For the last two or three weeks, I've been battling the Black Dog. Those who know me well know that I suffer from chronic depression with acute patches. Those who meet me fleetingly find this hard to credit, since I do a damned good job of hiding it and acting like a happy bear.
But anyway, the last few weeks have been tough on the old emotional front. And one of the the things I do when I'm low is treat myself to things – partly on the “I'm worth it” principle, and partly because it's a pretty nifty distraction.
So a fortnight ago I eschewed morning service in favour of worshipping in the lingerie department at Matalan. I came away with all the knickers I might possibly need for my holiday in October. And since it wasn't yet lunchtime, I wandered into Comet next door.
A few months back I looked at the market in Tablets (that's digital ones, not large quantities of paracetemol). I didn't want an ipad – I've never had an apple product and don't plan on starting now – but the growing collection of android devices quietly seeping onto the market were interesting. And Comet had a few on display. To my utter astonishment, I found I could actually use the capacitive screen for typing on.
It proved a useful distraction: for the next few days I amused myself browsing in the stores and online, seeing what was available and what was nice to use. I also gave a great deal of thought to what I might actually use one for, and therefore which features and hardware would be of value.
And I fell in love. Not, as you might think, with the highest spec, biggest, newest thing on the market. I fell in love with the htc Flyer. It's a 7 inch tablet, with 3g as well as wifi, 32gb memory plus micro-sd expansion slot, running android 2.2 rather than the tablet-specific android 3, but with htc's 'sense' overlay.
The only downside was the price. By the end of the week, I'd convinced myself it was overpriced, being at the very top of the price range. I persuaded myself that the best thing would be to wait till either something better came out or the price dropped.
Great plan. Except that on Friday evening, Amazon launched a one off weekend-only offer reducing the price by £120. I decided the universe was trying to tell me something, and with relatives holding my paw on Saturday last I placed the order. (I still have to actually pay the credit bill, but the money is in my account!)
The Flyer arrived on Monday, and I've spent the last week playing with it, setting it up, filling it with things I will find Useful, removing things that turn out not to be Useful, and generally having fun.
So... impressions. I am surprised at how easy the capacitive screen is to work with. This bodes well for when (if?) Nokia release the N9 in the UK. Indeed, it's faintly alarming: I keep the haptic feedback turned on, and often find that I don't actually touch the screen – the heat from my finger is enough to trigger the response (I have very hot hands!) It feels almost alive as a result.
The htc sense UI is lovely to use. Most of its gestures seem to be some form of swipe – though I know Nokia has now claimed that (and I think Apple are trying to patent it!) I have 8 homescreens, now all suitably stuffed with, well, with stuff. It reads email, collects my friends stream from twitter, keeps me logged in to google-talk (Still looking for a google+ invite!) The screen is bright and clear – amazing for viewing video on, and I have an account now for the bookstore associated with the reader software, and even one for htc Watch film store. The 'live wallpaper' burns battery, but some of them are beautiful. In my usual style I shall collect a few and change them with the seasons. And I determined that the Flyer is not for work, so he doesn't have my work diary. Friends and fun only, please, as he'll be my companion in my leisure time and holidays.
The android market is mature and full of stuff. I have eschewed fart apps, but found plenty of utilities and even a few games to keep me amused: I'm an Angry Birds addict (want one of those cuddly toys!) I found a way to print stuff directly to my printer, and am currently struggling with the settings to access my network drive over the wifi. I have a Bible, daily reader, daily prayer cycle, and other personal stuff. The Tumblr app will let me post direct to my tumblr account where-ever I go, and I found something which will resize images so I don't have to post them full-size over 3g.
The location services work pretty well: my back garden recorded as being in the Chinese takeaway – which was off by about 10 yards. Inside the house it doesn't work so well, but then the house is made of granite.
The Flyer's “Killer feature” is the capacitive pen. This enables you to scribble notes and draw things. Well, in my case to doodle. There's a selection of pens from highlighter to calligraphy, taking in paintbrushes, pencils etc. It can be used in the note-taking application, the reader (for notes in the margins) and on photos (for putting Hitler-style moustaches on your friends). If you want to use it on anything else, it automatically takes a screenshot of what you're looking at, and saves it as an image for you to write on. And it links what you've scribbled to your calendar – so you can find stuff by “I wrote that last Thursday” if you get so many notes you can't sort them. I'm not sure how much use it will have in the long term, but it's certainly fun. And will be good for photos when I'm on holiday. (I've also downloaded the touchnote app for turning your photos into hard postcards.)
If I get really bored, I will get some screenshots and upload them for you. This was my first attempt with the 'notepad'.
I continue to play. I can't say the Flyer has cured this particular bout of depression, though he has kept me occupied and amused enough to be less aware of it. And if I want to find a cliff, the 'car panel sat nav' will get me there safely!
- Flying Tonight