In the beginning there were smartphones. Then came the smartphones with screens that got bigger and bigger until one morning we woke up and realized that these weren't smartphones anymore but tablets. Of course, there was confusion- we got devices such as the Dell Streak, that couldn't figure out what the hell it was; and devices such as the Samsung Galaxy Tab, that wanted really hard to be a tablet but could only come up with performance suited to a smartphone. All this while, the Apple iPad, the original tablet that started this process of evolution stood in the distant horizon, unique in its level of usability and design.
Scribe allows you to make annotations, sketch or write notes using the stylus like you would on a regular notepad.
The HTC Flyer now appears at this weird moment in time when the "others" of the tablet arena look to be on the cusp of finally attaining (or even overtaking) Apple's position as the premier tablet manufacturer (something similar also happened in the smartphone market when the Samsung Galaxy S was launched and emerged as a better product than the iPhone 3GS). Android 3.0 (Honeycomb) is being adopted by more and more newly announced tablets and dual-core processors seem to finally be able to provide the kind of horsepower that Android tablets and their features need. The Flyer stands tantalizingly close to this new era of Android tablets and offers some excellent new features that could serve as the mould that future tablets will follow. However, it's also held back by buggy software, lack of certain expected features and an expensive price-tag.
Maybe it's the fact that I've been regularly using the Apple iPad 2, but the HTC Flyer's screen feels a little small. 7-inches is no small number but looking at how smartphone screens are getting bigger, 10-inches has begun to feel like the right size for a tablet screen. The Flyer's display also offers a resolution of 1024x600 pixels and is capacitive in nature. HTC decided to not give the Flyer a dual-core processor and instead it has to stay content with one that's clocked at 1.5GHz. The Flyer also has 1GB of RAM and 32GB of internal storage that can be expanded by another 32GB using microSD cards.
Just so you know, unlike some other tablets, the Flyer can't be used as a phone. I can't begrudge that decision by HTC because I really don't see a tablet being bought to be used as a phone. However, other connectivity options are taken care of. The tablet offers Wi-Fi, GPS and 3G (HSDPA 14.4Mbps, HSUPA 5.76Mbps) support and uses a microUSB slot to connect to the PC. However, keep in mind that efficient charging will only happen if you use the charger that comes in the package.
The Flyer also has two cameras- the primary one on the back with auto-focus that can shoot 5MP photos and record 720p videos; and the secondary front facing one primarily meant for video chat.
As I mentioned earlier, the Flyer uses Android 2.3.3 (Gingerbread) rather than the made-for-tablets Android 3.0 (Honeycomb). The Flyer also uses the latest version of HTC's very own Sense UI that makes it look and work very similar to smartphones such as the Sensation and the Desire S. As expected, the Flyer works well with Google's mobile apps and can be packed with apps downloaded from the Android Market.
The Flyer comes pre-installed with the Polaris office suite that lets you view and edit files for Word, Excel and PowerPoint. There's also a Kobo e-book reader that works well and lets you buy latest books and download them to the device.
HTC Scribe: Draw, Sketch, Scribble, Write
Apart from the usual features you would expect from an Android tablet, the Flyer also boasts of the new Scribe feature. To make use of this feature, the Flyer comes bundled with a stylus (known as the "Magic Pen"). Scribe allows you to make annotations, sketch or write notes using the stylus like you would on a regular notepad. You can scribble on the screen within almost every app (except for videos and the camera) and the moment you tap the screen with the pen, the tablet takes a snapshot of the screen allowing you to scribble on it. If you are within the e-reader or a text document, holding down one of two buttons on the stylus let's you highlight text. Holding down the other button makes the pen work as an eraser allowing you to rub out your scribbles.
You also have plenty of options in terms of the kind of writing apparatus you want the stylus to function as. You can choose from options such as a paint-brush, a fountain pen, a sketch pen, a pencil etc. You can also choose the size of the nib and the color in which you want to write/scribble/draw. You can bring up these options anytime by tapping a touch sensitive icon at the bottom bezel with the pen. Scribe also works really well with the pre-installed Evernote app. Using the pen you can write out notes that will be synced to your Evernote folder online. There's no handwriting recognition though so whatever you've written in your chicken scrawl will not be transformed into clearly typed out words. HTC has ensured though that writing with the Magic Pen feels as close to natural as possible. Unlike when using a stylus on other devices, writing naturally in cursive on the HTC Flyer's screen results in actually readable text (this was very cool since my handwriting would put a doctor to shame). So, if you've got better handwriting - a very, very high possibility-, you will be able to put Scribe to great use.