After spending close to 12 hours trying in vain to set up my work email on my Sylvania 7 in tablet, I went in search of an alternative. I was looking for a "larger" form factor than that of my iPhone 4 and the various iPod Touches we have lying around. I don't want to spoil either my iPhone or iPad with the work-issued exchange profile that makes the device clumsy with a 5 minute (might as well be 5 second) screen lock and other restrictions like mandatory passcode changing.
My goal was to shell out less than a Galaxy Tab 2 would cost, even if you count the $65 I spent on the Sylvania, without winding up with something gimpy and difficult to use or that flat out didn't work. I considered the Galaxy Player 3.6, 4, 4.2 and 5. I also considered the Amazon Kindle, Nook color and Pandigital Novel. I decided to avoid other "noname" tablets in the $139 range available at Microcenter because another gimp solution would get me close to the Galaxy Tab 2 out of pocket but I'd still be without a working device. I played around with the Galaxy Tab 2. It's very nice and I do like ICS better than either Gingerbread or Froyo. And to think it was lack of ability to get Froyo that drove me to go iPhone for my primary device in the first place.
This evening, I stopped at Best Buy and played with all the sub $300 tablets. I even spent a few minutes playing with the $329 Asus Transformer. The Nook color was nice but it ran a watered down OS. I already have a watered down OS on my Sylvania. I don't need another one. I skipped Kindle for this very reason. Next I played with the Novel. Another resistive touchscreen. Definitely not worth the $169 price. I discovered that a large part of the reason I wasted so much time on the Sylvania was the touchscreen. The touchscreen actually has to work for you to get something done.
First Impressions and Unboxing
So I asked about the Galaxy 5.0 and found I could get it for the online price in the store, a $30 savings. Done. I took it home and opened it up. I could post unboxing photos but Samsung has made a shameless ripoff of iPod Touch here. It's a white box. It is wrapped in plastic but unlike iThings, the plastic comes off in pieces and seems cheap. Samsung could go a little further to make the unboxing experience less frustrating. It only took 10 minutes to get my email (home and work) fully up and running on the thing.
Now that I can try both devices side by side, I definitely can say our IT guys have done a better job with the Android integration than they did with the iOS integration. But that's not saying much. So now I have the ability to tinker with iThings alongside recent Android things. I like some things better on Android. Like the wallpaper. On iOS, my wallpaper is screen sized. Not virtual sized and spanning 7 home screens. I like some things better on iOS. Like apps instead of widgets. Why do I need to "layers" of apps? One that is right up front and another that I have to hit "applications" to get to. In iOS, there are folders but they are less of a hassle than going two levels deep to find an app in Android. Then there's wallpaper. Did I say I liked it better in Android? Well I left out the part about it only works on the widget screens and not the app screens. What's up with that?
Then there's swype. I had to bail on Swype after less than 15 minutes. Why? Because a part of that time was spent being told I had not typed my password correctly and I was worried I might be running out of attempts. I switched to the Samsung keyboard and luckily what I type is what I get or I'd STILL not be logged in. I have Kindle on the thing and it's almost as readable as it is on my iPad. Almost.
I updated market to google play but I haven't bothered with the amazon app store (yet). I like that the photos I have in google+ / picasa "just show up" on the device (once I put in my account info). It's almost as nice as iCloud. I wonder how easy it is to get photos uploaded to picasa? I'll have to give it a try just to check. Contacts came down rather quickly (though not as quickly as iCloud). Of course the contacts are "old" because I gave up on trying to make Google contacts play nice with Address on OSX years ago. Perhaps it's time for another try just to check.
Thank God for EU regulations requiring micro USB charging. Even though the Player is not a phone, Samsung followed the path of least resistance and made it use micro usb, so I can use any of a dozen old chargers I have lying around. The Player feels thick. I mean really thick. It's not any thicker than my iPhone 4 in its case but it "feels" thick. Once a device begins to approach tablet dimensions, it needs to be seriously tapered at its edges and the Player is rounded but not tapered. I expect to toss it in my work bag so I can power it up and find my way to meetings while my work-issued laptop is trying to come out of hibernation.
When I view work email on my iPhone, it shows up in the default mail app. Not on the Player. There's a separate email app. And that app includes an attachment viewer. Nice. The same is true for calendar. There's a calendar app on the Player while my work events show up in my iOS calendar. I can accept meetings on my iPhone but so far I can't do so on the Player. As soon as I have enough functionality figured out, I'll jettison that awful profile from my iPhone and use the Player exclusively as my work email backup.
The rumors are going on and on about a larger iPhone. After using the Player, I say bring it on. My tired old eyes need a larger screen to enjoy all those pixels the Retina display can provide. Would I ever grab my Player on my way to a meeting instead of my iPad? Only if it was a work-related meeting. In fact, there should come a time I can often leave my PC at my desk and bring only the Player. It turns out I can toss it in the same pocket as my iPhone. I know I've said this before but... together they're still thinner than my Palm Treo use to be.
Don't panic. I'm not cooling off on Apple, I just added a device I didn't exactly "need" so I can "tinker." I should have gotten this much functionality for $65 from Sylvania but didn't so I had to break open the piggy bank twice for the same reason. Anybody want to buy a Sylvania tablet cheap?