Five Reasons You Don't Need the Dell Streak

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The Streak, Dell's new part-tablet, part-smartphone, is now available by pre-order, but should you sign up for this already tired hybrid?

At first glance, such a device may suit your business needs: a bigger viewing screen with the added bonus of a phone. But that only makes sense if it's a less costly alternative with more capability than both the latest tablets and smartphones.

After a look at all the press, good and bad, here are five reasons why no one needs the Streak.

1. Price

The Streak is $300 with a two-year contract, a full $100 more than the average smartphone, such as the Droid 2, Blackberry Torch 9800, or Apple iPhone 4. It's also $550 without a carrier plan--which is about $50 more than the cheapest iPad, which has about twice the screen, and $100 more than an iPod Touch. There's no buy-one-get-one-free offer with this purchase, so expect to pay a lot for a half-dozen Streaks for your business.

2. Android 1.6

OK, so we all know that you can manually upgrade to Android 2.2 if you need to, but the idea that Dell is shipping these supposedly new devices with the Android 1.6 OS, and promising an upgrade later this year, is just sheer laziness (especially considering the Streak has already been delayed). Is this the way Dell shows us how it competes in the marketplace? Either way, when a company asks a higher market price, consumers expect to get more rather than less.

3. AT&T

Dell's sole use of wireless carrier AT&T is also a loser, causing many potential customers to give up on the Streak when it gave users no other carrier options. While Apple could handicap itself with AT&T and still sell millions of iPhones, Dell's brand is certainly no Apple.

4. Smartphone vs. Tablet

The biggest problem Dell will have is in convincing consumers they need a "tweener" device that will give them all the convenience of a smartphone with a larger screen. Instead, this means users will have a thin but huge device held to their ear to make calls but watch video on a relatively small screen. The Streak is only 0.7 inches larger than a Droid 2 or HTC Evo screen. Part of the design benefits of the Streak is that users can put it in their pockets, but it must be a pretty roomy pocket. Using an iPad would be less costly and give you almost twice the viewscreen--5 inches versus 9.7 inches. If you can watch video on a 5-inch screen, you probably can watch it on a 4.3-inch screen with little trouble.

5. The Dork Factor

How many people will use a phone that will obscures half of their face? While the Streak can double as a disguise, most people don't want that in a smartphone. They want something light, effective, and relatively small that doesn't make them look like a dork when using it.

There are other alternatives out there for businesses looking for an effective hybrid, such as Freescale's $200 prototype that would suit most business needs. Freescale's cheap laptop has a 7-inch touchscreen that can be detached and doubles as a tablet for employees on the go. (At $200, a company could easily buy two for the price of a Streak.)

The Streak had some good ideas, like Gorilla glass that makes it sturdier, a 5-megapixel camera in back, and a VGA camera in front. But those ideas are already being used in upcoming and more popular smartphones and devices. In short, Dell is trying to create a new niche for itself between smartphones and tablets, but that market may not exist.

Barbara E. Hernandez can be reached or followed on Twitter at @bhern.

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