Networked Portability, Android Style
At last month's Mobile World Congress Android was on everyone's lips. And not just for cell phones, but as an operating system for all kinds of network-enabled entertainment devices. Indeed, a number of manufacturers make embedded Android wares which would allow the operating system to run on anything and everything. So far, most Android devices that are shipping, or near to it, fall into three categories: the iPod knock-off, an entertainment device sans phone otherwise known as a mobile Internet device (MID), the netbook and the tablet. Here's a sampling.
High-def TV, Phone Optional: Archos 5 32GB Internet Tablet with Android
What it is: A multimedia player that also plays high-def TV, surfs the Internet, includes GPS and can support many other Android applications.
Why it's interesting: On its own, the Archos 5 Internet Tablet device requires Wi-Fi to connect to the Internet, but it can also link to a Bluetooth equipped 3.5G phone.
List price: $369.95
SmartDevices SmartQ V5 MID 1080P Player
What it is: A multimedia player that supports Wi-Fi, BlueTooth and can also connect to cellular service providers with an optional card.
Why it's interesting: Not only can you play YouTube and listen to music, but the device also lets you read and edit documents in Microsoft Word/Excel, OpenOffice, RTF, HTML or TXT formats.
Price: Sells for about $150
A Tiny Touchscreen: Ramos W7 "Blue Magic" MID
What it is: A MID with a bigger emphasis on the Internet, complete with a 4.8 inch touchscreen display which connects via Wi-Fi.
Why it's interesting: The device caused some stir in the fall thanks to its Android-specific 600MHz Rockchip CPU.
Price: Between $200 and $400.
3G in the Deal: eviGroup's MID Wallet
What it is: A 5-inch touchscreen MID that includes a Webcam, Wi-Fi and integrated 3G.
Why it's interesting: This device has been talked about for months and was initially supposed to ship in January, but as of press time, still didn't seem to be available. Beyond a few basic hardware specs, details on what the device will do to distinguish itself are a bit sketchy. At one time, it was thought it would use an x86 processor and be capable of running XP, but latest word is that it will use ARM chipsets.
Both XP and Android: Aspire One D250 Model 1613
What it is: A version of Acer's popular Aspire Netbook that runs Android on an Intel Atom processor with a 10-inch display. Weighs in at less than 3 pounds.
Why it's interesting: This netbook dual-boots into Android or Windows XP.
Pricing: Less than $350 on Amazon.
It Costs What? Menq EasyPC E790
What it is: A netbook from a company famous for making inexpensive netbooks. Sports a 7-inch 800 by 480 display and a Samsung ARM9.
Why it's interesting: Word is that Menq is planning on selling this puppy for a mere $80. Although it's not available yet, it will likely be sold through retail outlets. It is also supposed to be able to dual-boot Windows CE and Android.
The Big Guys: Compaq AirLife 100
What it is: A tablet that is, in some ways, almost a phone. The Compaq AirLife 100 features a 10.1-inch touchscreen, and an almost full-sized keyboard, as well as Wi-Fi, GPS, a Webcam and integrated 3G.
Why it's interesting: This could be the first Android tablet (meaning touchscreen netbook) by a major U.S. PC manufacturer, although Dell is rumored to be working on both an Android tablet and a netbook. It's powered by a 1-GHz Snapdragon processor. The gadget was on display at the 2010 Mobile World Congress, but so far, no word on when it will be available in the U.S. HP plans to debut it first in Europe in the spring.