I’m a big fan of portrait-mode thumbing as a keyboard input method. I’ve used it for over 2 years on my Galaxy Tab and it’s been fast enough and easy enough that I’ve posted a large number of blog posts with it. The 10” Acer Iconia W510 with it’s light weight and 16:9 format screen offers something close although it’s not perfect. An 8.9” Windows 8 tablet might be the way forward due to smaller size and a potential sub 500gm / 1lb weight but for the time being, I’m prepared to accept this over the Galaxy Tab due to having the obvious advantage of having full Windows available if needed.
Here’s a video showing portrait-mode thumbing input that I made this afternoon. The video was made in a lower-quality 4:3 to test video editing on the Acer W510. Rendering speed for a 3.5Mbps output was 2X real-time which is acceptable for short videos. I’ll be testing Windows 8 video editing apps in the near future to see if I can find a process that is a bit easier on the finger too.
In a detailed Windows 8 post last week I outlined some issues around Windows 8 and mobility. One of the biggest issues is the resolution requirements. 1366×768 is going to he expensive to implement on 10″ and smaller screens. I also found a lot of issues with portrait mode. The apps included in the developer edition weren’t optimised for portrait mode at all. Fortunately most ofbthe problems lie in the applications and not the operating system itself. In the video below, Microsoft talk directly about portrait mode. It’s very much a promo video but its good to know that Microsoft are on the case. I like to think that the article and detailed comments helped. Keep thone thoughts flowing.
I’m quickly starting to struggle with the two-handed nature of the device. The phone and image viewer applications are working in portrait mode but the feature is missing from every other part of the software. A 2-handed phone restricts mobility and I won’t be able to use this as my one-and-only if it’s not fixed soon.
My issue was with the landscape scenario but the same problem occurs when you can’t reach 100% of a touchscreen with your thumb. It’s just about possible (although somewhat unbalanced) to thumb the whole area of a 3.5” screen but what about a 4.3” one?
I really like Steve Litchfield’s take on this issue…
…the fundamental division between ‘phone’ and ‘mobile computer’ comes as a result of looking at how the device is used. I suggest that if a device is used one-handed for more than 50% of the time then it can count as a ‘phone’. In other words, a device that can be used while hanging from a tube train strap, while walking along with a bag of shopping, while driving, and so on. The whole point about a smartphone is that it takes this basic definition and adds a super-powerful OS and add-on applications – often with a miniature qwerty keyboard as well. All while keeping the primarily one-handed use and yet allowing the possibility of two-handed use when needed – such as when composing an email or watching a video.
If a device is used two-handed for most of its life then it’s not really a phone at all – I’d class it as a ‘mobile computer’ or ‘Mobile Internet Device’ (MID). For example, the Nokia N900 is used 98% of the time in landscape, two-handed mode, and only rotated to portrait and one-handed use to make a voice call. Consider also the HTC HD2 – at 4.3″, its screen is so huge that you can’t hold it in one hand and comfortably operate more than a fraction of its functions. So you end up operating it two-handed and, despite the portrait form factor, it ceases to become a phone per se.
Keep an eye on the comments on the AAS article as they are sure to be interesting. If you have an opinion, let us all know below. When is a smartphone, a MID? (or MIDPhone as I, probably annoyingly, keep calling them.)
Ever since we outed the Samsung Q1EX I’ve had trouble positioning it. After an unboxing (see below) a 4-hour live Q&A session (1hr video below) I still cant see why Samsung created the Q1EX. It’s a fine tabletPC but in the last 3 years they’ve learned a lot about the UMPC market and they know that Tablet PCs can be a hard sell. What made them go back to the no-keyboard form-factor?
From a TabletPC perspective, the Samsung is actually a very good all-rounder. I called it the ’20% device’ in our live Ustream Q&A because that about sums up the improvements overall. 20% less weight, 20% less cost, 20% more GPU, 20% more battery life, 20% better looking!! All excellent incremental changes for the TabletPC market but there are silly things that appear to have been left out.
A 1.3mp cam on the rear means it’s no good for Skype video and not high enough quality for photography. The stylus slots into the lanyard which means you need to leave the lanyard attached, affecting the smooth looks of the device. The hard drive is neither fast (in comparison with some of the SSD’s we’re seeing now) nor does it have a very high capacity. The touchscreen doesnt run full tabletPC-compatible drivers meaning the input panel doesnt float and you get low sample-rate handwriting recognition. The organiser pack accessory bulks it out to a size that’s than most netbooks and finally, I managed to push the CPU/GPU combination so hard in a Cooliris test that I got the battery life meter down to 1.5hrs! It bounced back up to three when I stopped playing with Cooliris but it shows that the power envelope of the Q1EX is very very wide.
On the positive side, the push/scroll wheel is the best implementation I’ve seen yet for an on-screen control panel. Changing brightness, volume, rotation is a breeze. The weight is down to one-handed usage levels meaning you can flip this one into portrait ‘reading’ mode. I was seeing over 4hrs battery life in this, no-radio, quiescent state. Also, the touchscreen has some palm rejection capability. For my ‘pinky on the screen’ left-handed writing method, it didn’t work but it’s clearly a lot better than other touchscreens for handwriting. In fact, one-handed portrait mode usage with a stylus is probably the #1 ‘feature’ over other UMPCs.
Considering that this is entering the market at $750, I would expect to see this discounted like many other devices have been over the last two years. In fact, I think this is very likely. It looks to me like this was a project by Samsung to put a new tablet out there for a specific market, a market-research exercise or even an industry request. Resellers have decided to price-up the device (still below all the other Samsung UMPC offerings) in order to get the most out of the early, mostly commercial, buyers but based on the fact that a VIA-based Samsung NC20 can sell for 75% of the price, there must be room for a sub $500 or even sub $400 price point. That would be pretty close to that CrunchPad that Techcrunch are working on.
What do you think? Is there a usage model that jumps out at you or is this simply targeted as a good quality, well-priced, TabletPC? Here’s the unboxing video…
For a more detailed look at the Q1EX, check out the Ustream recording below. (If the video is not showing below, go to the Ustream page. I’ve been seeing some problems with the UStream embedded videos today.)