The HTC Flyer launched earlier this year and recently became one of the newest tablets with 4G service from T-Mobile USA. T-Mobile sent us a review unit of their HTC Flyer with a 4G ready simcard that allowed us to test the speed and service they offer. The HTC Flyer from T-mobile is one of the increasing list of tablets to enter the tablet market with Android OS used by different vendors on their mobile devices. Those offering tablet devices are trying to cater to both the enterprise and consumer market but out of the box tend to fall short on security standards for safe enterprise use. That gap is currently being met by 3rd party applications and email management systems which allows companies more control over the sensitive data stored on these mobile devices. At this point that is still a growing market, with companies like RIM trying to move from a enterprise mindset to offering devices that are more consumer friendly whereas Android devices are consumer driven trying to enter the enterprise market.
Overview: HTC Flyer From T-Mobile
The HTC Flyer is a slim portable 7” device a bit smaller than the BlackBerry PlayBook because of the extra bezel space on the PlayBook that uses gestures which is one feature the Flyer lacks. The Flyer is running on Android 2.3 Gingerbread ingle-core 1.5GHz processor, paired with 1GB of RAM allows for speedy multitasking. It features a 1.3 megapixel front facing camera for video chat or self pictures, and a 5 megapixel camera for recording HD videos. The 1024 x 700 pixel resolution capacitive touchscreen display also works with a stylus, the HTC Scribe Pen.
If you have used an HTC android device is is almost looking at oversized HTC Sensation. HTC uses a customized UI over the android OS called HTC Sense UI this is one of the reasons why the Android OS looks different from vendor to vendor. Using different Android devices I find the HTC Sense UI more user friendly and provides the user a more fluid experience.
HTC Scribe Stylus Pen:
The main difference with this table is the stylus, which connects wirelessly to the Flyer, and enables you to annotate, highlight and erase in supported apps. It offers a measure of pressure sensitivity very different from other stylus. The stylus does not work for pressing and selecting apps, it only allows you to write, and erase or draw within the application. A button on the tablet allows the user to simply turn off the connection to the pen. Another cool feature with the tablet and the stylus is that the note application automatically syncs with your evernote account. Note that the scribe pen is not included with the device but you can purchase it separately.
Unlike the BlackBerry PlayBook the HTC Flyer and android devices offer a range of different ways to connect and receive e-mail. Android devices have active sync from Microsoft similar to BES on the BlackBerry but this is all included on the OS. Active Sync allows the user to sync e-mails, contacts, and appointments from one device to the other. The e-mail experience is not on par with how BlackBerry devices do e-mail but it is better than none. Other methods methods include 3rd party e-mail clients including K-9mail, Kaiten Mail, Exchange By TouchDown Key, Enhanced Email, among other options that can be downloaded via the amazon android market or Android Market. This allows android users to connect to to their companies exchange server. The Flyer also comes with a native android GMail App that gives users a close to Gmail on PC experirence.
Connectivity Other options users have to connect their HTC Flyer to e-mail servers include POP3 and IMAP. The setup for both IMAP and POP3 is the same this allows the HTC Flyer to receive POP3 email server for incoming email, and an SMTP server for outbound email.
Options within the app include
- Set Email check frequency
- Set Default account
- Set Email notifications
- Select Ringtone
- Incoming settings (to modify IMAP or POP3 server settings)
- Outgoing settings (to modify SMTP server settings)
- Includes refresh, compose, folders, accounts and account settings.
The email experience is solid not on par with that of BlackBerry but it does offer options that does not require extra or special data plans such as BES. The main features of e-mails are there but if you go from a BlackBerry to android you will find yourself missing little features that make BlackBerry e-mailing so much easier. One thing that I found myself missing right away was the option to delete only from BlackBerry devices and keep original copy on the server. Features such as this is why BlackBerry simply does a better job foe the power user.z
The Flyer can connect using any available Wi-Fi network, or you can sign up for ta data plan that includes T-Mobile’s fast 4G Speeds. For those that are constantly on the road this option is probably your best bet.
The HTC flyer connects to T-Mobiles fast 4G network, allowing users to stream video, download content on the go at almost the same speeds regular DSL home networks offer. While using the Flyer I was able to stream videos, and watch Netflix with hardly any buffering issues.
Flash and page rendering:
The HTC Flyer like any other android device is capable or rendering flash enabled websites and video. The Flyer was able to run most websites without any issues but compared to the BlackBerry PlayBook the PlayBook takes the win. The Flyer crashed a few times when running heavy flash content sites and streaming video. The PlayBook since it has flash integrated with the OS does a much better job processing and streaming video content. That is not say the Flyer can’t do it, it just doesn’t do as good of a job as the PlayBook.
Most websites that have mobile sites enabled usually redirect the Flyer and any other mobile device to the mobile site. The Flyer does a good job rendering full websites and the browsing experience is good.
Third Party Apps:
Android ecosystem offers an array of both free and paid applications that allows users to stay connected to social networks, news content, and blogging. Android offers quite a few different browsers to choose from aside from the native browser. Some of the browser include Dolphin Browser, Opera, and Bolt Browser.
Some of the basics that an a company will look for in a mobile device is the ability to monitor, restrict or enforce IT policies, remote wipe, and push content to a workers phone. Android covers most of the basics but there is still some work they need to do to compete with the standards RIM has set when it comes to security. Android is base on open source which means the code is available where savvy users with enough time on their hand can dig into the inner workings of the OS. That means that Android has potential for easy access to root the device. This may discourage some companies to use Android for enterprise. Google has taken some steps to make Android more secure through application-sandboxing, and offers document editing applications.
Android allows users to connect to corporate data via VPN and 3rd party vendors offer Enterprise management systems that allows corporations to manage private data on their workers devices. One of those 3rd party applications include.
Overall android offers a less expensive option for small businesses and users who want to have their own device for business use. The HTC Flyer is a slick 7” tablet that offers a close resemblance to the BlackBerry PlayBook if portability is a key feature for you. The other parts that make this tablet a close competitor for the PlayBook is that it allows users to have the option of connecting with a data plan with fast mobile speed. The HTC flyer allows users to share their data over mobile hotspot connection. This is something the PlayBook lacks until a 4G device is released.
While Android is a good option and has the app category covered the PlayBook is going to be able to use some of those applications.
Pricing: T-Mobile has been offering the HTC Flyer to enterprise customer for a while at $299.00 on a two year contract which is lower than what the PlayBook has been selling.
The fact that Android already has all those features RIM has a tough job ahead just to catch up. Native apps are months away and their success will depend whether they can make a solid delivery on PIM apps, with a user experience similar if not better than it is on Android.