Tag Archives: webos

HP TouchPad, Part Two: Hardware

Let’s be honest here: as many have said time and time again, there is no tablet market, only an iPad one. For reasons unbeknownst to myself, I (still) don’t own an iPad. It’s not that I don’t want one, it’s that an iPad is a pretty sizeable outlay1 for a product that has an unknown usage ratio. Irrespective of the reason I don’t (yet) own an iPad, I do own just one tablet; the HP TouchPad.

After what can only be described as a particularly enthralling acquisition saga, it was time to delve into the TouchPad itself, and — perhaps more importantly — its operating system, webOS.

The TouchPad is a pretty basic tablet, really. No fancy bells or whistles here. It looks almost exactly like the original iPad does, only with a few more curves at the edges instead of the bevelled edge of the iPad 1, and with a few side ornaments re-arranged.

If you’re holding it in the correct portrait orientation (home button on the bottom of the face of the device), the speakers are on the left hand side. Yeah, speakers, as in plural: the TouchPad features two speakers with Beats(TM) audio. I’m not entirely sure whether the Beats(TM) audio is a hardware thing or a software one — perhaps even a combination of both — although my suspicion leans towards the latter, due to the presence of a toggle in Sound preferences to turn Beats(TM) audio on or off. In any case, the resultant audio emanating from those tiny but stereo speakers is pleasant enough, even above-average. Like all small speakers, they lack only in any real bass; more than capable of getting the job done, certainly, but no aural pleasure device. I wouldn’t go so far as I call the sound quality of the TouchPad “tinny”, but it’s definitely nothing to write home about.

The rest of the TouchPad is pretty standard: there’s a sleep/wake switch on the top right just like the iPad, and a 3.5mm headphone jack on the top left, also just like the iPad. On the right side (when held in the correct portrait position as before), there’s even a volume rocker, just like the iPad. Notably absent from the TouchPad is a physical silent switch.

What’s interesting is that the side with the volume rocker has an equal-spaced slot on the bottom part of the device. Pushing the slot in pops out some little sliding tray — presumably this is the SIM card tray for the mythical 4G version of the TouchPad that never saw the light of day (officially, anyway).

Moving on to the front of the device: up the top you’ve got a truly mediocre front-facing camera (that, somewhat surprisingly, ranks in at 1.3 on the megapixel scale), something Apple didn’t think about putting in the iPad until the second version. A peanut-sized “home” button (which actually glows when you’ve got new notifications on the device, acting as a notification LED — something no iOS device has) and a 9.7-inch, 1024×768 resolution LED-backlit IPS display (pretty much identical to the display on the first iPad) round out the front of the most discontinued tablet with the shortest availability period by the company with more misdirection than not you’ve never seen.

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HP TouchPad, Part One: Acquisition

Part one of a two or three-part series on the HP TouchPad and webOS

If only HP weren’t one of the biggest names in tech. If only the right hand knew what the left hand was up to at HP. If only one of the most notable tech companies had a bit more direction, if only the tech giant had a little more vision, if only their major decisions weren’t seemingly decided by a roll of a d20 die. Maybe if they weren’t under the leadership of someone who wasn’t the best fit for the job.

If only, if only, if only.

If only HP had any idea what they were doing, then I might not have been able to experience (the really quite stellar at times) webOS.

I, of course, refer to the HP TouchPad, the second of two HP products in as many months. Only the TouchPad is a little different: it’s not insanely discounted like the MicroServers were, it’s actually discontinued, and HP were getting rid of them altogether in a never-to-be-repeated fire sale. $98 for the 16GB Wi-Fi only version, and $148 for the $32GB.

My story starts on a bus, like so many do. I was reading on one particular website about how HP Australia were also going to get in on the TouchPad fire sale action – you see, by this time the sales in the US had been going swimmingly for at least a few days after HP pulled the plug, and HP Aust apparently thought it a good idea to get a slice of this pie, too.

Anyway, I was on a bus (after handing in an assignment, I believe) reading about how the sole retailer of HP TouchPads in Australia were Harvey Norman, the electronics and basically-everything-else franchise, and about how they had been told by HP Australia that they were to sell it off, starting at 2pm. I made two short phone calls to two Harvey Norman stores in my area, who, naturally, had no idea what I was going on about, nor had they received any communication from higher up about any fire sale.

I got off the bus in town, and hurriedly told a colleague that the TouchPad fire sale was about to go down. We both agree that it’s a pretty fantastic deal for the money, and after i tell him I’m heading to HN to take a look around, he urges me to buy one for him — at this time it was about 1:30, perhaps 1:40pm, and I was still vaguely skeptical that this fire sale would even happen in little old Hobart. I walk the few blocks to the nearest Harvey Norman… only to e greeted with a line about 6 or so deep (nerds, every single one of them, with a few suits for good measure). “Is this the line for the HP TouchPad?” was met with excited grins and nods, taps on noses. Bingo.

1:50pm, and a HN employee comes and confirms that they will indeed be selling the HP TouchPad at the advertised prices. Cue sigh of relief from all the nerds in the queue, yours truly included. I begin working out whether I’ve got enough cash in my bank account for two TouchPads.

1:55pm, and a HN employee comes to tell us that there’s only a few 16GB models but plenty of 32GB stock. He also confirms that there’s a limit of one per customer; good news for me as I can now probably afford the 32GB model, but not-so-great news for my colleague who might miss out. I quickly call him and deliver the news. By this time the line is easily tens of people deep; not bad for good old’ Slobart, hey?

Fifteen minutes later, and I’m out the door. $148 poorer but with a pretty big grin on my face. A small rendezvous with my colleague reveals he sprinted the few blocks to the HN store after getting my call and managed to score himself a 32GB model, just like me.

His grin is just as large, too.

Don’t tell me it isn’t about the apps! (It is.)

I’m sitting here, thinking about the final touches of my ultra-mega Android wrap-up post, chilling out with Katy (Perry), and I realise, now more than ever, that it’s about the apps.

It’s always been about the apps.

Not about how many there are, or how many are fart apps, or or how many spam apps there are. None of that. It’s about the apps that you’ll use — yes, the platform matters, but the apps you’ll be using on a daily basis matter even more.

Looking back at my Android experience, not one app has been compelling enough for me to go “whoa, this is really cool!”. Not an app that I’d use daily, anyway. I mean, there’s a limit to how impressed you can be by a screenshot app, even if it is one of the best things about your Android device. Launcher Pro is great and all, but I’m relegating that to the domain of “a very nice advantage of Android” rather than anything else.

I mean, even Windows Phone 7 had the excellent 4th and Mayor Foursquare app. That was seriously good. I probably wouldn’t switch to WP7 purely for that app, but it would be a damn compelling reason to.

It’s apps like Tweebot that keep me on iOS. Apps like Instapaper. Elements. Verbs. Articles. See what I mean? I might not use some of these apps every single day, but the very fact that they’re on my device, ready for whenever and wherever my fingers need them to go, that’s what matters the most.

As much as the overall platform matters to the “bigger picture” — it’s about the apps, man. If there aren’t any really good apps in your App Store, Marketplace, or App Catalog — you better hope your web browser and email client is up to scratch.

Picking nits: why I’m skipping the Palm Pre

Don’t get me wrong. In many respects, the Palm Pre is a groundbreaking smartphone that portends the obliteration of the line between phone and full size computer. It joins the iPhone and arguably the Android devices as the only computer some people would ever need.

However, Palm missed a lot of the little things in this first release. It’s an admirable attempt, given what they’re shooting for, but the fact of the matter is that the devil is in the details, and Palm fumbled too many. Any one of the following items is easy enough to overlook in an otherwise stellar device. But the difference between, frankly, the Palms and the Apples of the world is that the Apples don’t miss over 20 of them. They add up to an annoying user experience more akin to Windows Mobile than the iPhone.

via Picking nits: why I’m skipping the Palm Pre.

An excellent, concise list about why the Palm Pre isn’t the next “iPhone killer” – instead, it’s just another chance for Apple to prove how awesome they actually are. XD

My favourites are the no scroll bars (which genius thought of that one?), no way to jump to the top or bottom of a long list (oops, huge oversight there), non-universal “universal search” (if you’re going to do it, do it right, like iPhone OS 3.0), copy and paste only in “editable” text fields (no, you can’t copy that text from the web page, or an email unless you forward the email first (cmon, l-a-m-e), no Street View in Google Maps (lulzor).

Favourite quote would have to be:

22. Easy to run into “can’t open a new card until you close some existing cards.” Say what you will about the iPhone and multitasking, but memory management generally isn’t something the user has to think about.

…and people wonder why the general public refer to “iPhone killers”. It’s really no surprise – in this day and age, there’s simply no way any company can catch up.

However, kudos to Palm for trying. Thanks for helping Apple stay ahead of the curve. 🙂