Some Impressions of an iRobot...
Not long after the announcement of the iPad we received word of the APad, a Chinese alternative running on Android. Nowadays dubbed the iRobot, we managed to get our hands on one of these Chinese gadgets and we deemed it only fair to write down our first 5 minute impressions as to have a small comparison between the iPad and the iRobot…
Very much a lookalike
Okay, so it might not be an actual clone… we can fairly call it an extreme lookalike. Just look at the pictures and you’ll notice yourself: even the box is almost a shameless copy… must be Chinese.
With its 7-inch screen, the iRobot is smaller than the iPad (9.7-inch), it’s somewhere between the iPad and the iPhone in size. It also weighs about half of the iPad, only 350 grams, which is pretty light if you hold it. From a distance it looks quite the same but it feels totally different. It feels cheap! You get a plastic feel that constantly made us wonder if we forgot to remove a protective cover somewhere.
Trying it out
The operating system for the iRobot is Android 1.5 and I think that must be the single big advantage of the device. The open system allows for easy application development and deployment over a wider range of devices than simply the Apple base. The interface is almost entirely touch based, but there’s 2 buttons you need to use for most basic (back/home) functionality.
Due to the size of the device and the location of the buttons, you’re more inclined to use it in landscape mode. It looks like it was designed that way, even though portrait mode works as well… sometimes. But you can hardly call the interface very intuitive and some buttons really are in the wrong place (even after several days we’re still struggling with it).
The quality of the screen isn’t exactly great either, and with the screen being smaller this means the whole experience is more smartphone- than tablet-like. Most annoyingly, the touch is more push than actual touch. Sometimes you need to press down so hard it can’t be good for your fingertips and then there’s the visual effect of pushing hard (think of pushing on an LCD screen). Add to that processing power that is just not enough to provide an overall smooth experience and you have a galaxy of difference with the Apple devices.
The iRobot is a Chinese device, but we assumed we could make it work in English as well. We tried configuring it that way but only succeeded partially. Some error messages are still in Chinese, we see Chinese buttons on the keyboard and especially the Chinese auto-complete function is a bit very silly. Ofcourse, the fact that our iRobot kept shutting down at the most unexpected times didn’t really help in finding the right configuration settings.
Fair is fair
Not very impressed at all, but I think it’s only fair of me to say we didn’t really give the iRobot much chance in the first place, we were prejudiced. But however we looked at it, we didn’t really find any edge over the iPad… It’s just not very intuitive (the Chinese text you encounter doesn’t really help), feels way too cheap and the hardware isn’t powerful enough to provide a smooth experience. To top it all off, we managed to get our hands on a dodgy version that has problems charging and simply shuts down unexpectedly at times.
For us the iRobot was 2 minutes of fun and interest and that’s where it ended. We’ll keep it around and perhaps use it as a testplatform for Android apps or mobile sites, but there are smartphones out there running Android that provide both better performance and usability. In Asia there could be a fanbase for this device, but as an alternative for the iPad - even at one third of the price… naaah.
Category: Touch & Tablets
Foreach has created several websites with Umbraco and was recently named Certified Partner.October 25, 2012