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EXCLUSIVE: More on the AndyPad project

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#1
PaulOBrien

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When I first found out about the AndyPad project, my interest was piqued by the fact that the team developing the product is based in Norwich, just up the road from me. This also meant it was convenient for me to pop up and have a chat, which is what I did today. ;)

It's a pretty tough position to be in, being tasked with bringing to market a tablet device, in a sea of tablets, in a fast moving market, at a rock bottom price, funded by a mattress company founder with a technology vision. Unenviable, but with a chance of being ultimately successful? Maybe, just maybe...

Before I talk about what the AndyPad is / will be, let's talk about what the AndyPad isn't. It's not an Apple iPad. It's not a Motorola Xoom. It's not an Asus Transformer. It's not even a Samsung Galaxy Tab. What the AndyPad is is a low cost entry to the world of tablets, with the inevitable challenges that that brings.

Imagine that you're sitting in a room with a tablet case. A tablet case that's not super thin but isn't overly portly (and actually isn't 100% signed off quite yet), has space for a 7" screen and has the important bits you'd hope for on the outside (speaker, volume buttons, 3 capacitive keys, microSD slot, mini HDMI, microUSB, 3.5mm). Next to you is a box of bits. You want to sell the device for $x which means you can spend $y on bits, and you can't have them all. Such is the situation at AndyPad and whether the device turns out to be a success is probably largely dependent on what they choose.

The Andypad team are at least taking a sensible approach to developing the device. Upon entering the AndyPad boardroom it's clear that they've been doing their homework - the room is littered with boxes for tablet devices. High end devices (there's an I/O Galaxy Tab around somewhere), mid range devices (Advent Vega - yes, they've seen how NOT to do a screen) and the low end devices that we've all come to loathe (those ones you buy from that Chinese site you're not quite sure is legitimate) are all represented. So, they've carried out the appropriate due diligence... the next piece of the jigsaw is knowing the target market and what is important to those potential buyers.

With that in mind, the AndyPad is being designed to tick a few key boxes. The processor is fast enough to play 3D games on, with the required sensors for tilt based gameplay. The device has enough battery power to play the 'Lord of the Rings' movie with plenty to spare for a some gaming afterwards. The miniHDMI port on the device can output 1080P. The device is expected to come with a variety of popular content out of the box so the less tech savvy start enjoying their device straight away.

All well and good, but I know you, my dear readers, are geeks like me, so you want specifics. Some I can elaborate on and some I can't at this time... but here's what I can share.

PRICE. The price point for the AndyPad isn't set in stone yet, but it's going to be priced to target a market that doesn't want to spend hundreds of pounds on a tablet. Hey, if it undercuts the infamous Next tablet and is actually half decent that's a win right? How about if it's priced in line with popular handheld gaming consoles? Or high end eBook readers? :P With model specifications not yet having been finalised, there is still some internal discussion around whether there might be a base AndyPad and a 'souped up' version at a slightly higher price point.

HARDWARE. The AndyPad won't have a rear facing camera, but will have a front facing camera for video calling. As previously mentioned it has microSD expansion, miniHDMI, microUSB charging and a 3.5mm headphone port. The screen resolution / technology is yet to be confirmed but capacitive touch is not confirmed on yet for the base model. A resistive screen means no true multitouch, which is a worry, i'd implore the AndyPad guys to be sure they make the right call on that one. The device includes a very respectable 8GB of storage. There is still some internal debate around the amount of RAM to ship with - early samples have only 256MB on board - again, this is a potential problem if it doesn't get bumped for launch. A vibration motor is included for haptic feedback, something I lament the omission of on many tablets at the moment. The device is of course WiFi only, no 3G chipset, which also means no GPS. An interesting feature debate is around Bluetooth... does a low end, WiFi only tablet need it? It's still up for debate it seems.

DISTRIBUTION: With regards to distribution, the AndyPad will sell direct to buyers online initially, with other sales channels to potentially follow. The initial launch will be in the UK, again with other markets an option later. A full range of accessories will be available (cases, keyboards etc.).

SOFTWARE: From a software perspective the device will be running Gingerbread, with a fully unlocked bootloader. Work is ongoing with Google to ensure the Android Market is on the device for launch.

So the AndyPad team are at something of a crossroads. They have the potential to produce a device that will sell well and capture the imagination of both enthusiasts and newcomers alike, but the road ahead is full of potential pitfalls. The hardware decisions need to be right, the software needs to be stable and the device needs to ship in a timely fashion at the pricepoint for which they are aiming. The device needs to excel amongst it's competition in a market segment filled with devices that have one or more compromises that render the device seriously flawed. I expect to be getting a full hands on with a test unit in the MoDaCo office next week, so i'll update more then - and I plan to be helping AndyPad wherever I can going forward!

P

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#2
Fysi

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2 things in my opinion that they need to sort. Make sure it is capacitive, and talk to Google to get Honeycomb. If it is missing the first, it is dead out of the gates. If it misses the second, it'll not really sell as well as they will hope. I am sure that Google would be more than happy to provide Honeycomb to them.

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#3
tsutton

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I use Bluetooth much less and less to the point where the last time I used it was last year! I would rather have WiFi/3G/GPS/aGPS fitted with this hardware over Bluetooth.

And in order for this to be launched with great fanfare, Honeycomb is needed to attract customers. They don't want out of date O/S where they have to update it once they purchased it.

Andy said in his tweet that this will be priced "under £200" which is a good price for a tablet.

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#4
lekky

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My opinion on a few of the points:

Did I hear you mention around £200 somewhere (twitter maybe)? This is close to the wifi only galaxy tab, and on the face of it, looks too high imo. But here you mention high end ereaders, priced around the kindle would make more sense.

I'm not sure how much a camera would add to the cost, but if it is tight, the front camera is definitly one of hte things it should look to drop first, especially with regards to my next point..

It needs to be capacitive! It would be a huge error to go with a resistive screen. Especially if they want to power this thing to play 3d games on. Having enough cpu to power games is all well and good, but if you dont have multitouch to actually enjoy playing them, it just won't work.

Back onto the camera, how many people actually use the front camera..? It's wifi only so less demand for people to be using this thing as their actual phone. Personally, I'd say if it doesn't add much cost throw it in, else forget it.

Bluetooth is important for a media device, for both transferring content (pictures) and playback (bt earphones).

They should at least look to amazon marketplace for distribution too, I know amazon will take a % of the fee, but the added exposure and people being able to read reviews might make it worthwhile.


EDIT: With regards to the honeycomb point raised above. I think because of the type of people this thing is aimed towards, having honeycomb is not that big of a deal.. Well it all depends on the cost (not just monetary), but yeah I dont think that would be what makes this tablet a failure or a success.

Edited by lekky, 14 June 2011 - 09:41 AM.

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#5
Fysi

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I also want to add to my previous statement that a front facing camera would be more useful than a normal camera. More and more people are video calling, and a camera on the back isn't really needed on a tablet IMO.

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#6
flibblesan

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A few points based on my limited knowledge.

Front camera: A simple camera for internet chat costs mere pence so they wouldn't be saving anything by dropping it.
Rear camera: Useless on a tablet, in my opinion.
Bluetooth: Most wifi chips in Android devices have integrated bluetooth so, again, they wouldn't save any money by removing it.
Screen: Absolutely must be capacitive. As said above, games are horrendous on a resistive screen. Capacitive means working multitouch.
Market: Ideally the device will have Android Market. If not the Amazon app store would be a nice option if they only provided the service in the rest of the world.
Memory: 512mb of ram minimum. Anything less will serious cripple performance.
Storage: 512mb rom minimum, 1 or 2gb internal storage. A lot of Chinese tablets utilise an internal microSD for storage which is a good idea. Stick a cheap 1Gb stick in and let the users decide if they want to increase this by replacing the microSD themselves.
3G: Adding a 3G radio to the device would increase costs but it would be extremely useful if the device at least came without 3G but an internal slot for a card to be fitted at a later date. They could also sell a 3G version for another £50 which I'm sure a lot of people would buy.
USB charging: people are sick of having to charge tablets using a seperate power supply.
CPU: At the very least an 800MHz Cortex A8 for flash support and decent performance in games. Ideal CPU would be a dual core Rockchip RK2918. 1.2GHz, flash support, Neon support, native 1080P decoding, decent GPU performance. Over 2000 quadrant.

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#7
PaulOBrien

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Did I hear you mention around £200 somewhere (twitter maybe)? This is close to the wifi only galaxy tab, and on the face of it, looks too high imo. But here you mention high end ereaders, priced around the kindle would make more sense.

You didn't hear me mention £200. :P

I'm not sure how much a camera would add to the cost, but if it is tight, the front camera is definitly one of hte things it should look to drop first, especially with regards to my next point..

It needs to be capacitive! It would be a huge error to go with a resistive screen. Especially if they want to power this thing to play 3d games on. Having enough cpu to power games is all well and good, but if you dont have multitouch to actually enjoy playing them, it just won't work.

I 100% agree, I think capacitive is a no brainer!

Back onto the camera, how many people actually use the front camera..? It's wifi only so less demand for people to be using this thing as their actual phone. Personally, I'd say if it doesn't add much cost throw it in, else forget it.

I think video calling functionality is quite cool to have, and i'd like to see it in. Not at the expense of a capacitive screen tho.

Bluetooth is important for a media device, for both transferring content (pictures) and playback (bt earphones).

Really? Maybe for headphones / car connectivity, but who actually sends stuff over BT nowadays? I would class it as 'nice' but not 'essential'.

They should at least look to amazon marketplace for distribution too, I know amazon will take a % of the fee, but the added exposure and people being able to read reviews might make it worthwhile.
EDIT: With regards to the honeycomb point raised above. I think because of the type of people this thing is aimed towards, having honeycomb is not that big of a deal.. Well it all depends on the cost (not just monetary), but yeah I dont think that would be what makes this tablet a failure or a success.

Amazon Marketplace for distribution of what exactly? ;)

I agree on Honeycomb... it's a nice to have but not a must have at this point. Besides, if we can hack HC or ICS on it later... :D

P

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#8
PaulOBrien

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USB charging: people are sick of having to charge tablets using a seperate power supply.

It DOES charge over USB i'm told.

P

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#9
McSpoon

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The fact they haven't ruled out a resistive screen dooms the project instantly. ;)
I really want them to do well but I doubt they can compete. In theory the price of many high-end Android tablets should fall in the months before xmas so I hope they find a way to deliver a better hardware specification which might stand a chance.

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#10
flibblesan

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If it's resistive then I'm leaving Android and buying an iPhone!

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#11
tsutton

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Bluetooth is important for a media device, for both transferring content (pictures)


Welcome to 1990! ;)

and playback (bt earphones).


Fair point, as this is something I do not use, so had forgotten about it.

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#12
flibblesan

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Bluetooth support will allow the use of external GPS units if the device has no built-in 3G, so it's worth having. BT chips cost mere pence anyway.

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#13
lekky

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hah you buggers!

We are the elite though. You'd be amazed how many times I'm asked how to transfer images over bt on android from people. It might be old for us (in fact I've never done it). But these are the types of people this tablet is aimed towards!!

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#14
tsutton

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Bluetooth support will allow the use of external GPS units if the device has no built-in 3G, so it's worth having. BT chips cost mere pence anyway.


Yeah, but would you want to carry another piece of device? You also have to worry about charging BOTH of them up... to the customer side, this is a hassle.

Someone pointed out that the WiFi chip has integrated bluetooth so if they can source this cheaply, then this can be enabled. However I still think integrated 3G/GPS/aGPS is the biggest win as more and more people use GPS to find their way around and finding out what is available in their area (i.e. Google Maps, Navigation, Geocaching, local news/weather, etc).

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#15
PaulOBrien

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WiFi and BT are discrete on this chipset I believe.

Remember the target market... it's definitely NOT aimed at people who want integrated 3G at this time.

P

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#16
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Have they looked into iPad WiFi vs iPad 3G? This should help them to see which one sells well.

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#17
flibblesan

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WiFi and BT are discrete on this chipset I believe.

Remember the target market... it's definitely NOT aimed at people who want integrated 3G at this time.

P


Yes but people will happily pay more for a device with 3G so ideally they should make it an option ;)

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#18
stirkac

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i think those guys shouldn't reinvent hot water. just buy nice SoC (with cortex proc) from mobile phones like GS, Motorolas(if performance is important)... or perhaps snapdragon like the one in Desire/HD2(if you want batt life, these suck +-1mA standby), whichever comes out better.

Why?

1.these are all well supported devices, tegra is expensive and chinese "no name" processors suck.
2.small size(being all-in-one)->bigger batt
3.no fiddling around finding combos that would work good

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#19
lekky

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They've told us who they want to sell it to, and keeping the price low. Talking about things like 3G is useless because it's out of scope ;) (Requirements are my day job, you don't understand how frustrating it is when people go off track!).

@stirkac Is cost not the issue here though?

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#20
Fysi

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A competitor for the AndyPad with a lot features for £120

http://www.kogan.co....let-pc-android/

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