With the smaller font size, you can pack a lot of detail on the screen. However, non-Honeycomb apps don’t really use that space too well. This is the same problem that afflicted the Galaxy Tab and all other Android 1.x and 2.x based devices. HTC has, once again, saved the day with its own email client that has a split-screen view, the same as Apple’s iPad email client and the Samsung produced one for the Galaxy Tab.
Sadly, I prefer to stick with the native Gmail client and this just fills up the whole screen. Android Market and the default web browser is also not as nice as the Android 3 version.
Notifications are improved, especially in landscape mode, with recently used apps and standard notifications stacked on the left and Quick Settings on the right. These settings let you quickly adjust the brightness, fix the device in portrait or landscape, toggle Bluetooth or Wi-Fi, activate the Wi-Fi hotspot and so on.
Watch this space
The Flyer also supports the newly launched HTC Watch service, allowing you to buy and rent movies and TV shows. It might make more sense to watch a film on this than the Sensation, but it makes a lot less sense for HTC to try and get into the movie business, when others (like Samsung) have failed to make much of an impact.
Google is launching its own Movies service, but none of the Android devices yet have anything to compete the choice of media as Apple iTunes. The choice of material on HTC’s service is, at least for now, pretty restricted.
Another pre-installed app is the Kid Mode app, by Zoodles, that lets children use the device without messing up the main tablet for adult use. The app has a child-friendly interface and usage can be monitored and controlled. Adults can even promote what subjects are promoted to their children, as well as letting them play games and watch videos in a highly controlled environment.
Take away the pen and HTC’s new video streaming service and you’re left with a pretty ordinary Android smartphone, however you try and look at it. The HTC Flyer is quite heavy too, although that’s mainly down to the very large battery pack that means you can go for days without charging the device.
HTC is likely to roll out an update to Android 3.x in the future, but for some this might do more harm than good. Honeycomb is quite a radical departure from the Android look and feel most existing users will be used to. Even with Sense UI sitting on top, the change from V2 to V3 could be quite a shock.