Archives for: July 2010

2010-07-13

Permalink 10:08:37, by Eric Baber Email , 973 words, 20565 views   English (EU)
Categories: News, Articles

Thoughts on the Dell Streak

Yesterday I received a Dell Streak and already like it a lot. I thought I'd put down a number of impressions in writing.

For those who are unfamiliar with it, the Streak is a bigger-than-a-phone-smaller-than-the-iPad device that calls itself a "tablet". It's got a 5"/12.7cm screen, which makes the whole thing just barely fit into a shirt pocket. It'll very comfortably fit into a jacket pocket though, and it somehow feels like it's aimed at the type of person who would be wearing a (suit) jacket.

One of the first thing that strikes about it is the fact that it's designed to be used in landscape mode, unlike most phones, which are designed to be used in portrait mode. The physical home, menu and back buttons are down the right-hand side, and the home screen is always displayed in landscape mode and doesn't rotate unlike any of the other screens, so it immediately tells you what the whole machine is about - consuming content, basically, rather than making phone calls. Yes it's also a phone but my guess is that you'd look pretty silly with it stuck to your ear; used as a phone it would definitely look like a throwback to the first carphones of the 80s.

I say "you'd look pretty silly" because I haven't actually used it as a phone yet, and my guess is that I'm not alone in that. It's clearly designed for people who read and input text a lot - to that effect it's got a full (virtual) QWERTY keyboard whenever text entry is required, unlike the phone-style keyboard input of most mobiles. The expanded screen size makes inputing text much easier than on, say, the Nexus One given the increased likelihood of actually hitting the right keys; having said that, the iPhone is pretty much the same size as the Nexus One and text-entry on that is good, so maybe it's as much a software issue as a hardware one.

On that note - software - the thing that irks me most is that the Streak (in the UK at least) is still on Android 1.6 rather than 2.1 or even 2.2 like you can get on the Nexus One. Attempts to update it have so far eluded me; chances are it would take a manual update of a type "not supported by Dell", which is annoying given that it's a brand-new device.

What else. Reception is excellent - usually at work I get one or at most two bars on most of my phones. On the Streak I'm getting four and even occasionally five. Whether it's actually lying to me a la iOS who knows, but download speeds are better than on other phones I've used at my desk, so it seems to be accurate.

I've also installed Kindle and have downloaded a couple of books I'd already started reading on it. Reading on the Streak screen so far is good - I've always struggled with reading any decent amounts of text on the Nexus One or the iPhone, but this screen is big enough to display a decent amount of text in a reasonable font size which is nice. And a praise for the Kindle architecture - it's great being able to read a book on another device, close it down, fire up Kindle on another one and immediately carry on reading where you left off without having to remember where you'd got to. Very nice indeed.

As to apps, the Android Market now has everything I want, and a whole lot more. One curious thing that struck me is that when logging into the Market via the Streak it serves me up predominantly paid-for apps; when logging in from the Nexus One it serves me up predominantly free ones. Fluke? The fact that the Streak is running 1.6 and therefore perhaps supports fewer apps, and those happen to be fee-charging? I have no idea, but it's definitely a marked difference. I doubt it's as a result of the OS version - I've been able to find and install every app on the Streak I'd already had on the Nexus One, so it doesn't seem to be a matter of fewer apps being supported on 1.6. I wonder if anyone else has noticed this difference?

A minor thing - having a larger screen-size also makes it easier to keep the home and adjacent screens tidier. It's nice being able to put more of your commonly-used apps on the home screen. As I say a minor thing, but nice nonetheless.

Another not-quite-so-minor thing - I do miss the trackball that the Nexus One has. Occasionally, e.g. when scrolling through tweets on Twidroid, it's far easier to accurately scroll through and highlight content via the trackball than it is with your finger. I'm sure I'll get used to not having one, but initially I do miss it.

And finally one huge irritation - the charger is a non-standard, i.e. non-(micro) USB one. Yet another charger needed!!! How very annoying. What's wrong with micro USB, Dell??

However, on the whole, I like it. I'm still trying to decide who this machine is aimed at: it tries to - and succeeds at - integrate social networking (it has a built-in Facebook app which works better than any other one I've previously used). However, the price (£500) and size (brick) means it's unlikely to be attractive to kidz. Instead, it's likely to appeal to thirties-somethings - people who do do the social networking thing but also want something a bit heavier-weight on which to do proper e-mails and view work-related documents (it comes pre-installed with Quickoffice). A substantial market-size I'm sure, so this may well be the first of a tranche of similar devices.

If anyone else out there has used one feel free to add your own comments. And if anyone has managed to update their OS to 2.1 or 2.2 I'd love to hear how!

Eric Baber's blog

Thoughts and links to articles about a variety of ICT and education-related topics. Where an article or resource is referred to in the header of a blog post please click the header to read the article.

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