HTC has officially announced its new tablet, the HTC Flyer, at MWC 2011 this week. After the rumors of the past few weeks, the Flyer's existence hardly comes as a surprise; however, some of the technology decisions HTC has made - including supplying it with an active stylus - are pretty surprising.
Hardware is a slick combination of a 1.4GHz single-core Qualcomm CPU with data-only HSPA+, a 4,000 mAh battery, 7-inch 1024 x 600 capacitive touchscreen and dual cameras, wrapped up in a unibody-style white plastic and brushed aluminum chassis. A WiFi-only version will follow "pretty soon" after the original HSPA+ model, and both have a custom microUSB port which, as well as working with regular accessories, will also support HTC's new high-power rapid charger.
On top there's Android 2.4 Gingerbread with a heavily modified version of HTC Sense to suit the bigger display: a 3D homescreen with floating widgets, a carousel layout in landscape orientation, and a 3D grid in portrait orientation. HTC promises a Honeycomb OTA updated "soon after" the Flyer's launch which, they insisted to us, shouldn't be impacted by what's expected to be minimal carrier modification. Even before then, though, there'll be split-screen apps of HTC's own making, with a multi-pane browser, calendar, email, address book and other software to make the most of the resolution.
It's the stylus that really makes the HTC Flyer stand apart, however. HTC has used an unspecified active stylus technology with a battery-powered pen (that has a pressure-sensitive nib and two buttons, defaulting to erase and text-select) and loaded a new app called Notes that supports sketching, handwritten text and annotation of imported photos and clippings. Notes will also record audio, indexing points in the recording with the notes you're taking at the time, for easier later recall.
Content stored in Notes can be wirelessly synchronized with Evernote, and HTC expects to release a special touch driver allowing third-party developers to add support to their own apps. HTC user experience manager Drew Bamford told Android Community that the company already has a list of developers who it thinks could do "interesting things" with the Flyer's hybrid touchscreen technology.
The Flyer will also debut HTC's new streaming content drive, building on its recent investments in Saffron Digital and OnLive. A new "Watch" app will offer streaming movies and TV shows, while an OnLive app will allow streamed 3D gameplay on the Flyer; using DLNA over WiFi, the Flyer will be able to put OnLive gaming on a nearby compatible TV. Both services are expected to offer pay-per-use and subscription options, and HTC says the same systems are likely to spread to its phones in future.
"We've pretty serious about this category," HTC told us last week, "we're not just dipping our toe into the water." The company wouldn't say exactly what was next, but the message is clear - this is definitely not the last tablet we'll be seeing from them in the coming months. The HTC Flyer will launch in early Q2 2011, pricing tba (though HTC says it's aiming for the "high end" to rival the iPad). As for accessories, there'll be a bundled slip-case with a slot for the included stylus, as well as an optional case which converts into a stand, a desktop dock, and a Bluetooth keyboard.
HTC Flyer hands-on demo:
HTC UNVEILS HTC FLYER, THE FIRST TABLET WITH HTC SENSE
Aluminum unibody design with touch and pen interaction make HTC Flyer unique
First tablet with HTC Watch video service, HTC Scribe Technology
and OnLive gaming
BARCELONA, SPAIN – Mobile World Congress – February 15, 2011 – HTC, a global leader in mobile innovation and design, today announced its first tablet, the HTC FlyerTM. HTC Flyer blends HTC’s trademark design language with an all-new HTC Sense user experience that has been reimagined for the tablets. Using an intuitive and innovative approach to tablets, HTC Flyer combines natural touch and pen interaction. HTC also announced HTC Watch, a new connected video service that will debut on HTC Flyer tablet, and will collaborate with OnLive Inc. to launch the first cloud-based mobile gaming service on a tablet.
“Clearly, smartphones have transformed our lives but as we observed how people use smartphones, computers and other technologies, we saw an opportunity to create a tablet experience that is different, more personal and productive,” said Peter Chou, CEO of HTC Corporation. “We are progressing down a path as an industry when people will no longer be in a single device paradigm, but have multiple wireless devices for different needs; this is the direction we are moving.”
Encased in a sleek aluminum unibody, the HTC Flyer tablet exudes the iconic style and build quality HTC is known for. It is also ultra-light, weighing as little as a paperback book, and compact enough to fit in a jacket pocket only. With a seven-inch display, lightning fast 1.5Ghz processor and high-speed HSPA+ wireless capabilities, the HTC Flyer tablet is perfect for those who have been waiting for a tablet that is both compact and powerful.
HTC Sense for Tablet
HTC Sense revolutionized smartphones by placing the person at the center of the experience. HTC Flyer’s tablet-focused HTC Sense experience focuses on surprising and delighting people with its gorgeous 3D home screen. A unique carousel of widgets puts a user’s most important content and information at the visual center of the experience. The HTC Flyer tablet also offers uncompromised Web browsing with Flash 10 and HTML 5.
HTC Scribe Technology
Touch interaction lights up the HTC Flyer tablet experience, but it also offers a groundbreaking pen experience. With the new HTC Scribe Technology on the HTC Flyer tablet, people can rediscover the natural act of writing. HTC Scribe Technology introduces a wave of integrated digital ink innovations that make it easy and natural to take notes, sign contracts, draw pictures, or even write on a web page or photo.
HTC Scribe Technology on the HTC Flyer tablet transforms traditional note-taking into smart note-taking by integrating natural onscreen writing with thoughtful and integrated innovations. A feature called Timemark enables you to capture the audio of a meeting in line with your written notes, so tapping on a word in your notes instantly takes you to that exact place in time in the audio recording of the meeting. Notes are also integrated with the calendar so when there is an appointment reminder you are automatically prompted with an opportunity to begin a new note or in the case of recurring meetings, to continue where the last meeting left off. In an industry first, the HTC Flyer tablet also features built-in synchronization with Evernote, the world-leading notes application and service.
Streaming Mobile Movies with HTC Watch
The HTC Flyer tablet premieres HTC Watch, HTC’s new video download service. The HTC Watch service enables low-cost on-demand progressive downloading of hundreds of High-Definition movies from major studios. The intuitive, natural design of the HTC Watch service makes it easy to find the latest movie and video content, while advanced technology on the back-end enables instant playback over the HTC Flyer tablet’s high-speed wireless connection.
Mobile Gaming with OnLive
HTC takes mobile gaming to an entirely new level by being the first mobile device in the world to integrate OnLive Inc.’s revolutionary cloud-based gaming service. OnLive is leading in the home gaming market by letting people play top video games on their televisions without the need to buy expensive gaming hardware or software. When integrated fully, the OnLive service will enable customers to pipe the OnLive service through the HTC Flyer tablet’s broadband wireless to their television sets, or let them play directly on the tablet. When integrated on the HTC Flyer tablet, people can play a variety of games, including hits like Assassin’s Creed II, NBA 2K11 and Lego Batman.
HTC Flyer will be available to customers globally during Q2 2011.