This week saw the Mobile World Congress event wrap up in Barcelona, with a few new Android devices to look forward to. One confirmed an earlier rumor that HP was getting back in on the tablet market as the company introduced its Slate7 running on Android. The most appealing aspect of the product may be the $169 price tag because there’s not much to make this “me-too” tablet stand out from the crowd.
The Slate7 is another 7-inch tablet, competing against Google’s Nexus 7, the new Asus FonePad, Amazon’s Kindle Fire, Samsung’s Galaxy Tab 2 and others in this space. I can see why HP opted for a small slate as their comeback product: Some recent data indicates that smaller tablets will outsell larger ones in 2013.
HP used a fairly standard set of hardware in the Slate7. A 1.6 GHz dual-core chip powers the Android 4.1 device, which includes 1 GB of memory. The 7-inch touchscreen uses a 1024 x 600 resolution panel; the same res as my original Galaxy Tab back in 2010. Storage capacity is 8 GB of flash memory that can be expanded with a microSD card. A pair of cameras complete the product with the rear one offering a meager 3 megapixels. In short, this a low-priced product with old specs competing against similarly priced products with better specs. As I said when HP was rumored to re-enter the tablet market: good luck with that.
Also out of MWC are tablets that include cellular voice capabilities: The aforementioned Asus FonePad and new Samsung Galaxy Note 8.0 are two examples. I’ve said for some time that I think small tablets will replace smartphones, but I think we’re very early in that trend for two reasons.
Consumers can’t conceive of carrying a 7- or 8-inch tablet everywhere because the device is not as pocketable as a traditional smartphone. I certainly understand that situation. Yet, I carry a small tablet everywhere; in a pocket when I can and in the hand when I can’t. As I said on this week’s podcast, I think this is a situation that has to be experienced; not simply written off because it sounds like a bad idea.
The other issue, at least in the US, is how carriers control what devices actually connect to the cellular networks. My Samsung Galaxy Tab actually had voice capability in 2010, but US carriers stripped the functionality out of the device. In contract, international versions of the Tab worked just fine for voice calls. I’m not yet convinced that US carriers will support voice features in these new Android slates, but I hope I’m wrong.
Finally, I’ll be spending some time using Android on a completely different device this coming week: Google’s Chromebook Pixel. I’m finding that besides a superb web experience thanks to the high resolution display paired with an Intel Core i5 processor, the Pixel is a versatile laptop as well.
I’m already running a simultaneous instance of Linux alongside Chrome OS and thanks to the Android-x86 port, I can run Android on the Pixel as well. The touchscreen isn’t yet supported, so I’ll have to use the Pixel’s touchpad; not a big deal as it’s one of the best I’ve used on a laptop, rivaling that of my old MacBook Air.