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By Wand Agency
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The Flyer isnâ€™t part of the pack of tablets running the latestÂ version of Googleâ€™s Android software,Â 3.0 Honeycomb. Instead, HTC has slapped its Sense custom user interface, seen on the companyâ€™sÂ smart phones, over the top ofÂ Android 2.4 Gingerbread.
For those keeping track of version numbers, Android 2.4 andÂ Android 2.3 are both known as â€˜Gingerbreadâ€™, since these two versions of the operating system are almost identical. Android 3.0 Honeycomb is a version specifically designed for tablets, rather than for smart phones.
Sticking to the older version of Android has given HTC the time to customise the interface significantly. We havenâ€™t seen the Flyerâ€™s user interface in action yet, but HTC told us that itâ€™s tweaked all of its apps to take advantage of the tabletâ€™s extra screen space. For example, the email app will have two panels, showing your inbox and an email at the same time.
HTC is one of the only companies thatâ€™s done a great job of skinning Android. Its Sense user interface has been making geeky phone software better-looking and easier to use ever since it first appeared on theÂ Hero. Consequently,Â weâ€™re cautiously optimistic about HTCâ€™s software efforts on the Flyer. We also loved theÂ Samsung Galaxy Tab, even though it only ran Android 2.2, so thereâ€™s hope for the Flyer too.
But â€” and this is a big but â€” the Galaxy Tab came out about five months ago, before Honeycomb was even out. At the time, we were thrilled to embrace a more pocket-friendly, Android alternative to theÂ iPad. But even Google has said that Android wasnâ€™t well suited to tablets before Honeycomb emerged. Even if HTCâ€™s Sense skin overcomes the fact that Android 2.4 isnâ€™t optimised for tablets, we think itâ€™ll be hard for any self-respecting geek to break the piggy bank open for a gadget thatâ€™s not cutting-edge.
You may disagree, though. After all, HTC has proven with its phones that it can do a great job of designing a user interface. You may not particularly care which version of Android your tablet runs either. Also, HTC has promised that the Flyer will get an update to Honeycomb eventually.
Being stuck on Gingerbread doesnâ€™t mean the Flyer is likely to miss out on many features. Youâ€™ll still have access to the Android Market, which is full of apps and games to install on your robot friend. Android apps tend to be less elegant than the apps available for the iPad, and there are fewer of them. But, on the plus side, some of them offer wilder features â€” likeÂ augmented reality â€” and they tend to be very cheap or even free.
The Android browser is also a treat, because it renders Web pages quickly and accurately. It supports Flash Player too, which means you wonâ€™t miss out on online videos, and you wonâ€™t have to rely on the separate YouTube app. Even if you have no interest in the latestÂ cute cat videos from Japan, having Flash support in the browser is fantastic just for moving around the many sites that use it for menus and navigation.