When I was in Bakersfield over Christmas I was popping into the local Barns and Noble store to get my freebies. If you own a nook they give you these daily “free” things to go into the store. So Isabelle and I would pop over, get our free little drink and hang out. Well. . . I went in one day and one of the employees had his new “color” nook out. I looked over his shoulder and . . . that wasn’t any “regular” nook. That was a fully tricked out Android tablet. He told me he had “rooted” it. So off to Google I go!
Sure enough there are ways that you can “root” the nook color so that you can gain access to the Android application store and turn your $250 e-reader into a full on android tablet. I told my family about it and my Mum decided that would make a great Christmas gift for me! (She was wanting to get me a rowing machine but. . . I kind of doubt that would have gotten much use.) I now have the Nook Color and have been playing with it for about a week now. Very very cool in a lot of ways but very frustrating in others.
The hardware itself is fantastic. The battery lasts forever. . . the feel of it. . . the weight of it. . . the brilliant screen and easy access to the SD card. . . all fantastic. The default OS and software that is installed is very simple. Much like my regular “old” nook. It allows you to buy books, play a few games. . . has a web browser etc. But when you root it and get access to the Android Marketplace. . . well. . . a whole new world opens up.
I have dozens and dozens of apps installed on here now. Organizers, e-readers from competitor products like Amazon and Google. Games, alternative web browsers, currency converters, games for Isabelle, a facebook app, a Wordpress app, e-mail, widgets, Scriptures, Google maps, Reddit, a Sketch program that is REALLY good. . . Banking apps, Paypal. . . IRC, youtube. . . I there is just no end to it! Fantastic stuff.
Whats not so cool is this Android OS. Why is there no task manager? I can load up a game that takes lots of CPU and then launch the app launcher apps and go into something else but the game is still playing! And there is no way to intuitively go over to it to turn it off! None! I had to install a little app called TaskOS to do that and it only barely works. Compared to HP’s webOS. . . this thing is total and utter crap. In webOS it all works together. I learn’t the three gestures I needed to switch between apps, kill an app, go “back” and get to the app’s settings and I had learned the entire phone. All apps work exactly the same way. With Android. . . pfft. You never know what the crap your going to get when you install an app.
Some are mindbogglingly fantastic. like the Dolphin Browser HD. WOW. I want that browser on my desktop its so good. Super intuitive and this little gesture tool makes it so everything you do is like waving a magic wand. And it plays nice! Like it never covers up your notification thing on the bottom. . . when you exit it it asks you if you want to minimize or “exit” exit. Fast. . . has pinch zoom etc. Great.
Then there are ones like ES File Explorer. Very powerful stuff. It let me network right into my server and access all my files. FTP. . . fairly intuitive until you look at an image. Then it goes full screen. Ok. . . how do you get OUT of the full screen image!?! Well. . . apparently MOST android apps have a hardware back button. But not the nook. So. . . you have to “hack” around that with softkeys. But that doesn’t always play nice. So you have to keep this mental list of what will and won’t work in what apps. grr. Then the games. Sans Angry Birds. . . they are all horrible. None of them scale right. . . none of them orient right. . . NONE of them allow you to “exit” them. Once they are on they are “on” for as long as you have your device turned on. . . just sitting there eating your ram. Its a joke.
Then. . . the “touch screen” stuff. I have never owned an iPhone or iTouch or anything like that so this is fairly new to me. But the bloody thing will not “press” what I want it to press. I land my finger SQUARELY on a great big fat button and it will pick the one next to it about 20% of the time. WhhhhYYYiiieeeee!?!?!?! I just wish this thing had a regular old pen like the old palm PDAs. I want to go where I want to go and not have to roll the dice as to if it can guess what it is I’m trying to do. And I’m on a great bit fat 7 inch screen. I can’t even fathom using a little bitty one! Reaaaaaaally don’t like that part. With HP’s WebOS the buttons were always super fat and designed around the limitations of the human interface. With these Android apps. . . sheesh. You just kind have to mash in the general cluster of little bitty icons and hope for the best a lot of the time. I see this as a huge step back honestly. Especially when you turn the device off and look at all the hand salsa smeared around your pretty device’s screen. <shudder>
I’m still poking around and “learning” it. I don’t hate it in any way. Like I said the volume of applications out there are amazing. I’m going to really try and use this thing to be more productive. For e-reading. . . I’ll stick to the old nook. For games. Nope. Give me a d-pad or a keyboard and mouse any day. I really think the webOS is lightyears ahead of this Android stuff. Hopefully it will improve but. . . I think HP are the ones to beat.