The Android Adventure: A box of anticipation

August 04, 2011

colin.holland-August 04, 2011

Great excitement today. My ViewSonic gTablet finally arrived. I had ordered it via Amazon.co.uk (I am based in London) from what was described as a 'UK-based family firm' so it was a bit of a surprise when it arrived via Fed Ex from New York. What was more worrying was that when I shook the delivery box there was a rattle so it was with trepidation that I pulled the tab to open it up.

There was no reason to worry, the tablet was well packed but loose in the box was a US to UK power conversion plug - a nice touch considering I assumed I was getting a UK version and was concerned it would not be the same model as several of my colleagues were getting in the US.

Opening up the package, along with the tablet and power source, was a USB cable and some limited documentation, you have to use the web to get the full documentation. Of course when you get any battery powered consumer goods nowadays there is the restriction that you have to 'fully charge' the battery before switching on. Often an overnight charge is recommended but the small red led on the tablet turned green after little more than 3 hours.

The screen came on with a Dashboard Home screen showing the latest weather in Cambridge - very useful. I quickly realized this was Cambridge, Massachusetts, not quite so useful. First task was to make sure I had the latest version of the software and it took several attempts before I got the download to work.

Next thing was to personalize the device - the latest weather in London on the home screen would be useful. Selected the correct time zone "London, Dublin". The on-screen clock changed but it still has the 'local' weather from the US east coast. This was beginning to annoy me so I opened my first app - Weather - oh joy, I can change my location - oh drat, you can only enter a zip code or city name in the US. I ended changing location to San Francisco so that I had something to talk to my colleagues based in the UBM Electronics HQ. I will have to revisit that later.

At least the on-screen keyboard was as responsive and useable as that on the iPad, a good start.

What to do next - check out what apps come pre-installed. A news-feed with useful tabs for top stories, world news, sci/tech and entertainment. The web browser app has Google set as the home page and of course it automatically defaults to google.co.uk when I would prefer .com! The clock app tells me the correct time in London, Dublin and at home which are the same but enables me to set alarms and timers.

Then there are some useful apps for organizing you life: contacts, email, to-do, calendar, and calculator. For an entertaining lifestyle comes the music, photos, camera, Facebook, sound recording, videos and YouTube apps. More bizarrely there is a grocery app that provides on-screen list of what to buy when you go shopping. Included as well is Angry Birds. I am not an electronic games person but even I have heard of this but never played it. I wonder if it is included for parents to pacify their children having spent hours distractedly playing with (setting up?) their latest electronic toy.

The pre-loaded apps line up is competed with the useful, if initially clunky, Updates app as well as gMarket, which I was soon to learn, was the gateway to the apps available for sale of for free on the Handango site. Of course I had to try it out and quickly accessed and installed the ESPN Scorcenter and TV.com although I am not sure I really want access to the archive of Big Brother the app did give a good impression on the video capabilities of the device.

So now I am up and running and I wanted to thank all of you who added suggestion for apps useful for electronics engineers via the comment option on my first blog or direct to me via email. Please keep them coming and I am going to experiment with some of them and will report back next time. Looks like I have my weekend accounted for.

I hinted in my first blog that there was some method in my madness of experiment with an Android tablet when I already had an iPad up and running. The explanation can now be made public. Over the last couple of months I have been busy working on selecting the technical program for this years ARM TechCon and it has just been confirmed that delegates that sign up for the All Access Pass will receive a free ViewSonic gTablet just like mine to keep as well as access to all the technical sessions, exhibit floor, lunches and proceedings.

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