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.