Once you have the pen safely in your grip, there’s a special way to use it. At the bottom right of the tablet, in both portrait and landscape modes (as you swap, the illuminated soft keys switch automatically), is a green pen icon that you can press to activate the pen input mode.
Whenever you’re using the pen, the Flyer stops responding to your own touch to ensure you won’t make a mess of things while trying to write, like accidentally switching apps or scrolling around and messing up drawings.
You are shown an on-screen palette, with multiple pen sizes and other options to enable you to do things, like highlight text within certain applications (limited at present to a limited number of functions such as the web browser). You can also take a grab of screens that contain your annotations.
HTC has included a very detailed tutorial on how to use the pen, along with examples of why you might actually want to use it. However, for all the best intentions in the world, I fail to see how this is going to be enough of a must-have feature to help boost sales.
The Flyer also allows you to take notes at the same time as recording audio, thanks to Evernote Livescribe, which may prove more useful for taking notes in a meeting (or an interview). The visual notes are synchronised with the audio, so if you write a note or comment at the same time that someone says something, you can then hear that bit of audio by simply selecting that note. It’s a very handy way of finding sections of audio without having to scan back and forth through an audio file.
This gives the Flyer a purpose for some business users, but would anyone else really care for using the pen? Probably not. It’s too much of a gimmick and I am not sure HTC is really pitching the Flyer to business. In fact, Microsoft and others have tried hard to get people working with tablets, without much success, and the Flyer is far more geared towards leisure use.
Fortunately, it doesn’t all hinge on the inclusion of a fancy pen. HTC Sense is the one feature that puts HTC ahead of its rivals in many areas. The version for tablets (V2.1) uses the same 3D homescreen panels as the HTC Sensation, but in landscape mode they actually remain in the same layout as portrait – with the two adjacent panels showing at the edges. This means your layouts aren’t redrawn, as well as enhancing the UI. Honeycomb tablets can show more information, but invariably this leads to tiny shortcut icons and miniscule widgets.
You can still change scenes (a different selection of shortcuts and widgets), skins (colour schemes), wallpapers and the lock screen shortcuts. Unlike the HTC Sensation, you can’t adjust what information is shown on the lock screen (Sensation users can, for example, choose to have the weather forecast shown, or the latest status updates from your friends), but you can change the four applications that can be loaded without first unlocking the phone.
To launch these you simply hold your finger on the app and drag it into the circle at the bottom of the screen. To simply unlock, drag the circle up. It’s a very simple and effective idea that is just one of the many things that helps HTC to promote its ‘quietly brilliant’ tag-line.