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Handhelds Android Communications Linux

Hands-On With Dell's Streak Android Device 167

Posted by timothy
from the 5-inch-abs dept.
adeelarshad82 writes "Dell Streak, the Android-based 5-inch tablet (which has also been called out as a smartphone) is set to ship starting in July, both from a US carrier and direct on Dell.com for $500. Even though Dell has not disclosed the name of the carrier, some experts believe that it will be AT&T because the Streak is a 3G GSM 850/1900 device and AT&T is the only major US carrier that supports those frequency bands. According to a hands-on, Streak is a sharp-looking device with a black front and candy-apple red back that unfortunately shows fingerprints easily. On the upside, Streak's curved body is comfortable to hold. Streak runs a customized version of Android 1.6, but Android aficionados will have to get used to the unusual button layout. Its 800x480-pixel screen makes images look tight, and web pages will benefit from the horizontal resolution. The 1 GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon processor, the same as in the HTC Incredible and Sprint EVO 4G, functions snappily. There's a 5-megapixel camera on the back, a VGA camera for video calling on the front, and a MicroSD memory card slot under the back cover."
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Hands-On With Dell's Streak Android Device

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  • Re:Tablet or Phone? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by thoughtsatthemoment (1687848) on Friday June 04, 2010 @08:45PM (#32465858) Journal
    If there is a difference, people will have to buy both.
  • by StikyPad (445176) on Friday June 04, 2010 @09:02PM (#32465952) Homepage

    Well there's also this [pcmag.com].

  • Re:Bad Form Factor (Score:4, Interesting)

    by fm6 (162816) on Friday June 04, 2010 @09:08PM (#32465998) Homepage Journal

    Indeed. It reminds me of how I came to hate the Newton for its size (among other reason): too big to put in your pocket, too small to serve as a serious device for reading or writing.

    I own an HTC Hero (named "Dudley"; anybody get the joke?) with a 3.2" screen. For me, that's the perfect size — any bigger or smaller and it's a literal pain to use. (My left hand spasms if I even think about some of the other phones I've used.) If they're going to make a device bigger, it needs to be a lot bigger, so that there's enough screen real-estate for serious business.

    Unfortunately, you can't specify an arbitrary size for an LCD panel: you have to go with whatever the manufacturers find it worthwhile to set up production lines for. (That's why monitor makers switched to landscape layout at the same time as the switch to digital mandated it for TVs.) Maybe if thousands of people went to the window and yelled "I'm as mad as hell, and I want an 8x8 LCD!"

  • Re:May as well... (Score:1, Interesting)

    by 16K Ram Pack (690082) <tim.almondNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Friday June 04, 2010 @09:27PM (#32466116) Homepage

    Because a laptop doesn't need a case. It needs a bags, with accessories and so on. The iPad has long enough battery life you don't need to pack power cords "just in case", and really have nothing else to bring with it. It's still much more portable than a laptop and easier to drag around an office or into meetings.

    Bag, case, whatever. Let's abstract this down to what the problem is: The iPad means I still have to use a hand to carry it, whether holding it, having it under my arm, in a bag, case, whatever. It's the same problem in that sense as a laptop.

    The differences are then down to weight. I can carry my laptop just fine. In the bag. With a power charger. So weight isn't a problem.

  • by Nemilar (173603) on Friday June 04, 2010 @09:44PM (#32466218) Homepage

    I completely agree about the slide out keyboard. I had a BB Curve a while ago, and I loved the hard keys. I moved to the BB storm because I desired a touch screen (I feel like a touch screen enables a smartphone to be anything, since it can turn the UI into anything), which was nice, but I greatly missed the hardkeys when typing out a necessarily long email while on the go. I moved to the Palm Pre Plus largely for this feature, and I absolutely love it.

  • Why Android? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Weezul (52464) on Friday June 04, 2010 @10:05PM (#32466318)

    An N900 running Maemo is way more fun.. and MeeGo will be more fun in the future.

    In fact, I see tremendous value in pushing the screen real-estate for phones, sure some people won't buy the bigger phone, but you might hit that optimal size for many people.

    That said, you'll never break into a larger screen size using only a virtual keyboard. Anyone who'll buy the oversized phone will require the real keyboard for more computer like functionality, like writing emails.

  • no physical keyboard (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Weezul (52464) on Friday June 04, 2010 @10:23PM (#32466396)

    If you want a device that size, chances are you'll also what the physical keyboard, well otherwise your probably writing kanji.

    I'm also curious why people are attracted to Android. I've found that my N900 definitely has limitations, especially no printing. Yeah, I could always install cups and ghostscript just like Linux, but I'd need to micromanage the ghostscript driver installation, well plus the apps don't offer print buttons. How does printing work on Android?

    I'm also not terribly happy with x11vnc on the N900. It'd rock if my phone's screen would just pop up on my desktop, but x11vnc is unbearably slow over wifi, making only usb networking pleasent for sharing screens. I'm obviously very happy the N900 has pdflatex svn, git, and rsync, but I've only actually used rsync. Android must have an rsync implementation, but what about svn and git?

    Afaik, the N900's email program also lacks gpg integration. :(

  • by Talez (468021) on Friday June 04, 2010 @10:50PM (#32466510)

    This is the problem with trying to faux-innovate by creating an "experience".

    For starters, Dell is shit at it. Second of all, you spend so long tailoring it to the firmware version you started it on that it's now obsolete and the default experience is a million times better anyway.

    IMHO Dell needs to differentiate themselves in two ways:

    1) By a "build your own smartphone" model using a couple of different form factors (tablet, slider, flip) with commodity snap in parts that are user customizable (screen tech/screen size/flash space/CPU+GPU combo/camera) that would allow them to deliver any phone in any segment at any price point.
    2) Keeping up with the latest version of Android and providing the latest default Android experience as soon as possible. Make a generic firmware, stuff it with all the drivers you might need for all of the hardware used in the different combinations and release it quick. Sell on volume, sell on having the latest and greatest Android features available to customers a week after the general release and laugh at HTC promising firmware updates at some undetermined point in the future.

    If you give people what they want and quickly you won't have to differentiate yourself with all of this experience wank. You can just sell them whatever they want and sell them by the truckload because you're DELL. When people just want a laptop they jump on Dell's website, price one up, it's cheap as chips and they buy it. Just do the same damn thing with smartphones already.

  • by beguyld (732494) on Saturday June 05, 2010 @02:45AM (#32467308)

    Very good summary.

    Quite likely the issue is that Google is a web company, and in that world new software is almost continuously rolled out.

    So the decision makers don't have any person real-world experience with commercial devices containing firmware; which is very difficult to upgrade once it leaves the factory. (at least major version changes, for the reason you noted)

    This actually makes me wonder if Meego will be a sleeper. Nokia IS a phone company, so they understand that world. Trolltech has been playing with real world customers in the embedded world for a long time.

    Intel is in a different world, but I expect they are providing more funding than SW development. They will have decision making clout. But Intel is a hardware company, run by hardware engineers. And those guys think that once something goes out the door it's frozen forever. Very different then the Google web-based, "let's try this for a few hours in Ohio, and we can always roll it back if it doesn't work" way of thinking.

    It's not so much about "thinking" but about one's own decades of personal experience, which affects how we see the world and what decisions we'll tend to make.

    There are of course many factors which go into mass market acceptance, so I would not want to make any bets just yet about a dominant phone/tablet OS 5 years from now. But it will be interesting to watch.

  • Re:Bad Form Factor (Score:2, Interesting)

    by beguyld (732494) on Saturday June 05, 2010 @03:04AM (#32467380)

    So in other words, Android is a commercial success, but is poorly designed?

    I've been programming embedded devices (including Linux systems using OpenEmbedded, etc), desktop systems from PCI drivers to GUIs for 20 years, so I understand the issues, but I haven't studied the Android architecture yet.

    So I don't understand why this is such an issue. Sounds worse than a standard Linux distribution. Which again makes me wonder if Meego has a better chance long term because a lot of the KDE/Qt developers are involved. KDE just works on various size monitors, right?

    Just seems like Android is not so well designed, and rushed out by a server software company, assuming that Java is the answer to everything.

    I say that partially tongue in cheek, as I know Google uses a lot of other languages. Though they are fundamentally a server software company, not an embedded software company; which is bound to affect their gut instincts on architecture.

    Almost every developer I talk to says they would like to do Android development, as they are interested in the concept of programming for an open phone, but they aren't interested in using Java to do it. Pretty much the way I feel. I still might, but I'd rather just use Qt in C++, so I'm looking forward to seeing how Meego does in the future.

    Which partly asks the question: Can Intel get back market share in the phone/tablet market from the ARM hordes? I suspect the answer is that they have a chance for tablets, though phones will be more challenging. Maybe impossible with an x86 architecture, given the small batteries. But who knows...

  • by jaffray (6665) on Saturday June 05, 2010 @04:57AM (#32467682)

    "Too large for a phone" is a matter of opinion. This is exactly the size of phone I've been waiting for. I want as large a screen as possible, without making it impossible to hold it to my ear for my (very occasional) voice calls, or conveniently carry it in a holster or (less often) a pocket.

    For me, a phone being tiny is of little value. Give me vast amounts of screen space, a large physical keyboard with hard keys with spacing and some travel distance, and a huge battery that won't run out even if I spend all day using it heavily in areas with poor signal. The Dell Streak isn't what I want, having only the screen space but not the physical keyboard and an unknown battery (and an obsolete OS), but the size? Perfect.

    "Not useful for serious business"? Depends on your business. Much of my business is coordinating employees via email and text message, keeping records in spreadsheets and simple text documents, and occasionally consulting and searching through previous emails and web-based resources. A smartphone with a 5" screen, a reasonable array of apps, and a keyboard that lets me do 50wpm, is just fine for this.

    Even my T-Mobile Sidekick was adequate for most of my business needs, despite the dubious browser and poor screen, thanks to the ultra-quick app switching and utterly fabulous hard keyboard unmatched by any other device. If Microsoft hadn't bought the platform, stripped it of development resources, and left it to die, I might still be using it.

    Sure, this large a phone isn't for everyone. But that's one of the lovely things about an open OS - you have choices in hardware. I'd rather use iPhone OS, it's a far smoother user experience, but where am I going to find an iPhone with a 4-5" screen? or a physical keyboard? or running on a carrier other than AT&T?

  • by tftp (111690) on Saturday June 05, 2010 @12:59PM (#32469334) Homepage

    If I buy a device that is advertised as a computer, I expect that I control the software aspect of it, OS included.

    Sorry, a phone is not a general purpose computer. You can't control the software aspect of it without having access to the hardware aspect, and that is something you aren't going to get (from most OEMs, at least) - unless you want to buy a design from the OEM for some spare change like $100M or more. It's better to see the phone (or iPad) as a specialized device that also can run some simple and very limited software.

    This can change only after the phone undergoes the same standardization process as PCs did - and PCs did that only under MS's pressure to run DOS and Windows. There is no such pressure in the phone world; actually the opposite is happening - each OEM makes his phone in a slightly different way to carve a new niche in the market. This means that firmware of these devices is diverging fast.

  • by tftp (111690) on Saturday June 05, 2010 @02:32PM (#32470038) Homepage

    I take it reality gets to ignore that android phones have overtaken iphones in sales in the last quarter?

    You need to consider that phones that were sold in last quarter started in design a year ago. I don't think OEMs were cognizant of the rapid pace of Android development at that time. Android offered them a good entry path into a high-end smartphone market. However once OEMs discover the pain of endless upgrades that may change. Another problem is that it's not trivial to even upgrade an OS on a handset over the air; there is always a risk of bricking, and then you need JTAG to fix that, which means RTM. Large OEMs manufacture hundreds of thousands of handsets and ship them overseas for sales, there is no way for them to upgrade those when they are sitting in boxes on shelves. There are no gnomes inside the boxes to keep upgrading the handsets even if the OEM is willing to continually rebuild the firmware image to match the latest Android release.

    So this Dell product pinpoints when its development started - at some point when 1.6 was the latest release, which was between Sep. 16, 2009 and Oct. 26, 2009 (yes, that's only 40 days!) And now that the product is done, it's already obsolete. How can you, as an OEM, live with that? It's not a disaster yet - the thing just needs the new firmware image, but it's a powerful reminder that the OS maker can at any time torpedo your product by releasing a new version, and then you are back to square one. It's much, much worse if you just finished a manufacturing run and are now stuck with thousands of obsolete units that nobody will buy. How much will it cost you to open each box and individually upgrade each unit? Probably more than it will cost to plow the whole run into a landfill and order a new one.

    It's not a problem that is unique to phone OEMs; PC makers (the same Dell, for example) are aware of that too. But MS releases new versions rarely and on schedule, and everyone knows years in advance what's coming. The new release of Android will be available who knows when, and it will have who knows what new functions [wikipedia.org]. "Roadmap? We don't need any stinking roadmap! We release when it's ready!"

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