Like every other 7-inch Android tablet, HTC's Flyer is essentially a very big phone. It even looks slightly phonier than the rest. But it might be the nicest oversized phone-tablet yet.
Like previous 7-inch Android tablets, it's not running Android 3.0 Honeycomb. Instead, it's running Android Gingerbread with HTC's Sense software slicked over the top for widgets and a nifty 3D homescreen.
Mixed with a few new software features to make it more it tablet-y is OnLive's cloud-based streaming game service (last seen on the iPad and Vizio TVs). The idea behind OnLive is that you can play console games anywhere. The Flyer is promising to be the first tablet to have true OnLive support, so you can play console games on the tablet or "pipe the OnLive service through the HTC Flyer tablet's broadband wireless" to your TV. Hopefully, it's good.
I'm still not sure about using styluses with tablets (unless you're cranking out the artworks faster than you can paint), but HTC's bundling the Flyer with a stylus and has new "Scribe technology" for recognizing hand-writing (and allowing you to draw pictures of horses, or whatever it is you can't do with a pen and paper). And the Timemark feature lets you record audio which is saved alongside the notes for later use. Tapping a word within the notes will automatically play that relevant recording.
The main reason it's probably the nicest Android tablet yet? That aluminum unibody. The screen is a thoroughly standard 7-inch, 1024 x 600 LCD, with a 1.3MP camera strapped onto the front, and a 5MP one on the back. Inside, it's running a 1.5GHz processor with 1GB of RAM and 32GB of internal storage (expandable through the microSD card slot). Right now, it's got HSPA+ connectivity (think AT&T or T-Mobile) but that doesn't mean they won't have a version for Sprint or Verizon.
If you've read this far and were already imagining yourself watching videos on this thing the whole way from New York to China, think again—the battery can only handle four hours of video playback, though the standby time is listed as up to a whopping 1470 hours—that's 61 days. Playtime is obviously a lot less. HTC's not talking pricing but it's probably not cheaper than what Samsung or Dell are asking for their tablets—so think $450 and up.
Additional Notes After a Quick Demo
HTC's not actually letting anyone touch the Flyer, but I've had a bit of a demo and managed to snap some photos. You know how real-life gadgets quite often barely resemble the product shots? The Flyer remains true to those glossy-looking images, but in a little fatter than I was expecting, at 13.2mm.
• Speed seems to be great, despite it only running of a 1.5GHz processor (HTC hasn't specified which one it is). It may not be dual-core like LG's G-Slate, but switching between apps and screens actually seemed faster on the Flyer—though that could be down to the fact that the G-Slate wasn't running final software when I was using it yesterday.
• While it comes bundled with a stylus (and white leather case, which the stylus clips to), the tablet doesn't actually have OCR for translating handwritten scrawl to digital text.
• You can annotate web pages with your scrawl, and then screengrab and save it, to email to friends or share on Facebook etc.
• The two buttons on the stylus—which looks like a smart aluminium pen—allow you to erase, and select text.
• On the bottom-right corner of the Flyer bezel, there's a button which can only be activated using the nib of the stylus, when you're on an appropriate page or application which supports the stylus. Using the Scribe notes app, for example, brings up a palette of options for your handwriting—such as pen color, pen size, highlighter and so on.
• Screen resolution is 1024 x 600, which could be improved upon I suppose, but the overall effect was a bright, colorful, clear and sharp image—when browsing, watching a video or using the Scribe feature.
• There are new 3D effects on the homescreen, using the g-sensor to show when it's tilted. The time/date widget? It actually shuffles sideways and distorts when the tablet is titled. Same for the various other widgets. It's just a little tweak on the existing Sense UI, but almost had the people around me oohing and ahhing at how special it looked.
• SRS Surround Sound is included, so it doesn't quite match up to the four speakers on Samsung's Galaxy Tab 10-inch.
UPDATE: So why no dual-core processor? HTC told us that "We've looked to combine the best possible mix of innovative technologies and features to offer a uniquely HTC user experience and we decided to increase the overall performance of HTC Flyer beyond what dual-core can offer today with a new Qualcomm 1.5Ghz processor which provides even faster performance. Today, with the exception of the browser, Android OS is not optimized for dual-core scenarios because it lacks multi-threading."
HTC Flyer Hands-On
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Official Photos of HTC Flyer
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HTC UNVEILS HTC FLYER, THE FIRST TABLET
WITH HTC SENSE
Aluminum unibody design with touch and pen interaction make HTC Flyer unique
First tablet with HTC Watch video service, HTC Scribe Technology
and OnLive cloud gaming
BARCELONA, SPAIN – Mobile World Congress – February 15, 2011 – HTC, a global leader in mobile innovation and design, today announced its first tablet, the HTC FlyerTM. HTC Flyer blends HTC's trademark design language with an all-new HTC Sense user experience that has been reimagined for the tablets. Using an intuitive and innovative approach to tablets, HTC Flyer combines natural touch and pen interaction. HTC also announced HTC Watch, a new connected video service that will debut on HTC Flyer tablet, and will collaborate with OnLive, Inc. to launch the first cloud-based mobile gaming service on a tablet.
"Clearly, smartphones have transformed our lives but as we observed how people use smartphones, computers and other technologies, we saw an opportunity to create a tablet experience that is different, more personal and productive," said Peter Chou, CEO of HTC Corporation. "We are progressing down a path as an industry when people will no longer be in a single device paradigm, but have multiple wireless devices for different needs; this is the direction we are moving."
Encased in a sleek aluminum unibody, the HTC Flyer tablet exudes the iconic style and build quality HTC is known for. It is also ultra-light, weighing as little as a paperback book, and compact enough to fit in a jacket pocket only. With a seven-inch display, lightning fast 1.5Ghz processor and high-speed HSPA+ wireless capabilities, the HTC Flyer tablet is perfect for those who have been waiting for a tablet that is both compact and powerful.
HTC Sense for Tablet
HTC Sense revolutionized smartphones by placing the person at the center of the experience. HTC Flyer's tablet-focused HTC Sense experience focuses on surprising and delighting people with its gorgeous 3D home screen. A unique carousel of widgets puts a user's most important content and information at the visual center of the experience. The HTC Flyer tablet also offers uncompromised Web browsing with Flash 10 and HTML 5.
HTC Scribe Technology
Touch interaction lights up the HTC Flyer tablet experience, but it also offers a groundbreaking pen experience. With the new HTC Scribe Technology on the HTC Flyer tablet, people can rediscover the natural act of writing. HTC Scribe Technology introduces a wave of integrated digital ink innovations that make it easy and natural to take notes, sign contracts, draw pictures, or even write on a web page or photo.
HTC Scribe Technology on the HTC Flyer tablet transforms traditional note-taking into smart note-taking by integrating natural onscreen writing with thoughtful and integrated innovations. 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 synchronization with Evernote, the world-leading notes application and service.
Streaming Mobile Movies with HTC Watch
The HTC Flyer tablet premieres HTC Watch, HTC's new video download service. The HTC Watch service enables low-cost on-demand progressive downloading of hundreds of High-Definition movies from major studios. The intuitive, natural design of the HTC Watch service makes it easy to find the latest movie and video content, while advanced technology on the back-end enables instant playback over the HTC Flyer tablet's high-speed wireless connection.
Mobile Cloud Gaming with OnLive
HTC takes mobile gaming 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 people play top video games on their televisions and computers without the need to buy expensive gaming hardware or software. When integrated fully, the OnLive service will enable customers to pipe the OnLive service through the HTC Flyer tablet's broadband wireless to their television sets, or let them play directly on the tablet. When integrated on the HTC Flyer tablet, people can play a variety of games, including hits like Assassin's Creed Brotherhood™, NBA 2K11 and Lego Harry Potter™.
HTC Flyer will be available to customers globally during Q2 2011.
HTC Flyer Specifications
Bluetooth® 3.0 with A2DP for wireless stereo headsets Wi-Fi®: IEEE 802.11 b/g/n 3.5 mm stereo audio jack Micro-USB (12-pin micro-USB 2.0)
5 megapixel colour camera with auto focus
1.3 megapixel front camera
AndroidTM with HTC SenseTM
Internal storage: 32 GB RAM: 1 GB Micro SD memory card extension (SD 2.0 compatible) The actual available internal storage may differ depending on the software configuration of your device
Audio supported formats
Playback: .aac, .amr, .ogg, .m4a, .mid, .mp3, .wav, .wma (Windows Media Audio 9) Recording: .amr, .aac
Video supported formats
195.4 x 122 x 13.2 mm Around 415 grams with battery
7 inch touch-sensitive TFT screen with 1024 X 600
Playback: .3gp, .3g2, .mp4, .wmv (Windows Media Video 9), .avi (MP4 ASP and MP3), .xvid (MP4 ASP and MP3) Recording: .3gp
Rechargeable battery Capacity: 4000 mAh Standby time: Up to 820 ~1470 hours Video Playback: Up to 4 hours All subject to network and device usage
HSPA/WCDMA: 900/AWS/2100 MHz Upload speed of up to 5.76 Mbps and download speed of up to 14.4 Mbps Quad-band GSM/GPRS/EDGE: 850/900/1800/1900 MHz Band frequency, HSPA availability, and data speed are operator dependent
Internal GPS antenna
Ambient light sensor G-Sensor Digital compass
Voltage range/frequency: 100 ~ 240V AC, 50/60 Hz DC output: 9V and 1.67A
Please note: Specifications are subject to change without prior notice