Tablets Guide

HTC Flyer review

HTC Flyer - First HTC Tablet Takes Off

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Pilots and Cabin Crew of the Flyer 

HTC chose to run Gingerbread OS on the Flyer instead of Honeycomb OS. For those who are not familiar with the tablet scene, previous Android tablets were running Froyo, which was not optimized for use on larger screens. The user experience was less than fantastic and felt like an over-sized smartphone. Fortunately, you will not get to live through this again on the Flyer. HTC furnishes the Gingerbread OS with its customized user interface, the Sense 3.0.The HTC Sense 3.0 user interface is very much different from what you will see in its existing line of smartphones. The Sense 3.0 touts a number of changes that will make the user experience on the Flyer comparable to that of Honeycomb tablets.

First and foremost, the lock screen is now represented by a ring at the bottom of the screen. To unlock the screen, you have to swipe upwards. There are also four customizable icons above the ring, which allows you to change the app shortcuts according to your preferences. HTC adds in a new functionality to the lock screen by allowing you to not only unlock the screen, but also activate the respective app. This is done by pulling the icon into the ring.

Once you unlock the screen, you will see eight home screen panels spinning for about a second. The bottom panel has five shortcuts, which are the app launcher, the Notes app, the Reader app, the HTC Watch app and Personalization shortcut. This panel can also be customized by dragging any app in and out. 

To scroll through the eight home screen panels, you have three ways of doing so. You can scroll through the panels one by one from any direction, or you can press the Home button to see the overview of all panels. These two methods are typically found in smartphones and tablets too. HTC improves this by adding yet another option by allowing you to spin through all the home screen panels when you swipe faster.

These 3D-like animations and customization options add a degree of modernization to the Gingerbread user interface, which are on par with Honeycomb in certain aspects. However there are areas where the HTC Flyer can improve upon, most notably the multi tasking interface and the virtual QWERTY keyboard presentation which we'll explain below.

If you want to see what apps are running in the background on the Flyer, you have to press and hold the Home button. The multitasking tab is no different from that seen in Android smartphones. Although it shows ten active apps instead of five on Honeycomb tablets, we still prefer the much more visual thumbnail view of the apps running in the Honeycomb OS.

Another area which needs improvement is its virtual QWERTY keyboard presentation. Although the Flyer has a 7-inch screen that does allow for a bigger and roomer keyboard, we feel HTC can do better with a less cluttered keyboard. The Honeycomb OS features a redesigned keyboard which gives a better touch typing experience, as seen in our Motorola Xoom review. Don't get us wrong, the virtual QWERTY keyboard on the Flyer is fine based on the screen size but there is definitely room for improvement.

The Flyer comes with a unique feature unseen in other tablets, which is the HTC Scribe technology. HTC Scribe is developed by the company to add a new dimension of interactivity on the touchscreen. According to HTC, the screen on the Flyer can only recognize the electrical component in the HTC Pen. In the words of HTC, the Scribe technology is the use of  "integrated digital ink innovations", where the Pen interacts with the screen of the Flyer via electric signals. To function as such, the HTC Pen actually runs off AAAA-type battery and as seen in the picture below, has added functions on the Pen itself. Because of the way the HTC Pen is tightly integrated to the HTC Scribe technology featured on the tablet, it is impossible to use third-party styluses on the Flyer. As such, you should store the HTC Pen safely, for each replacement is said to cost just below S$100 (price yet to be confirmed at the point of writing).

With the HTC Pen working in conjunction with the HTC Scribe technology, you can write notes, sktech graphs and draw/doodle in a more natural way. In addition, you can use the HTC Pen to tap anywhere on the screen to capture screen shots and immediately add on your notes, sketches, etc. This latter functionality is something that few Android devices can achieve unless you download the software development kit (SDK) to do so.

You can use HTC Scribe in a number of applications such as the Notes app, Reader or Internet browser. 

Besides the HTC Pen, the Flyer also comes with exclusive apps such as the Timemark and HTC Watch. Both apps serve to enhance the functionality and differentiate the Flyer from the legion of Android tablets. Timemark enables you to record audio from meetings and conversations at any point you want to. This is especially useful when you are in an important meeting or lecture, where audio recordings can help refresh your memory on critical points mentioned. 

HTC Watch is a video on-demand download service available on the Flyer. It utilizes progressive download technologies that allow you to play movies almost immediately. This means that you do not have to wait for the file to finish downloading before watching it. Currently, there is only a "lite" version of HTC Watch available on the Flyer, which restricts you to watching movie trailers. You can expect a full version by Q4 of this year.