Dell is almost ready to release its first Android tablet, the 5-inch Dell Streak. There's just one problem, though: The Streak isn't really an Android tablet. It's an Android phone.
Not to take anything away from the Dell Streak; from the looks of it, the Streak is a pretty slick device. But its positioning as a tablet is a bit misleading. The Dell Streak is far more comparable to a device like the HTC EVO 4G than it is to Apple's iPad.
Dell Streak: The Non-Tablet Android Tablet
First, let's take a look at what the Dell Streak is. The Streak, unveiled in January but not detailed until today, is an Android-powered device that features cellular phone capabilities along with 3G connectivity, Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth support. It runs all the standard Android applications and widgets. According to reports, it'll be sold in the U.S. along with a monthly plan from AT&T.
The Dell Streak has a 5-inch screen, a 1GHz Snapdragon processor, and 2 GB of internal storage (with support for up to 32 GB of additional SD storage). It has an earpiece on the top of its front side and a microphone on the bottom.
The Streak is shipping with Android 1.6 but will receive an over-the-air upgrade to Android 2.2 later this year.
Now go read the specs for the EVO 4G and tell me we aren't looking at the same class of device. The only foundational difference is screen size, and it's far from a huge leap: The EVO 4G has a 4.3-inch, 800-by-480 display; the Streak has a 5-inch, 800-by-480 display.
So why is the Streak a tablet while the EVO 4G is a phone? Unless there's some arbitrary law that states that phones turn into tablets at the 4.4-inch screen mark, it isn't.
Check out the Streak in action in this official Dell demo, and I think you'll see what I mean.
I know, I know -- potayto, potahto, right? Sure: In the end, it's more about what the technology does than what we call it. In this case, though, an average consumer is going to hear the words "phone" and "tablet" and have very different thoughts. And for most people, the last thing the world of mobile tech needs is even more confusion.
The Dell Streak Tablet Thinking
All of that said, it's easy to imagine why Dell would want to position the Streak as a tablet: Android phones are hitting the market rapid-fire-style these days, and it's tough for any one device to remain the "hot new item" for long. Just ask the Motorola Droid: Despite its continued dominance in Android sales, the device is now eclipsed in coverage by newer, more powerful models such as the Droid Incredible and the aforementioned EVO 4G.
The tablet world, in contrast, is still ripe for the taking. Sure, you've got Apple's iPad, but that's about the only high-profile contender so far. And compared to the iPad's highly restrictive setup -- no unapproved apps, no Flash, no removable battery, and so forth -- it won't be hard for the Streak to set itself apart and attract ample attention. (Personally, I think the "Yes, Steve...I Want Porn" Android badge would make a great marketing tool, but I'm not sure Dell will go for it.)
The problem, though, is that the iPad is simply a different beast. Its screen is 9.7 inches, nearly twice that of Dell's Streak. I'm not saying the iPad is a better device -- anyone who reads my stories with any regularity knows how I feel about Android's choice-oriented approach vs. Apple's we-make-the-decisions-for-you mentality -- but in this instance, it just isn't a realistic comparison.
Once true large-screen Android tablets start hitting the market (and yes, they are on the way), the iPad will have some serious competition to contend with. The Dell Streak looks to be one hell of a device, but a tablet, I'm afraid, it is not.