The not-a-phone

2011-07-07 00:00

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.


VERDICT: A 7” tablet built for taking notes.

COMPLEXITY: Not quite as simple as the iPad.

PRICE: R6 000.

ALSO CONSIDER: Samsung Galaxy Tab.