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Featured: Weeks 2 and 3 – 30 days with an Android tablet

April 18, 2012 - Written By Randy Arrowood

The 30 day Android tablet challenge didn’t end, I just had some personal things that prevented me from doing an update last week. Details don’t really matter, but I promise you that it was insanely important for me to be taking care of my personal business. Now, on with the update.

A big change
The challenge may not have ended, but it certainly underwent a huge change. If you follow me on Twitter or Google+, you are already aware of the fact that I broke down and bought a 10.1″ tablet. I came to the realization that doing things on my 7″ Acer Iconia A100 because I wanted to use it is vastly different from doing things on my 7 incher because I have no other choice. My frustrations came to a head after my challenge update on the 5th while I was doing spreadsheet work in Google Docs on the little devil. There just was not enough screen real estate for me to get my work done, and the battery life (or lack thereof) was becoming a too much of a problem to ignore.

I went to Microcenter in Cincinnati that night to pick up an external hard drive for one of my DirecTV DVR’s, and in a weak moment, I strolled through the tablet section. I’m really holding out for the new Acer A700, but I was pretty sure if I could land something bigger than what I had for less than $350 to hold me over I’d do it. I did it.

The original Transformer was $399, as was the Sony Tablet S. Pass. Some Pantech something or other was $299, but wait. What’s that up there in the corner? Why, that’s the 10.1″ Acer A200, and it’s only $299! SOLD!

The little A100 squirt is still very much in my life and is still playing a part in my challenge. I’m using it as my GPS unit in my truck, my reader and it’s still a great little Netflix streamer. I still take it out with me nearly everywhere that I go, but the real work for me happens on the A200.

Now, with my mea culpa out of the way, let’s talk about how things have gone over the last 2 weeks.

Week 2 – Office suites
I previously expressed my frustrations with office suites on Android, and I pointed out how Quickoffice sold me the tablet version of their suite for Honeycomb on my A100, but promptly left me in the dust as soon as I upgraded the device to the ICS leak that made its way around the net. It took four weeks to get an acceptable response, but Quickoffice refunded my purchase price in full. I’m very happy to be done with Quickoffice and its quirky issues, and I’m thankful that they gave me my money back.

I’ll preface this by saying that my office needs would be considered basic by most people, but I still need to get things done. For my needs, I can say that OfficeSuite Pro 6 has been far and away the best spreadsheet editor that I’ve tried. No more complaints about formatting being hosed, calculations being off or columns missing. My spreadsheets now transfer to Mac Office without any of the issues that I had with Quickoffice.

On the Word side, I’ve likewise found that Google Docs for tablets is the best word processor for me. Like OfficeSuite, I find that I have the fewest formatting issues when I use the Google app. It lacks quite a few of the formatting tools that are available in OfficeSuite, but I have the fewest issues when I use it to create my .doc files. It’s kind of sad that I can’t get the results that I need from one app, but there you have it.

Photo management
Another big need for me in some of the other responsibilities that I have is image management and distribution. I settled on using Picasa Web Albums for a lot of this work because it’s accessible from almost everywhere and the price for extra storage is just stupid cheap. I’ve used Just Pictures on all of my Android phones because the CoolIris created Gallery app has never been up to snuff. Well, the Gallery app on the A200 is a much better user experience.

I’ve come to really rely on it for all of my needs. Browsing, uploading and emailing images is a simple process. Sorting by account could be a little better, but for the things that I need for it to do, it works just fine.

Week 3 – Accessories
I have been using the Logitech Tablet Keyboard for Android for some time. In fact, when I bought it I didn’t even have an Android tablet at all. I knew that my iPad wasn’t going to be hanging around for long, so I bought the Android version of the keyboard so that I wouldn’t have to buy it twice.

This keyboard has been nothing short of maddening. The first issue that I had with it involved multiple entries when I press a key. Enter a “t” and instead get “ttttttttttttttttt”. This happened with my A100, but it’s been a huge issue with my A200.

Logitech support says that it’s the sucky nature of Android that makes this happen. When I asked how the sucky nature of Android factored into this same issue existing on my iPad as well, I stopped hearing from Logitech support.

Oddly, my Apple Bluetooth keyboard works just fine. I’m missing the shortcut keys of the Logitech keyboard, but at least I’m able to type.

ICS also seems to not love my Bluetooth mouse. On both my A100 and A200 I have an issue with the cursor being split in half. I tried to do a screenshot of it but the cursor didn’t show when I did it. It hasn’t happened to me a lot, but it’s happened more than a few times and I’m not sure what to make of it.

This week’s update to the Chrome Beta has largely supplanted my use of the standard Android browser. I’m not seeing the crashes on either of my tablets that the previous version experienced, and the Settings tab now works on my A100 without Chrome force closing. Its fast, but I think its only going to get better from here.

Photo/Video uploading
I started to cheat and pull out my MacBook to get some images off of my point and shoot camera and a couple of videos off of my Flip cam, then I remembered that full sized USB port on my A200. I was able to connect both my Flip cam and Kodak camera to the A200 import the files that I needed. The Gallery app handled the upload and sharing in Picasa Web Albums and the video uploads to YouTube were likewise pretty painless.

After a week with my A100 I wasn’t sure that I could go a solid month without using my MacBook. After nearly two weeks with my A200, I’ve settled into a routine and don’t miss the MacBook at all. I can’t quite do everything with my tablet, but I’m not looking forward to the month ending like I had been with the runt.

My tablet app discoveries of the week:

  • Cubby – Like Dropbox, only encrypted. I like it, but if Google Drive really is coming next week my love affair with it will likely be short.
  • Plume – I didn’t love the layout on my A100, but on the A200 I have totally loved it.
  • Springpad – Though their new version isn’t compatible with my A200, I remembered that I have a rooted phone. It looks great on the big screen and their recent update to it has improved the speed.
  • Engadget Distro – Love them or hate them, Engadget is still a top tech site. Distro is a great app for tablets.
  • Google Currents – This isn’t a discovery so much as it’s a rediscovery. Currents was frustratingly slow to sync and laggy to use. The latest update changes all of that.
  • Google Reader tablet layout – Not perfect, but much better on the 10.1″ A200.

Love lost
I’ve come to terms with the fact that there won’t be an HBO Go, MAX Go, or DirecTV app for my ICS tablets. I still would really like to have all three, but I’m not missing them like I did near the end of week one.

Because the asshats at DirecTV block access to HBO Go on my Roku boxes, I’ve been using HBO Go and MAX Go on my Google TV. I still have access to HBO Go, but only at the one TV location that has a Google TV. The Vizio Google TV Streamer might entice me to add a Google TV to every location in the house. Then again, I’m sick and tired of the entire Google TV fail.

Cheating cheater
Yep. Guilty. I had to change the programming on one of my Harmony remotes, and though I tried to do it on my A200 the MyHarmony.com website wouldn’t work in any browser that I tried on my tablet. I also used my MacBook to finish taxes for my son and daughter.

Total cheat time: <2 hours.

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