March is in full swing and things in the tablet world are definitely heating up. The Motorola XOOM has been out for just under two weeks, the iPad 2 is just days from launch, and talk of the BlackBerry PlayBook and Wi-Fi only XOOM heading to Staples in April is spreading about. Not only that, but there has been quite a bit of jive about the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 and 8.9 and HP's TouchPad. Let's not forget about HTC's Flyer either.
I know HTC is a popular brand when it comes to handsets. From their Sense UI down to the solid hardware, I absolutely love their phones. Despite all of them looking essentially the same and HTC not yet jumping on the dual-core bandwagon, their handsets remain fairly impressive and hype remains high. When it comes to tablets though, I'm not so sure they're going to fare so well; not at first.
While I can't really say the tablet market is diluted yet, it's well on its way. In a few months, choosing your tablet will like picking out your next car. The Flyer will be a Smart Car in a crowd of muscle cars. It's small, cool, and trendy, but slightly overpriced and not as efficient as proclaimed to be.
There are two sides to the pricing battle, and I'm not really trying to get into that. Smartphones are generally $500 and up without a contract. Tablets are scaled-up smartphones, thus yielding a larger price tag. The people on the other side of the fence are up in arms because it's a luxury item and they can't justify a less functional, $600 tablet over a laptop. Apple set a pretty low price for its starting point, and other tablet manufacturers are having a hard time matching that. Over time, manufacturers will find the proper place for tablet pricing and the market will fix itself – we hope.
A more legitimate argument is that the Flyer is supposedly shipping with an older operating system. Granted, it has been skinned by the tablet version of HTC's popular Sense UI, codenamed Sensation. However, that doesn't change the fact that it is running a version of Android that isn't optimized for tablets. After seeing the major differences Honeycomb brings, Gingerbread and Froyo are not something I want to deal with on a large display. Plus, you aren't going to get all of the benefits of Honeycomb, like tablet-optimized applications. Then again, all it would take is a single upgrade and everyone could be running Android 3.0. We all know how Android updating goes; never buy a device on the belief of a software update.
Software aside, the hardware seems somewhat disappointing as well. Save for the faster processor, its specs are on par with those of the original Galaxy Tab that launched in November of last year. It has a slightly better rear camera (5MP versus the 3MP of the Galaxy Tab), 32GB of internal memory, 1GB of RAM, and the same 4000 mAh battery.
Much like that of the smartphone world, there are tiers of quality: low-end, mid-range, and high-end. This is forming within the tablet world, too. Your have low-end tablets that are typically in the sub-$300 category with resistive touchscreens and lackluster specs. Devices like the Galaxy Tab border the line between mid-range and high-end, and the XOOM is obviously high-end, currently battling the iPad for tablet King. I'm prone to believe that the Flyer will fall in the mid-range sector.
In all honesty. I don't think the Flyer will be a bad buy. I have yet to own a HTC device that I wouldn't recommend. However, set at $600 and still – for all we know – months from release, there will be several other tablets with more future-proofed specifications, Honeycomb, and a more appropriate price tag. The Wi-Fi only XOOM is said to be hitting Sam's Club at $539. That's a larger, more powerful tablet (lacking a 3G or 4G radio) for $60 less.
I truly want HTC to blow me away. I've always been a big fan, but I'm losing interest as of late. With all of the tablet news heading our way, the Fyler just doesn't excite me in the least. Hopefully, HTC has something up their sleeve that will surprise us all, but I'm not holding my breath. Are any of you interested in the Flyer? Which would you buy? A XOOM for $539 or Flyer for $600?