ITLT: Headphone and USB port placement

Port Positions
How does one pocket this?

IMHO

  • both USB/charging port and headphone ports should be on the bottom
  • ensures pocketability when charging on the go with a USB battery pack while listening to music

Good

  • iPhone 5S
  • HTC One M8

Bad

  • Nexus 5
  • Samsung Galaxy S5
  • Lumia 930

Other Notes

If you’re stuck on with a device with non optimal port placement, I suggest getting right angle connectors for your headphones as it at least allows the device to rest on the connector without straining anything too much (you could also get a right angled USB connector, but it is yet another thing to worry about if you care about USB charging speeds)

Right Angled Headphone Connector

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The HTC Flyer

We managed to get our hands on the HTC Flyer at Yappe Computer, Serusop, and it seems like a good 7" Android Tablet: an alternative to the older Galaxy Tab. It’s selling for B$859 (cash price) / B$886 (credit card price) for the 32GB model.


(YouTube link to video)

Specifications

  • 7" 1024×600 multi-touch capacitive screen
  • Stylus for use with the active digitizer screen
  • Android 2.3 with Sense 2.1
  • 1.5GHz CPU
  • 32GB storage (~7GB available for apps, ~20GB available as storage)
  • 1GB RAM
  • microSD card slot
  • 5MP rear camera with auto focus (no flash)
  • 1.3MP front facing camera
  • Standard micro-USB (no HDMI out)
  • Wifi: 802.11 b/g/n
  • Bluetooth 3.0
  • Audio supported formats:
    • Playback: .aac, .amr, .ogg, .m4a, .mid, .mp3, .wav, .wma (Windows Media Audio 9)
    • Recording: .amr, .aac
  • Video supported formats:
    • Playback: .3gp, .3g2, .mp4, .wmv (Windows Media Video 9), .avi (MP4 ASP and MP3), .xvid (MP4 ASP and MP3)
    • Recording: .3gp
  • Battery: 4000 mAh
  • Supports Adobe Flash

(Specifications from HTC Flyer Website, GSM Arena)

Notes on the Stylus

  • works in apps that support it otherwise touching the screen takes a screenshot that you can annotate
  • cannot be used to ‘touch’ all controls / buttons only digitizer palette brought up by touching the icon with the digitizer (not your finger)
  • requires a single AAAA (yes 4 As) battery which I have not seen in shops
  • has 2 buttons: 1 highlights text, other erases

Bundled HTC Apps

  • Notes application syncs to Evernote and allows infinite vertical scrolling. Allows text input, photo embedding, handwriting annotation as well as voice dictation
  • Reader application is a reading app linked with Kobo for in app purchasing
  • Watch application allows renting and buying of movies (but doesn’t seem available in Brunei, thus can only watch previews/trailers)

Other Notes
While it is a 7" Gingerbread (2.3) tablet instead of Honeycomb (3.x, which is the tablet optimized version of Android) it seems to be the better choice at the moment as apps will run on it with the only issue may be the way it looks. Currently is only one 7" Honeycomb tablet: the Acer Iconia Tab A100 and it was released yesterday. It is the first device to have Android 3.2 which is supposed to provide better support for 7" tablets compared to the regular bigger 10" Honeycomb tablets. However there seem to be some force close issues and app incompatibilities reported by This Is My Next and ZDnet (i.e. more work for the developer to fix problems).

On the entertainment side it supports 720p video playback, supports quite a few file formats and codecs but there is no HDMI output unless you get the dock to use with the extended microUSB connector on the flyer. The HTC Watch app is a nice feature but not being available here makes it of no use. For office use, there is support for Microsoft Office documents that allows editing with normal text entry and even the stylus (however, not all file formats are editable). Battery life seems a bit mixed with the Engadget review being impressed by it while TechRadar and CNET UK rated it has having bad battery life. BGR and Android Central give it decent battery life with typical use of 2 days per charge.

Summary
While I wished they didn’t remove the calling ability of the device, the usability of the pen to annotate and take notes is pretty appealing. A good alternative to the Galaxy Tab if you don’t plan to use it for calling. Smaller and more portable than an iPad it is made more for mobility. The main reason to get this device is the active digitizer and stylus combo or if you just wish for a tablet faster than the Galaxy Tab whose age is showing. Nice to see HTC innovate with the Flyer and hope to see more with the upcoming Puccini, their shot at the 10" tablet category.

A look at the ePad

After hearing BIT Computer had an ePad (a slate/tablet device like an iPad, but running Android) I was curious to take a look as I’ve been looking for a cheap Android reader. Watching videos online with all these cheap Android tablets I knew not to expect much. So I managed to play with it and did come back with a few nice features that I wish other Android phones / tablets would implement.

The ePad has a 7″ screen with a resolution of 800×480 and thus is smaller than the iPad in terms of size and screen resolution. It also has a big bezel close to that of an iPad making it quite big for a smaller device. It has a single microSD card slot for expansion, a single 3.5mm headphone jack and a single micro USB port. It also has a front facing camera and a few other buttons on the side (power, volume up/down) and a ‘home’ button on the front (like the iPad). It is also equipped with standard wireless (presumably 802.11g) and even has an option for ethernet connection (I saw a PPPoE item in the settings).

There is a cable included with the device that converts the micro USB port to standard female USB port which can be used to attach a standard USB keyboard. I personally love this feature as I brings about possibility of using the device as a productivity tool to do regular word processing (Documents To Go is included with the device). I forgot to ask if you could attach a USB drive and have USB On-The-Go just like upcoming Nokia N8 which would allow you to transfer files to and from a USB drive making it more like a mini computer. The webcam seemed to auto focus and I guess it was taking a 320×240 snapshot, the screenshot application was not optimized for the screen resolution and thus had a weird layout (camera output was in a little section on the left and the ‘take picture’ button was all the way on the right of the screen).

Now the device is very unresponsive/sluggish. It was much hard to use than any of the cheap Android tablet videos I’ve seen online. I knew it would be slow and pretty hard at first but it was worse than I expected. After playing around with it, I found the touchscreen sensitive in certain locations but insensitive in others. Pressing the ‘back’ button in the top right corner was pretty hard but selecting input boxes and typing on the keyboard seemed pretty responsive.

The device has a custom toolbar on the top of the screen with custom buttons, most particularly a rotate screen and a screen snapshot button. A screenshot utility is something that no stock Android phone/device has even until now. You can install screenshot application only if you root your device which is not something I would recommend a typical user to do. This leads me to believe that this device could be running as root or that they have done quite a bit of customization.

Android 1.6 is running on the device and it has the Google Market Place among other APK managers/installers in order to install applications. It also has a full license of Documents To Go allowing you to view and edit documents. PDF viewing is done through Documents To Go but I was not able to view PDFs as it was requesting registration of the product in order to proceed. I was not able to test and video playback or web browsing as I did not have any videos on hand or Internet access. So I cannot comment on the abilities or speeds in those areas of the device. I will try go back to test them and take screenshots of all the applications installed.

While this tablet is far from perfect and isn’t a device I could really recommend, I like to see the possibilities that could arise. This device usability is a nightmare due to the unresponsive screen, but this is not an Android problem: it is just that the combination of the touchscreen technology used in this device and a slower processor is causing it. Recently Shanzai showed off a USD$200 Android tablet which seems to be pretty snappy, so it isn’t Android that is to blame. Check out Shanzai for more videos on tablets and at Deal Extreme for reviews by users with these devices. The Eken M001 is one of the cheapest tablets and firmware updates have sped up the device but still is underwhelming in terms of battery life (3 hours max). Another similar tablet would be the US$199 Archos 7 Home Tablet which actually looks better than any of these cheap tablets as it has a more polished product but has it’s own issues (720p playback, good battery life 5+ hours, but no Market Place and iffy touchscreen). Give me an improved version of the Archos 7 Home Tablet with a better touchscreen and slightly better battery life and I would be perfect. While the iPad is a very good product, I still don’t think it’s worth the price and I personally do not like the environment of iOS: I can’t even develop and test applications on my own device without jailbreaking the device or paying Apple for the developer program. I do not like those barriers of entry to a platform. So here I will be waiting for a better Android tablet