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Summary:

Can an e-reader become a useful Android tablet? Yes, if its the Nook Color, which gained new features this week. Google also added video calls to Android smartphones, although it will take time before handsets see the update. Google Docs is available without a wait, however.

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Early in the week, one of the newest e-readers became the newest Android tablets in a sense. The Barnes & Noble Nook Color is great for reading e-books and is built upon Google Android’s mobile operating system, although you’d never know it due to the excellent interface that hides Android. The Nook Color gained more tablet features with a software update that adds a third-party app store, a useful email client, and support for Adobe AIR and Flash within the existing web browser application.

Once the update arrived, I quickly ran out to purchase a Nook Color and test it out. Overall, I’m very impressed by what this $249 device can do. My hands-on review of the Nook Color answers the question: Is the device an e-reader, a tablet, or both?

For folks who want to supplement e-reading activities with occasional checks of email or web use, the device is certainly worth the look. Power users can also use software hacks to root the device and run the full Android operating system, making the Nook Color an inexpensive double-threat.

Also this week, Google brought Android smartphones closer to parity with their tablet counterparts by adding support for video calls and chat through Google Talk. Handsets will need to run Android 2.3.4, which Google is first rolling out to its Nexus S phone; device manufacturers and carriers will have to follow suit on other devices.

Video chat isn’t exclusive to Google on Android phones, however. Fring has added four-way video calling, while Qik also went live with its video service for Android smartphones. Best of all, both of these services are cross-platform so you can call friends who have either Android or iOS devices.

Reading books and video chatting is nice, but some Android owners want to get work done too. That becomes a little easier now that there’s a dedicated and free Google Docs application available. The software allows for document editing and printing through Google’s Cloud Print service on supported printers.

Also handy is a document creation tool that uses the camera of a smartphone: Simply snap a picture of a physical document and Google will quickly scan it and create a document based on the text it sees, using Optical Character Recognition technology.

  1. Very nice

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  2. I was confused as to what was the better item….The Barnes and Noble Nook Tablet or The Android Tablets. Which is it?

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  3. Android is trying to get to the large tablet size (8-10″) without much success with 2.3 new desktop like UI. My advice to Google would be to still keep on raising the bar with the pocketable devices. We are not there yet!
    The landmark many of us (meaning me ;) are waiting for is something really usable in our pockets that can be used with a data only plan.
    I know Kevin that you are running along lately with the tab 7″ as that useful really mobile device. I am torn between saying 5″ is the magical size – or maybe 7″. Have seen videos of the Galaxy Reader 5″ (floating around – liked Charbax’s) and it looks amazing in size compared to the current 4″ Galaxy S and to a palm size. But its not 3G.
    What we need is a device that is mobile enough (<=7") preferably mobile (7" is mobile although not in pants pockets) and is sure to run 2.3(.4) eventually.
    Lately most manufacturers are zig-zagging. Dell has a 7" streak with 3G, but 2.3 is not sure to come (especially with their VERY poor track recored with Streak 5"). Samsung as stated will have soon 5" but no 3G.
    Ok so where I am going here? … to the point that Google's next device needs to address that exactly. As the original Nexus has. Pave the way. Show the future. Light the … you get that right?
    A 5"/7" device with wifi and 3G that we may finally use with JUST data plan! For that I am also getting back to the same points Kevin has raised before with me around Google Voice for everyone – meaning international, full connectivity between desktop and mobile, and the holy trinity of chat, voice and video.

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  4. I love this it’s great. Nooks are the best androids are, ehhh?

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  5. I am super pleased with the B&N Nook Color version 1.1 I just bought and highly recommend it as a browser tool, eReader, MP3 player, and read aloud to young children feature. What is missing is a simple way to add an external keyboard and a simple text app on which to do creative work (the on screen keyboard does not work for creators – neither does anyone else’s on screen keyboard work well either.

    Without ROOTing the nook what is the simple way to add an external keyboard, either bluetooth or mini USB? If there is no simple and reliable way to do this nook is crippled…… Any working ideas?

    Cecil

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  6. It’s very nice. I install android 3.0 in Nook Color. It even can play angry bird :p. Please check this Android 3.0 Tablet: Install Android 3.0 in Nook Color

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