry first, the HTC Flyer tablet also features built-in synchronisation with Evernote, the world-leading notes application and service. If you spend half your working day in a meeting of some form, you can probably see the benefit of this."

"The HTC Flyer tablet premieres HTC Watch, HTC's new video download service. This service enables low-cost on-demand progressive downloading of hundreds of High-Definition movies from major studios. Perfect for those movie fans, or those who could benefit from something to watch when on a trip."

"As if the HTC Flyer feature list was not extensive enough, gaming is taken to an entirely new level by being the first mobile device in the world to integrate OnLive Inc.'s revolutionary cloud-based gaming service. OnLive is leading in the home gaming market by letting you play top video games on your television without the need to buy expensive gaming hardware or software. When integrated fully, the OnLive service will enable you to pipe the OnLive service through the HTC Flyer tablet's broadband wirelessly to your television set, or of course played directly on the tablet."

It's an intriguing mix of high-end business and high-end entertainment features and that is not something often seen in an Android tablet.

In the box


 

I was pleasantly surprised by the box contents. Besides the usual AC charger, headphones and sync cable, there is a very smart leather pouch with a loop for the stylus and the stylus itself. It doesn't sound like a huge bundle, but this is the first mobile product I have used in a long time that gives you everything you need to get started. The pouch is white which does make it look rather feminine and the design is also responsible for that, but it affords a great deal of protection and strangely makes the Flyer look smaller than it already is. The stylus loop is a tight fit which of course is required to stop it coming loose and overall I have to say that I am impressed by the bundle.

Design

This is hard to explain because the design is split into two halves, front and back, which look completely different. On the back you get the typically high-end HTC look with brushed metal dominating and two smaller white plastic panels at either end. It looks completely different to all other tablets and much more expensive. However, the front looks like almost every other Android tablet. The screen surround is black plastic with just a hint of metal and white plastic at the top and bottom. Each end is slightly raised, but not significantly and thus we end up with an industry standard front design. 


The buttons are as you would expect; a power button top-right next to the 3.5mm headphone jack, volume buttons on the right hand side (presumably to stop you accidentally hitting them when using it in landscape) and the microUSB jack is at the bottom which could be handy for docking. There are also two speakers on the back with a large camera lens top left. The lens isn't protected, but the surround is just pronounced enough to stop it being scratched when laid flat.

I like the design of the Flyer overall, but the materials used do make it slippery in the hand. Metal and plastic look great together and add to the aesthetic appeal, but it is all too easy to drop when you are in a hurry.

The Magic Pen



I have spent a good amount of time with the Flyer so far and have been quite impressed with the set up here and the way the various features blend together. I am going to concentrate on the most talked about feature first which is the stylus. 

Apple doesn't so styluses and it shows with the Heath Robinson selection of accessories and apps designed to make the iPad feel like a paper pad. None of them succeed in bringing true digital handwriting to iOS, in my opinion, and I have found the iPad to be poor in this area. HTC has taken another track and bundled a Magic Pen which is supposed to offer greater accuracy and a more realistic writing experience, and it does. It was the very first feature I tested and felt quite real to me. I'm not going to go into the technical detail here because that's not important. The Magic Pen and the Flyer feel good together, they really do.

I found myself writing longer written notes than I ever did with the iPad in the first few minutes and there are many extra tricks included to make your own notes and annotations stand out. First up there is a selection of pens, pencils and ink pens along with a range of colours and other options. This lets you highlights particular words or parts of a document and easily share them with others. The notes app makes excellent use of the pen and includes a direct link to Evernote so that you can keep everything you want backed and stored online for use elsewhere. Tapping the small icon below the screen brings up a menu at the bottom which lets you take a 'snap' of the current screen (in most apps). From here you can annotate the image and then share it in a variety of ways or send to Evernote. 

There are some inconvenient aspects to using a pen like this. For example, when you have clicked the pen icon you then need to use your finger to selection an option. I can't see how HTC can get around this, but it takes some getting used to.
This is by far the best digital inking solution I have used to date and shows that a truly great solution should be possible in the future. It is likely that updates will be released for the Flyer that help the pen feature work even better, but for now I have to say that it works well enough for me to use it in meetings and for whenever I want to take notes. I have not been able to say that about any other tablet or smartphone.

I have done a lot more on day one such as testing the music and video functionality, using Flash in web and exploring various other aspects of the system, but those will wait for the next write up. Day one has been a revelation for me though and the Flyer has barely left my hand. I didn't expect it to get under my skin so quickly.