Alongside its two new G9 Android tablets, Archos has launched the Home Connect and Home Phone, two other Android devices that are a little out of the ordinary. One is a DECT home phone with smartphone aspirations, the other a bedside alarm clock radio that takes a few design cues from game controllers. What do we think? Is Archos crazy or are these two slices of genius?
The Archos Home Connect is one of just a few devices that really strays from the Android norms of smartphones and tablets. It's an odd blend of bedside alarm clock, kitchentop internet radio and handheld games console.
To each side of the 3.5in touchscreen sit fairly large (for a diddy device) speakers, qualifying this as a portable radio-like gadget. The busy demo room we tested out the device in wasn't the optimum place to assess sound quality, so we'll wait to get a review unit in to test its sonic skills.
The screen uses a resistive touch layer, and so doesn't feel hugely responsive under your fingertips. The Home Connect's design encourages two-thumbed usage, its back curved ergonomically to accommodate the rest of your digits. In this sense it's rather like a handheld games system of old - like a Sega Game Gear, without the buttons. Unlike a Game Gear, it won't guzzle up all your AA batteries. It uses an internal rechargeable battery, letting you take it outside for barbecues or days out at the park, and so on. On the back are the Home Connect's small collection of sockets and ports. There's a 3.5mm headphone jack, full-size USB port, microSD card slot and the power button.
A key feature, in Archos's eyes, of the Home Connect is internet radio, which will require a Wi-Fi network as there's no 3G connectivity packed-in. This is powered by the TuneIn Radio app, so it's not really Archos's doing. It has simply provided a form that allows the app to shine a little more brightly than it does in a smartphone.
Archos's notion of the Home Connect as a baby monitor is a similar deal. Archos has tweaked the settings within Google Talk so that you can use the Home Connect's user-facing camera to look over your kids. It's simply a case of making the device respond to video calls automatically. Simple when you think about it, but not something we could imagine this Android gadget will be used for a great deal.
Is Archos clutching at straws for uses for something that's something of an uneasy fit in the busy consumer electronics space? Perhaps. Although the Archos 35 Home Connect's Android OS makes it wonderfully flexible, at £120 it has to take on a lot of competition, including the Squeezebox Radio, Nintendo DSi, iPod Touch and others. And like many non-phone Android devices, it doesn't have full Market access. Convergence in a smartphone is one thing, but convergence in a larger device that has to be moved about between various jobs is something else. Disagree? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.