It seemed that in the age of the Apple iPad, there was no room for pen-powered tablets in the market, sans devoted inking fans and a handful of Windows 7 convertibles and slates.
HTC is hoping to change that by bringing pen input to their Android tablet, the HTC EVO View 4G, a 7-inch WiMAX Android tablet coming to the Sprint network this summer. The device was officially unveiled at Mobile World Congress in February and dubbed the HTC Flyer, a name that may stick with the international release and will definitely adorn the Wi-Fi version headed to Best Buy this spring.
The HTC EVO View 4G will sport a 1.5GHz processor, 1024 x 600 display, 5-megapixel front- and 1.3 megapixel rear-camera, and ship with Gingerbread (Android 2.3). HTC reps claimed Honeycomb will come in the form of an update, but HTC is including its familiar Sense UI and Scribe technology, which will work the N-Trig pen.
The pen is very similar to the same stylus that ships with the Fujitsu LifeBook T580, meaning it is relatively short and stout, but still comfortable to hold. It will be powered by an AAAA battery, feature two buttons and a pressure-sensitive tip, meaning the harder the user presses down when inking, the darker the resulting line or squiggle.
But pen, for an Android tablet? How does that work?
Quite well actually, as TabletPCReview found out during some hands-on time with the EVO View at CTIA. The included Evernote application is ideal for jotting down notes and sharing them with colleagues over the cloud. Users can also record audio notes and shoot stills and video to include with the notes, making the EVO tablet a potential business machine. That the EVO has palm rejection, meaning users can rest their palm on the device while jotting notes without confusing the display with additional inputs, only adds to its functionality. Also, the EVO weighs less than a pound, making it easy to hold in one hand.
The business usage also extends to an accessory USB-to-HDMI cable that mirrors the display on an HDTV or other HDMI input, which can be useful for presentations.
It’s not perfect, however. The microSD slot hides underneath a removable cover, which makes for awkward card swapping. And there is no place to dock the pen on the device. A folio or case will be required for that – accessory and pen both sold separately. Also there are currently no notes-to-text apps available for Android. That is, the EVO is not able to convert handwriting into text that can be emailed, cut, copied, and pasted.
There is still time until the EVO View 4G release for developers to get on the ball and bring handwriting to Android. We may then have to reconsider the label “consumption devices” commonly attached to Android tablets, instead settling for “content creation devices.” Potentially, at least.