Jumping into some of the core apps, again, while the tabletiness of Android 3.0 is lacking, HTC has done an excellent job of optimising the experience.
Take email. Viewed in portrait, the app is like any Android phone with a large list of emails which open to fullscreen when tapped upon. However, flip to landscape and you have a very serviceable split pane view for scanning your inbox on the left and viewing messages on the right. In actual fact the email experience falls down for rather more basic reasons like the tabbed interface being a bit complicated with far too many icons and menus onscreen at any one time.
Other messaging services include SMS, which uses the standard Android interface and shows messages in conversation style, and Google Talk. The presence of SMS is a nice bonus over most other tablets but you can’t, however, make a phone call, which probably shouldn’t come as a surprise.
As ever with Android, it’s easy to gather all your Contacts together by signing into your Gmail, Facebook and Twitter accounts or simply adding them manually. Once done so, the device does a good job of matching contacts so the same person on different services is listed as one entry. You can also create groups and it’s quick and easy to fire of a text message or email to everyone in one of said groups.
The Facebook and Twitter apps haven’t been optimised to the larger screen but nonetheless, they’re easy enough to use if you hold the phone in portrait.
What makes all these services particularly pleasurable to use is the onscreen keyboard which is fast, accurate and has good word prediction. We also like the presence of a keyboard minimising button and the four cursor keys running along the bottom – very useful for pin-pointing the cursor in a lengthy document. What’s so great, though, is that in portrait you can easily reach all the keys, just as you can on a phone. You can’t touch type when in landscape mode, as you just about can on an iPad but you can still do a decent six fingered approximation (index, middle and ring fingers of both hands).
The web browser has been given a slightly tablet-centric overhaul with better tab navigation than normal Android 2.3, but it’s not the near desktop like experience of Android 3.0. Nonetheless, the browsing experience itself is excellent. Web pages render very rapidly and look exactly as you expect. You of course get Flash video support as well, though as every we do recommend you switch this to ‘on demand’ to get the best performance and battery life. There is a bit of stuttering as you zoom in and out and move around a page, which takes the edge of the experience slightly but this is more of a cosmetic annoyance than a practical one.
As has been well established, the number of decent apps available for Android tablets (and Android phones for that matter) is still quite small despite the volume of apps overall so you simply can’t get hold of newspaper apps like The Times and The Telegraph like you can on the iPad. Nor are there as many games or other more slickly presented novelty or useful apps. Sadly, this doesn’t look like changing soon as app developers don’t yet see the money in it but we certainly hope and suspect this will change soon. In the mean time, there are still plenty of useful and entertaining apps to choose from, and with Android being more open than any other mobile OS you can really go to town on customising the device.