The not-a-phone

Finweek English Edition - - TECH TRENDS - SI­MON DIN­GLE si­mond@finweek.co.za

WHEN IT COMES to build­ing An­droid de­vices, Tai­wanese man­u­fac­turer HTC has ar­guably done a bet­ter job than any­body else. But the rise of the tablet – driven by Ap­ple’s iPad – has changed the game. Hav­ing suc­cess­ful smart­phones doesn’t mean be­ing po­si­tioned for the tablet mar­ket and HTC’s en­trance tablet is proof it still has a lot to fig­ure out when it comes to these next-gen­er­a­tion de­vices.

The Flyer is a 7” tablet run­ning the Google An­droid op­er­at­ing sys­tem. The first thing to note is the Flyer doesn’t run the “Hon­ey­comb” re­lease of An­droid – which was de­vel­oped for tablets – but in­stead uses an older ver­sion of the op­er­at­ing sys­tem that was pri­mar­ily de­signed for smart­phones but with the ad­di­tion of HTC’s “Sense” user in­ter­face.

The Flyer feels like a big phone, as do most 7” tablets, in­clud­ing Sam­sung’s Galaxy Tab. How­ever, un­like the Swamsung de­vice the Flyer can’t ac­tu­ally be used as a phone with­out some ma­jor hack­ing. But it beats other 7” tablets in just about any other mea­sure.

But HTC has added a pen sty­lus to the Flyer that can be used to take notes – and that’s where it could per­haps find a niche. As an avid user of Ever­note – a cloud ser­vice for stor­ing notes and other doc­u­ments – I ap­pre­ci­ated the in­te­gra­tion of this ap­pli­ca­tion. A spe­cial ver­sion of Ever­note is in­stalled that makes use of the pen sty­lus for hand­writ­ten notes and doo­dles, stor­ing these to Ever­note and even us­ing the ser­vice’s text recog­ni­tion tech­nol­ogy to in­dex hand­writ­ing.

Note-tak­ing on the Flyer is a dream, al­though the be­spoke Ever­note ap­pli­ca­tion doesn’t do as good a job of im­port­ing other notes al­ready stored on the plat­form. For ex­am­ple, au­dio notes are down­loaded with the au­dio bits miss­ing. But note-tak­ing aside, I find it dif­fi­cult to see the uses of a 7” tablet such as the Flyer. It does ev­ery­thing my phone does with a slightly big­ger screen and a slightly bet­ter bat­tery life. It doesn’t make sense to me that I’d carry this around with my phone when both es­sen­tially achieve the same things.

How­ever, if you’ve found some need for a 7” tablet then the Flyer is one of the best we’ve tested. The in­ter­face is solid, the sty­lus is a nice ad­di­tion and the bat­tery life is good enough. It also comes with a white leather pouch to carry it and its pen around, al­though that may be a bit pon­cey for your lik­ing. And it costs more than an iPad, which I suspect will be the deal-de­stroyer for many po­ten­tial buy­ers.

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