Apple's iPad is still king of the tablet hill, despite a swift-growing army of competitors led chiefly by Samsung. But two Asian firms that we've heard lots about recently have just revealed their iPad challengers and we, and possibly Apple, should take some note because both firms have leveraged their considerable mobile device expertise to make something rather interesting.
HTC's tablet is a 7-inch unit with a "super LCD" touchscreen, sporting Android 2.4 and powered by a 1.5 GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon CPU. Its aluminum unibody design borrows unashamedly from Apple's design ethic, and at just under 7.7 inches long, 0.5 inches deep and weighing just under a pound it's a diminutive challenger for the iPad that seems to pack more processing punch.
Inside there's 1GB of operating RAM, a 5-megapixel camera on the rear, front-facing 1.3-megapixel unit for video conferencing, and all the usual Wi-Fi, 3G, and Bluetooth connectivity options.
But it's HTC's Sense UI and Scribe apps that you should pay attention to. HTC's Sense has been impressing the smartphone industry as an attractive, powerful UI layer on top of bog-standard Android, and it's had a revamp for HTC's entry into the tablet game. One feature that's particularly tablet-friendly is the carousel selector for quick app selection.
HTC's also building in pen-support to the Flyer, with HTC's bundled Scribe system, so you can take notes, draw pictures and diagrams and so forth on the tablet more accurately than is possible with your finger. To complete the student-friendly image, there's also a "Timemark" app that lets you record audio clips and then sync them in time to your written notes—it sounds perfect for lectures. There's also HTC's new Watch service for streaming HD movies, along with support for OnLive's cloud-based gaming system.
In other words, HTC is aiming this beast at students who don't want to ferry around a bigger, heavier iPad, and loading it up with apps that'll boost their studying as well as playtime. The catch must be the price, you're thinking—but you're wrong. Estimates pin the launch price at around €500 (around $670), which is comparable to Apple's current 3G-enabled iPad price.
Huawei's Ideos Slim S7
The S7 is another 7-inch Android device, this time running Android 2.2 Froyo on its 480 by 800 pixel capacitative multitouch screen. It's a "next-generation" device, according to Huawei, which is "now more streamlined for easier portability"; reports indicate it's less than half an inch deep. It too has 720p HD video playback, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, and 3G connectivity but some indications suggest the S7 can also place phone calls, a trick few of its peers can carry off.
The main trick behind the S7, however, is its price: It's due in April for "under $300."
At this price the device is likely to turn a few heads, as long as it looks and feels like a valuable tablet—something that should be possible since Huawei's behind many of those resilient USB 3-G mobile internet sticks we're all familiar with.
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