I think the one post I’ve made which has caused the most feedback and continues to draw in audiences is my post about two devices we were considering for school use back in April, namely the iPod Touch and the Archos 43.
So much has happened since I wrote that blog entry. First off, we didn’t go with either iPod Touch or Archos. Like I summed up at the time, the iPod had too many restrictions and the single-touch Archos made it too frustrating to use.
Pick a device already!
At that point, our ICT Coordinator stumbled across the Samsung Galaxy Tab. I say stumbled upon, because Apple pretty much had the high street sewn up. All credit to them (and it’s changing now admittedly), but if you want to buy a tablet on the high street, everyone wants to sell you an iPad. And why not, they’re great devices (personally I find them a little large and a bit heavy) but there’s no denying Apple created another product the world didn’t know it needed.
Samsung (who incidently make the iPad for Apple) have their own range of tablets, a 7″ wifi, a 7″ 3G and similar in the 10″ range. They’ve also started on their gen 2 tablets which are even more sleak, though not widely available yet.
We evaluated and then chose the Wi-Fi only, 7″, P1010 model. It runs Android Froyo, has 16Gb internal memory, front and rear cameras. It comes preloaded with ThinkFree Office (which allows creating and edit MS documents) along with a host of other apps (some good, some not worth it).
Size does matter
The main difference between the 7″ tablet and the smaller handheld we were looking at before is the size (obviously). When you’re using the tablet, it feels like it is for work. You can achieve a lot of the same stuff on the smaller devices, but they lack a feeling of productivity. With the Samsung, you feel like you’re using a work tool.
We did look again at the iPad and iPod Touch, but the cost of the iPad is too prohibitive to seriously consider (those schools that have gone down the iPad route must have sacrificed something else from their budget). Ultimately we found iOS too restrictive/problematic in terms of file uploads, Flash (yes I know Adobe have pulled development) and for building our own apps as well as paying for other apps.
There are a couple of niggles. The battery gives you a day if you’re using it. Given the size of the device, I was surprised, but I suppose powering the much larger screen is the big difference. The native keyboard makes some truly irritating errors, but Steven Lin has kindly ported the Gingerbread keyboard. Neither of these are big issues, at least not compared to:
The tablet cannot charge from a computer’s USB while turned on! Wait…what? That’s like… the point of USB. We’ve got round this issue by buying these special cables. It took a couple of hours searching the internet to even find out what the problem was. It turns out to be a voltage issue. These cables contain a switch and resistor which gets round that.
Still, these are all niggles and while many would point out that you shouldn’t have to deal with niggles, life always proves otherwise.
We ordered the tablets about a month ago (with parental contributions) and they are due to arrive within the next two weeks. All the preparations have been done (fingers crossed). We have a comprehensive mobile version of our VLE, a really cool instruction booklet to be given out with the devices and we’ve put together a number of school-specific apps:
I do hope that we’ll make some of these available on the Android Market. They are all built in Adobe AIR, which has made the creation of Apps so much simpler. I think we will eventually move away from AIR, but for right now, it just works.
Have we chosen the right device? I think so. The size is right. The functionality is right. The price is right ~£300 (including insurance). I’ll admit my heart sank a little when Amazon announced the $199 Kindle Fire – but it’s not out in the UK yet. And not in the quantities we need. And can we even run our own apps on it? Maybe next year, if this year is successful.
The battle may have been won, but something tells me the war has just begun.