HTC Flyer: 7-inch Android tablet with a surprise

The HTC Flyer is a tablet running a hybrid version of Gingerbread (Android 2.4), and not Honeycomb as are most tablets being presented at MWC. The Flyer adds pen input to the mix which is unique.

The Mobile World Congress taking place in Barcelona has been full of Android tablets as expected, and in the mix HTC presented its new tablet with some unique features. The HTC Flyer is a 7-inch tablet running a hybrid version of Gingerbread (Android 2.4), and not Honeycomb as most tablets being presented at MWC. According to HTC, using Gingerbread allowed the company to bake its Sense interface on the Flyer, while Honeycomb would have required more time. The biggest surprise HTC has put into the Flyer is the inclusion of a pen for taking handwritten notes on the tablet, something no one else is doing on Android.

Besides Honeycomb, HTC has also passed over the 10-inch form most OEMs are adopting for Honeycomb tablets. The Flyer is more portable than other slates as a result. The brushed aluminum case looks very well designed and should stand up to the rigors of a mobile lifestyle. HTC has done what looks to be a lot of customization of the basic apps and widgets comprising its Sense interface, to take advantage of the 1024x600 screen on the Flyer.

Having watched a number of videos taken of the flyer by MWC attendees, I think the pen interface of the Flyer may have a problem exhibited by other touch tablets with hybrid digitizers allowing pen input. There seems to be a lack of palm rejection technology which will make writing on the screen with the pen a bit difficult. Resting the palm on the tablet screen while inking is a natural pose, and to do it well requires technology that ignores the palm touching the screen. In the videos I have watched the demonstrators take great pains to not touch the screen with the palm while writing on the screen. My experience with similar tablets makes it clear this is not comfortable for handwriting. Imagine writing on a notepad with a pen and being unable to touch the paper with anything but the pen tip.

HTC has written a special note-taking app to use the handwriting feature, and this is integrated with Evernote, a very smart move. Notes taken on the Flyer are thus instantly available to the user's Evernote online account, and accessible from any device used with Evernote. Notes stored in the cloud are also available on the Flyer for reference and editing.

The HTC Flyer is the most innovative tablet shown so far at the MWC, but as is the case with all of the tablets being launched the devil is in the pricing detail. HTC is not sharing the pricing for the Flyer, and sadly have stated they are looking at the "high-end" of the market. That sounds like a hefty price, which is fatal to tablet adoption.