Archive for Tablets

>ASUS Announces UX21, Tablets, Macbook Air Beware

ASUS UX21

>Apparently not satisfied with just announcing the Voltron-esque Padfone, ASUS also announced a few more devices. First up is the Eee Pad MeMO 3D, a 7″ IPS glasses-free 3D display running Honeycomb. What’s really cool about this guy is that it is 3G enabled. That’s nothing new, but tablets can’t exactly be used for phone calls very well. But it will be bundled with the MeMic bluetooth handset. The MeMic will allow you to take calls, control music, and a few other basic functions.

The other big device announced today was the UX21, an ultra thin laptop that will be going head-to-head with the Macbook Air. The laptop is built almost entirely out of aluminum, the trackpad made of glass, and only weighs 2lbs. There will be a few models, all running Windows 7, with the highest end rocking Intel’s Core i7 processors. In addition to that, you’ll get a SATA III Solid State Drive, allowing this thing to go from sleep to fully active in 2 seconds. Literally. ASUS claims that the battery can last up to a week when hibernating. No pricing was announced, but we’ll find out soon since this bad boy launches this September.

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>ASUS Makes Official the Padfone, Gives Us Little More Details

>As we told you yesterday, ASUS officially announced the Padfone. The fone will be a 4.3″ touchscreen, the Pad will have a 10.1″. For now. Basically, all of this is subject to change since there aren’t any working devices, just plastic mock ups. ASUS has said that it will be shooting for a holiday launch and that it won’t be running Honeycomb, so you’ll most likely be getting Ice Cream Sandwich. The fone will dock into the back through microUSB and microHDMI. The Pad is just a big screen with a microphone or two, a big speaker, and an extra battery. The fone part will still be doing all the processing. We’ll keep you posted as more details arrive!

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>How To Enable Netflix on (Almost) Any Android Device

>We’ve talked before about Netflix finally coming to Android, so when it did there was much rejoicing. That is until the fine print was read: Netflix Instant Stream is only enabled for select devices like the Droid Incredible, EVO, and Samsung Nexus S. Netflix is testing the app on other devices and updating the list of supported ones as much as they can, but with Android, where there’s a will, there’s a way. Or two ways.

The first is the easy one that doesn’t require you to root your device. First thing’s first, you’ll need to allow your device to install apps that come from outside the Market. To do this, go to your Settings screen, tap Applications, and check the Unknown Sources box.

Then, click here to download a slightly modified version of the official Netflix app. All that has been changed is Netflix’s device check. Your device won’t have to lie to Netflix about what model it is, this Netflix app doesn’t ask. The only downside to this method is you won’t get notified of updates to the app, so you might miss out on new features and bug fixes.

The second method requires you to root your phone. How you do this is up to you (check XDA-developers.com for instructions), but keep in mind that it does void any warranties you have, and it is possible to permanently screw up your device. Tech Made Relevant takes no responsibility for any issues.

Now that your phone is rooted and you’ve read that legal disclaimer, download ES File Explorer. There are other file explorers that will work, but make sure they have a built in text editor as well. You’ll need it later.

In ES File Explorer, go into the settings and check the box that allows you to access and edit the root files (Mount R/W). Exit the settings and go to /system. You should see a file named “build.prop”. Press and hold on it and select Copy. Paste it somewhere else for safe keeping and go back to the original under /system. Click on it and edit the following:

Find the line labeled “ro.product.model=” and change whatever is after the equal sign to either “HTC Vision” or “Nexus S” (without the quotes, but it doesn’t matter which one you use)

Now find the line labeled “ro.product.manufacturer=” and change whatever is after the equal sign to “HTC” or “samsung” (Again, no quotes, but if you used “HTC Vision” in the first step, use “HTC” here. Same for “Nexus S” and “samsung”).

Now save the file and restart your device. Open up the Netflix app and start streaming! If you still get the “Device not supported” message, try uninstalling and reinstalling the app. Now this still isn’t a fool-proof solution since all Android devices are different. We have personally tested this on a Nook Color and it works great. Let us know in the comments if you have successfully tried this on other unsupported devices or if you have any difficulty!

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>HTC EVO 3D and View 4G Preorders Are Go!

>Are you looking for your next Sprint upgrade? Just have an affinity for 3D screens? Or do you love HTC so much you need their tablet? Good news then. Sprint is now officially accepting pre-orders for both the HTC EVO 3D and the HTC Flier 4G. Strangely, RadioShack and Target Mobile beat them to the punch on the EVO 3D preorders, but all three places will take just $50 of your pocket money for the guarantee of getting a device on Day One. Problem is, no one knows when Day One for either device is. Or how much they will actually cost come Day One. But no matter when and for how much, you’ll get one that day, and the $50 is put towards the purchase price.

To recap, the HTC EVO 3D is the US’ first 3D phone, with a 4.3″ qHD screen similar to the 3DS. No glasses required. You also have a 1.2GHz dual-core processor to help handle the dual 5 megapixel cameras on the back for 3D pictures and video. It will run HTC’s newest version of Sense on top of Android 2.3. The Flyer is HTC’s first tablet, rocking a 7″ screen and Android. What sets this one apart is that you can also buy a special stylus for input, making it very easy to draw and write notes.

So who’s getting one?

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Top Alternative Keyboards for Android

One of the best things about Android is the level of customization that it allows you on pretty much every level of the device. Almost every detail of the device can be changed, and the keyboard is no exception. But there are so many alternative keyboards out there that it becomes difficult to figure out which one is worth your time (and money). So here’s a short list of some of the best alternative keyboards and what makes them worth it.

Swype
Swype is normally the first to come to mind when discussing different keyboards. The idea is simple: You want to type the word “Hello”. Instead of tapping the H then the E then the L and so on, you press the H, keep pressing the screen, and drag your finger to the E and so on. While this takes a little getting used to, it makes for some of the fastest typing you can do. Literally. The current world record holder for texting (yes, there is such a thing) typed the sentence “The razor-toothed piranhas of the genera Serrasalmus and Pygocentrus are the most ferocious” on a Samsung Omnia II in just 35.54 seconds (I got 45 seconds, not too shabby! Feel free to post your results, because you know you want to try it). Swype’s word prediction is really solid, and if it is not sure what you tried to say, it pops up a box with different possibilities. Any words you tap out are also saved to the dictionary for future use.

Swype only has 2 major problems. The first is that it is still in beta. As of this writing, it’s open, so you don’t have to wait to download it. In the past, they have closed it, meaning if you don’t grab it now, you may have to wait later. Recently it has started coming preinstalled on many phones, but if yours doesn’t have it, go here to sign up for it. All of the other keyboards discussed in this post can e found in the Market. The other issue is that words are annoying to delete from the dictionary. If you type anything incorrectly, it gets saved in the dictionary and may replace what your actually meant to Swype by default. To delete the typo for good, you have to double-tap on the word, press the little Info button on the keyboard, and click OK on the dialog. Its just a process that could be streamlined. Overall Swype is incredibly cool and very speedy. Definitely worth the download.

Note: Swype normally is gray with a blue line following your finger. My version is a hacked version, courtesy of myn’s Warm TwoPointTwo ROM for the HTC EVO 4G.

SwiftKey
SwiftKey doesn’t look or act very different from the stock keyboard. What’s special about it is under the hood. SwiftKey features one of the most advanced word prediction algorithms to date. While it does feature the keyboard, the philosophy behind SwiftKey is to press as few buttons as possible. SwiftKey learns from what you type and not only does it’s best to figure out what you are typing as you type it, but also what you might type next. For example, I want to type “I am going to go to the mall.” That’s 29 characters I would type. SwiftKey reduced those 29 key strokes to 13. And the more I type that sentence, the less buttons I’ll actually press because it learns that after I say “going” a “to” is sure to follow.

SwiftKey doesn’t offer that much customization, which is fine since the goal is to not type much anyway. Other than that it is a very solid keyboard choice. If you’re interested, SwiftKey can even show you how much it has helped you in it’s Usage Statistics. I used it for around a week or so and it saved me 1087 keystrokes, making me 12% more efficient! There’s a free version on the Market if you want to give it a shot. The full version is on sale right now for $2.

8pen
And now for something completely different. 8pen changes the concept of a keyboard as we know it. The developer’s philosophy is that the QWERTY keyboard was made at a time when we had large typewriters. It made sense back then, but it doesn’t now. A small touchscreen is much better for a single finger to use sweeping gestures than tapping small boxes. Enter 8pen, the weirdest keyboard I’ve ever laid eyes on. Let’s say you want to type “Hello.” You start at the big black circle in the middle of the X. The H is the second letter located down and to the right. You would slide your finger down then drag it counter-clockwise of the black dot. Passing the yellow line will select the T before the H. Sliding past the red line selects the H. Now drag your finger back to the black dot. You’ve now typed the H. The E is down and to the left, so you repeat the same process you did for the H, but you slide clockwise instead.

Seems convoluted, right? That’s because you’re not used to it. I spent a good week and a half using 8pen almost exclusively. There’s a very steep learning curve because we’ve grown so used to the QWERTY keyboard. If you can get used to it, you do get quite speedy. Not quite as fast as Swype, but still pretty fast. Since describing it is difficult, check out the video below (courtesy of 8pen). The good news is that 8pen is now a totally free application, so your wallet won’t hurt if you try it. Your brain might though.

Thumb Keyboard
Finally, we have Thumb Keyboard. While you won’t see anything here as odd as 8pen, it does still change the traditional QWERTY keyboard around a little. Thumb Keyboard takes a cue from many ergonomic keyboards by splitting the keyboard in half. But instead of angling it for our hands, Thumb Keyboard makes it easier for our most useful digits by making those middle keys easier to get to. Thumb’s main draw is the amount of customization it provides. In addition to the different keyboard skins (emulating keyboards from Honeycomb, Gingerbread, even Windows Phone 7, as seen above), Thumb allows you to change between 6 different portrait keyboards and 5 landscape ones. You can even customize it so that you have different styles for the different orientations (something I’ve long wanted). Some of the different layouts have been specifically designed for different tablets as well. There are keyboards that are optimized for both 7 and 10 inch tablets, something I have been disappointed in manufacturers for not doing themselves. Devices that size just weren’t made for thumb typing, and they aren’t quite big enough for most people to type as they would on a computer. Cutting the keyboard in half really helps even the most opposable of thumbs by eliminating the painful stretch to the pesky Gs and Hs. This app is perfect for phones, Xooms, and Galaxy Tabs alike. You’ll find it on the Market right now for just $1.87.

How To Start Using Them
So you downloaded an alternative keyboard, but when you go to type something, the stock keyboard still pops up. You have to do a few things first. If you click on the keyboard in your app list, it will usually take you through the setup up. In case it doesn’t, go to your Settings (Menu > Settings from the homescreen) and click on Language and Keyboard. You should see your newly installed keyboard on the list there. Make sure the box next to it is checked to activate it. You can also access the keyboard settings from this menu. Now go to where you want to type, and bring up the keyboard. Press and hold on the space you’re wanting to type in and a pop up menu will show up, one of the options being “Input Method”. Clicking on that will give you a list of all the activated keyboards you have. Click on the one you want, and start typing!

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Editorial: The Only Tablet Game Worth Playing is the Waiting Game

On Friday, the iPad 2 will launch. As soon as I get my hands on one, I’ll do a quick personal review, but the professional ones are in and they are overall quite positive. I’ve been thinking about the iPad, my Nook Color, and the tablet space in general a lot lately and the conclusion I’ve drawn is this: Now is the absolute worse time to buy a tablet.

The iPad 2 will do doubt sell like crazy like the original iPad did, since it largely just added a few things that the original should have had anyway. I’ve had a few people ask me my thoughts on it and my answer remains the same from the first one: As far as the tablet market goes, it is easily the most polished and finished product, but it still lacks a lot of basic functionality that would truly make it a hard to beat product. When asked about the host of Android tablet, both past, present, and upcoming, I say this: They pack some functionality that the iPad lacks (Flash support) and gives you a lot more choice in hardware, but the user experience is nowhere near that of their Apple competitor. The final thought on tablets is this:

There are two important things to consider. The first is that the tablet space is a new thing on the consumer market. While tablet PCs have existed for many years, they all ran some version of Windows that was even less optimized for a touch interface than Windows 7 is, which is to say not very optimized at all. Tablets aren’t really necessary. They don’t hit the full capacity of a laptop to do work and browse the full web, and they don’t really offer the portability that you get with a smartphone. Like the smartphone market, you are going to see some very rapid expansion, if not at a faster pace than smartphones. While that iPad 2 looks nice now, you may find yourself getting some serious tablet-envy in a few months when a few more Android tablets, the BlackBerry PlayBook, and the HP Touchpad drop.

We’ve seen other Android tablets before fall short before, but Honeycomb will be some big competition once it reaches maturity and fixes a few weird UI issues. BlackBerry’s offering will be great for people who want a smaller screen (7 inches instead of the 9-10 inch range), and there is a big possibility that it might run Android apps. The HP Touchpad will pack WebOS, which has a much better chance of succeeding under HP’s direction than it did Palm’s. Another huge plus the Touchpad will have is something HP recently announced, that ALL computers it ships in the future will run both Windows AND a WebOS variant. This may allow for a very awesome ecosystem of having all the same functionality and information across all of your gadgets.

The other big problem I see with the tablet market as a whole right now is one that Apple got right again: Contracts. Carriers want you to get a contract with their service, ensuring that you have that tablet with them for 2 years. While smartphones get better over time too, they aren’t evolving as fast as what the tablet market will most likely do. And if the tablet space is just a fad without much staying power, you’ll be locked in regardless. If you’re going to buy a tablet and want 3G/4G connectivity, fine. But it is definitely not a good idea to get a contract along with it when you can get the same plan without.

The tablet landscape is a very new one, one that has yet to truly find its legs. While the iPad 2 might be the best there is yet, that doesn’t mean it’s a good buy quite yet. Hopefully the iPad 3 will pack a lot more PC-like functionality, and hopefully the rest of the manufacturers will realize that they’re getting their butts kicked and show us how a tablet is supposed to be done. Regardless of how it all ends, paying $500+ for something that will be much more obsolete than your laptop will in a year or two’s time might not be the best unless you have the money to burn on a new one.

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RIP Palm or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the HP Bomb

Today, HP had a huge conference unveiling 3 new products, all attempting to reinvigorate the WebOS operating system. The only thing absent from the conference was any mention of Palm, who made WebOS and the Pre, which ultimately failed to sell. It looks like HP, who bought Palm last year, is trying to erase the memory of Palm to bring WebOS back to the spotlight anew.

First off, we have the HP Veer, a very small phone that is the lower end of the WebOS line. It features a 2.6 inch touchscreen and slides up to reveal a small keyboard that will look and feel familiar to Palm Centro users. You also have a 5MP camera (no flash), 8GB of internal storage, and an 800MHz processor, which is all you need for the virtually lag-free WebOS.

Next, the flagship Pre 3. This one has an iPhone sized 3.5 inch touchscreen (just a bit bigger than the Pre 2), and slides up for the keyboard as well. One nice addition is the on-screen keyboard, which was missing on previous versions. The processor is a beastly 1.4GHz processor which will help out with recording in 720p on the 5MP camera. It will come in both 8 and 16GB increments, though which carriers and when weren't discussed for both the Veer and Pre 3.

The big news is the WebOS tablet, the HP TouchPad, that was announced to compete with the iPad and high end Android tablets coming out. It has a screen almost identical in size and clarity to the iPad, has a faster 1.2GHz dual-core processor than the iPad and upcoming Motorola Xoom's 1GHz, and has a front facing camera which will be used for Skype and other video conferencing services. It will come in 3G and 4G variants, but again no mention as to which carriers will have it. The first model launched will be WiFi only and it will have 16 and 32GB versions.

The biggest allure of these devices to me are the connectivity possibilities that HP included. If you connect the devices through Bluetooth, you can use what they call Touch to Share. By simply physically touching a Pre 3 to a TouchPad, whatever website was loaded on one device will be opened on the other.

The tablet wars are definitely heating up, and even if you don't want a WebOS phone, the TouchPad should be seriously considered by potential tablet buyers.

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