The HTC Flyer -Review (a Kindle Fire alternative) -updated with Honeycomb!

Jan 24- okay Hulu works but Netflix does not (but I did get update last night so don’t judge yet). The annoying thing is I have shortcuts to three apps -medscape, epocrates, and dolphin browser, whose icons revert to a generic android app icon. This is a small but really annoying bug affecting just those apps.

Battery life seems better, but not hard numbers. Amazon runs fine for video over Flash but the tablet gets hot. Will try the updated Netflix app and will report.

ADDENDUM 1-4-2012 -

HTC has sent an over the air update of the Flyer to full Android 3.2 Honeycomb. Visually it’s great and appears to be working without a hitch. The only complaint that I have so far is that Hulu is broken (as of 1-18-2012 -Hulu now works fine but netflix still does not), and Netflix app runs with significant asynchrony between the sound and video. I haven’t had a chance to try Netflix via Flash, but other Flash runs well.

Will update as I use it more, but the great thing is that HTC actually supports their device beyond sale! That is a surprise for me.

Addendum 1-5-2012 -

I will be frank -I was dubious of any great improvement with Honeycomb, but I like it. It is Honeycomb 3.2, which is far more evolved and stable than Honeycomb 3.0 or 3.1 pushed by Motorola when they prematurely released the Xoom to disaster during the holidays of 2010. It is as stable as the Gingerbread 2.3 was (and will be when you buy the Flyer). I keep hearing differing reports about the appeal of Ice Cream Sandwich, and I can assure you, 4.0 and 4.1 will be the beta for 4.2 which will be about late 2012 or early 2013. For most people, that means buying phones that occasionally (or frequently) crash and waiting for the small chance that their manufacturer will update it. Don’t hold your breath if you purchase Motorola. I don’t have any experience with Samsung, but the business model just does not support upgrading the operating system for phones and tablets that have already sold because the manufacturers have no skin in the App Market game. The only exceptions are Amazon and Apple. Google will eventually realize with increased pressure from Windows and the churn out from Android to iOS that it really has to go to a OS support model where they dictate upgrades. The other option, which HTC appears to have opened their phones up to, is the official yet unsupported and warranty killing jailbreak. Rooting your phone or tablet will give you access to the great open source community – I enjoy the XDA developers forums because I like hacking old hardware.

That is the final point -in this era, THERE IS NO OLD HARDWARE, only unsupported software. Every manufacturer aside from Apple has no incentive to upgrade their software because they don’t own it. Apple will to make sure the Apps sell and their devices keep their intrinsic value.

I just upgraded a Compaq Presario V2000 with the latest Ubuntu and with another 2GB RAM, it runs Chrome FAST. This is a 6 year old laptop! If you stuck with HP’s software, you would be stuck at Windows XP SP2 with no upgrade path as they have abandoned support of their 64bit Athlon processored laptops. While I understand why they do it, it breaks my heart to think about all the computers that end up in landfills just because the software is no longer supported.

HTC Flyer with Honeycomb is a tasty treat. It hasn’t crashed yet in over 2 days of continuous use. I am disappointed with the lack of Hulu, and the curious asynchrony of video and sound with Netflix is annoying, but it is trumped by the new tablet level utility of Honeycomb. The functional notifications scheme is worth it alone to upgrade -you can now cancel out notifications rather than launch every facebook update and app update to clear the notice out.

Addendum 1-8-2012

I created this doodle with Sketch by Autodesk using the stylus. The stylus works throughout the tablet and not just in the context of a screen capture or Evernote entry. This is a big deal because I’ve always hated the meat stylus associated with the iPad for painting. This is very very cool.

Original Post from Summer, 2011

After leaving my iPad 2 in the hospital for the 3rd time -and tracking it down and having it returned -there are great benefits to living and working in Iowa, I decided to look into the 7 inch tablets. Apple famously does not make or plan to make a 7 inch tablet. That is unfortunate because for physicians, the 7 inch tablet is the perfect balance between screen size -big enough to show patients and families pictures, and portability. The 7 inch tablet fits the doctor’s white coat pocket.

I purchased mine, a 16gB Wifi unit, from Best Buy -$499, along with the pen accessory -$80. The inclusion of a pen accessory is a decidedly retro move, but the way it is implemented, at once brilliant and half baked -more on this later. The Flyer is a little more tall than the iPad 2 is wide. The screen, made of Gorilla glass, is bright and easy to view from multiple angles. It comes in a white box, beautifully packaged inside with white wires -a USB cable and a dedicated charger. Although it uses a proprietary dongle, it will take a micro USB connector, and I recharged it on my Kindle’s USB cable last night. The Flyer is a 7inch homage to the iPad and Apple’s design. It is iPad like in every way. It is sturdy and thin. Battery life is outstanding -there are reports of 12 hours. I went all day on the device and it still had half a charge. The decision to go with a fast single processor was wise, as adding a dual core chip would have resulted in larger battery needs.

It runs Android 2.3 Gingerbread -the phone OS, and not 3.1 Honeycomb -the tablet OS, and that suits me fine. I was tortured by Android 2.1 on the Verizon Droid 2 until iPhone on Verizon came out. The combination of middling hardware and deployment of what was basically a beta level OS made the Droid 2 torture to use. That said, Flyer runs Android 2.3.3 which is much more evolved than Honeycomb -the Tablet OS. Running on a fast single processor, the Flyer really does fly, and is stable. Much more stable than Honeycomb, based on my perusal of the tablet display at Best Buy (a showcase of how NOT to sell stuff) where I got the Galaxy tab to stall on a Flash page, the Xoom to freeze by swiping too fast, and never got the HP’s tablet to get out of its sales screen. In 4 straight days of heavy use, Flyer has yet to crash, freeze, stutter or otherwise misbehave. I will know more after a month, because the Droid 2 had the problem of gumming up its works unless you actively cleaned up the junk every few days (including hard resets every few weeks).

The OS is stock, enhanced by HTC’s Sense UI. Of all the manufacturer add ons, HTC’s Sense works the best in my experience. Motorola’s support people suggested I turn off their custom interface (called Motoblur) to make their device work! HTC’s widgets and apps work well and are beautiful to look at. While the phone based software does cause small text, in the readers -the Kindle app, the Google Books app, and others, the text is nicely resizable. Flash support is there. I am Flash agnostic, but it is convenient for running sites that are Flash heavy like ESPN and Golf Channel. Flash does appear to slow down the web pages, and reportedly will shorten battery life.

It works well with my workflow -my scheduling and email are done through an Exchange server and everything just works. Citrix runs well and the hospital side software including the labs and PACS shows up fine. Our EMR should work, but I have had trouble getting it to work. Notably, my MobileMe email won’t sent email, and I downloaded the open source K-9 email client and now it runs fine. Amazon app store runs great. I am hopeful that Amazon will release its Kindle media software in conjunction with its own tablet, allow the full Amazon experience on all Android hardware. Most of my iPad apps have their Android equivalent. Notably missing are Hulu and Netflix players, but Amazon should make up for it.

This is a great device, and will stay in my pocket for a while.

7-28-2011
This device is glued to me. While I love my iPad, its nonpocketability relegated it to my bag along with the stethoscope and macbook air -coincidentally all three now get used about once a day. It really hasn’t frozen or crashed, and goes all day without hitting empty. If I were Apple, I would rethink the idea of a 7 inch tablet.

And speaking of sasquatch and unicorns, I would pay full price for a keyboarded iPhone.

July 31, 2011
Just got this faux leather cover from an Amazon hosted merchant. It copies the iPad 2 cover in having the tri-fold cover that acts as a stand, and a magnetic clasp. It has a two tone theme that makes it look like one of those leather Piel Frama cases. The case also copies the iPad 1 case in that the Flyer sits in a pocket with a leather flap that tucks in around it. There are cutouts for all the camera and controls and speakers.

Using this, it really is a perfect portal to Evernote. It also is a great reader, and is a portent of how the color Kindle tablet will look. The screen is near retina scale with beautifully saturated colors.

20110731-210639.jpg

August 21, 2011
Just had a thought. Amazon will release its tablet into this 7 inch tablet space and not directly confront Apple, all the while updating its Kindle App to include media -music and video and make it universally available. It fills in all the gaps that Apple left in its current offerings. How awesome would that be.

Also, after a month of use, I find Flyer to be stable and quick. This was a pleasant surprise because my first experience with Android was with the Motorola Droid 2 which was a textbook case of why Android would not win. Flyer is the textbook case of why Android could win over iOS. It marries the OS to the hardware perfectly like a well blended wine. The 12 hours plus of battery life could only be achieved by avoiding dual core processing, but speed was maintained by over clocking an already speedy single core processor. By using Gingerbread (2.3.3), it accesses many more apps than by going with Honeycomb (3.1). Gingerbread is more evolved than Honeycomb, and it shows in the stability of Flyer compared to my Droid 2 which ran 2.1. While Droid 2 got slower with use, Flyer has maintained its speed without the need for task k

20110821-053657.jpg

illers which I consider to be an egregious hack that highlights the flaws of the underlying software. I added a 10x 32gigabyte miniSD card for loading movies that I burned from DVD -a luxury, but definitely not a need as the device was working fine.

The cloud combined with fast network access trumps the need for large storage capacity. Rhapsody, which I have used for a while, and Pandora, fulfills any music needs.

But I’m waiting for Amazon!

August 31, 2011

I have gone more than a month and have not had to hard reset this device. This is amazing because I went through two Droid 2′s -replacing and hard resets as recommended by Motorola support failed to correct the increasing instability of that device that occurred with continued internet access and use of contacts and scheduling -basic functions! Writing a person’s contact into the outgoing address field instantly brings up a list winnowed from my contacts list of over 2000 people. Only iOS and Palm devices did this consistently well in my experience. My friends who own other non-HTC smartphones relay similar difficulties -I think this has to do with Android 2.1. I have to comment on this fact: that carriers and maybe some manufacturers seem to avoid updates of their smartphone OS’s simply for the desire on their part to have customers buy new devices rather than update. I even see this with my iPhone where Verizon mysteriously does not have iOS 4.3.x for its iPhone which would allow cloud access of prior purchased iTunes tracks among other upgrades. Android’s problems have less to do with bad programming than to do with Google’s ability to herd cats.

Flyer next to its analog ancestor

Mission Critical -this is a term I use personally to describe the need for a device to function perfectly. While no gadget can reach this standard, medical devices, space satellites, and Mars Rovers have a need for their operating systems to be bulletproof. Psion’s EPOC OS, was in my mind, written with mission criticality. On my 1998 Psion Series 5, I could have over ten open programs without a freeze or a crash. The monitors in the ICU all boot up and run without fail -mission critical. Flyer is beginning to edge into that space of mission critical in my mind -I have yet to perform any administering to memory, any supplication to the support desk, nor any return to factory settings after a month of nearly daily use in my hands. Mission Critical!

Update: 11-11-2011
I felt the need to make a comment about Flyer not that Kindle Fire is out. If I didn’t have the Flyer, I would probably get the Fire, but now that I have it, I am very pleased overall. It gets Hulu and Netflix streams via apps, and Amazon Prime Videos are available via Flash on the Browser. I recently picked up a leftover WebOS tablet bluetooth keyboard which is basically a black, plastic, nearly flawless copy of the Apple Wireless keyboard for the clearance price of $22, and pairing with the Fire, it behaves admirably as a a text input device.

That is the other thing -Evernote access is built into the DNA of the Fire. When you scribble a note on the note app, it goes to the Evernote servers, and I think get processed so they can be searched. I know pictures of text that I take certainly become searchable on Evernote. This means that Flyer is a reasonable stand-in for the spiral bound notebook.

The Kindle app works great on the Flyer. While I prefer to read on the physical Kindle e-reader which is easier on my eyes, in a pinch, the Flyer is a fine e-Reader. Zinio, on which I have a MacUser and Field and Stream subscriptions works well on Flyer (as it does on my iPad2).

The current price of Flyer is 299 at Best Buy, which annoys me because I paid the early adopter price. I think it is worth thinking about the $100 price differential when considering Fire versus Flyer. I personally like the flexibility of being outside Amazon’s cage and the killer app for this device is the Evernote capabilities. The average potential consumer of Amazon based media will be fine with Fire, but the more computer savvy will be looking to root Fire and open up the Android capabilities. I’m perfectly happy with my Flyer.

HTC recently sent an OTA (over the air) update of the OS. It’s not Honeycomb, but rather an update of Gingerbread which again works perfectly fine for a 7 inch tablet. I hear that the dual core tablets running Honeycomb are susceptible to lag -there is absolutely no lag on this machine and I only rarely get a reboot due to an instability in Sense -at the rate of once every two to three weeks. I used to reboot my Motorola Droid2 every day!

BTW, I typed this whole update with the keyboard on the WordPress app.

12 thoughts on “The HTC Flyer -Review (a Kindle Fire alternative) -updated with Honeycomb!

  1. I am also using the Htc flyer. It’s superb. No such problem of crashing or freezing. At first I was comtemplating to purchase a Motorolla Xoom or this one. I was glad I made the right choice after reading your comments.

    Thanks for the positive remarks on the Htc Flyer!

    • The greatness of this device is in it’s total function and form, making it more Apple-like than any non-Apple product I’ve come across. I use it more than iPad 2. The 32g SD card I got for it allows me to play movies ripped from DVD (you should own) -transfer very easy -matter of dragging and dropping and using Moboplayer for movies originally shrunk for iPad. As an Evernote appliance, it shines for note taking and image viewing. It is the social network coordinator, and primary communicator. I have gone two days of heavy use without a hitch. Plus all the websites resisting the move to HTML5 (and thwarting Apple dominance) with Flash are now viewable in native Flash or compressed on Skyfire. The battery lasts a long time, will play about three Harry Potter length movies in a row.

  2. Well, I did it and have ordered a flyer based on the good reviews. I have wanted one since the ipad first came out, but my deep rooted dislike for apple/itune song and dance (I want copy and paste, no frills)

    Anyway, mine will be here tomorrow and I am like a kid just before christmas

    • you’ll really like it -the netflix and hulu apps run great and HTC has put out two over the air updates and we’re all waiting for Honeycomb (3.2) update which is already out for the 3G Flyer. The updating is a sign that the company intends to support this device, unlike many other Android manufacturers. the kindle app is the other one I am always on. Amazon Prime videos play but you have to update the Flash to the latest version. enjoy

  3. Pingback: The HTC Flyer -Review (a Kindle Fire alternative) -updated with Honeycomb! | saynotoiphone

    • I think the sweet spot is $200. I paid the early adopter’s tax, but lucked out as HTC has some real engineers that focused on stability. Gingerbread 2.3 ran extremely well on Flyer and I would argue that if you must have Hulu and Netflix apps run well, you should stay on Gingerbread. I expect Flyer to be supplanted soon and prices to drop.

      I really think that Apple is shooting itself in the foot by not releasing a 7 inch iPad. While I love my iPad 2, its just too heavy. It slammed into my face when I fell asleep while reading on it -ouch!

  4. Great, informative post. Thanks for it. I am a Flyer owner/lover and have a follow-up question I hope you’ll have time to answer:

    I use my Flyer primarily for Evernote (it has replaced paper and pen in nearly every meeting I attend!), browsing, some basic writing, video viewing. I’m sitting on the edge of the HC update and am wondering of the benefits outweigh the price you pay in screen real estate when you make room for the navigation bar.

    How bad in your opinion is the loss of space? What additional stylus functionality to.you actually get and use? What else does HC get you?

    I love what I have, and while I assume I’ll prefer it with the upgrade, I’ve been wrong before…

    Thanks on advance for any info you can provide.

    Pep Rosenfeld
    Amsterdam

    • You know, I have been off work this weekend and haven’t had a chance to use Evernote on the Flyer -mostly accessing it from my laptop. I will give it a try and update by tomorrow evening. Cheers.

      Okay, just tried it -I don’t know what you mean about losing screen real estate -the stylus based notebook works great.

      THE REAL TREAT IS THIS -
      The Stylus now works throughout the OS. It works instead of your finger -that was the awkward part of using the stylus in the past. The only thing I would want is a clip to put the stylus in my front pocket because now it is a fully functional pointer throughout Honeycomb rather than a fixture within the screenshot/annotation function and notebook.

      I also discovered that Evernote reads and indexes your handwriting for search -don’t know if they will convert to text.

      It all runs full screen. The stylus, to repeat, will also let you choose menu items and work outside the pen function. I just downloaded Autodesk’s Sketch Express -the STYLUS WORKS! No more meat stylus like I have to use on the iPad.

      see main post for an example of a sketch done with stylus on Sketch Mobile by Autodesk

  5. Thanks for the reply.

    When I mentioned losing screen real estate, I mean whatever screen you give up to get the the soft navigation bar. I love the 7″ screen, but it doesn’t seem like there’;s room to spare for a nav bar — especially for someone who does a lot of video viewing and browsing on the Flyer.

    That said, based on you not mentioning it, I’m betting you don’t find this a problem — and as you do a lot of video viewing, maybe I have my answer…

    Pep

    • No problem with the navigation bar -it’s a text strip on top and bottom -Google experimenting with layouts and it’s a bit confusing at first, but overall I like it. Sketch and video run full screen so not an issue. It’s not as real estate wasting as the Sense UI is in landscape and portrait -there is bunches of space not used because HTC wants a certain look -particularly in the transitions as you swipe.

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