Archos 7 – Not all Androids are created equal

I picked up my first device running the Android operating system yesterday: the Archos 7 home tablet.

It does have some redeeming qualities:

Pros:

  • Form factor – Much more portable than an iPad, much more viewable than a smartphone.
  • Micro SD card reader
  • A kickstand
  • Cost: $199

Unfortunately there are several deficiencies that make it rather low on the totem pole of Android devices:

Cons:

  • Touch screen isn’t very sensitive, especially in the bottom left corner.  Might need to try re-calibrating, but this makes typing painful.  Maybe I’ll get used to it.
  • No buttons
  • No accelerometer
  • Micro USB connector – Which will undoubtedly become horribly flaky like my Treo 800w. ugh.
  • Android 1.5 – Released 13 months ago
  • No Android market <— this is the deal breaker right here.

“It’s the apps, stupid” -me channeling Steve Jobs channeling Bill Clinton

So there is the Archos “Appslib”, which contains 1000 something apps I’ve never heard of, and none of the android apps I was hoping to run.   There is nothing to stop you from downloading apps .APK files onto the device and installing them.  However, these APK files are not easy to find, often they are uploaded illegitimately to rapidshare, and only seem to work half the time, maybe because they were built for more recent versions of android.

Most sites for android apps, such as http://www.xiialive.com/ don’t provide APK files for their apps, they just direct you to a market:// search URL, which of course does not work on the Archos7.   After seeing several “cannot install on your phone” messages after opening APK files, I began to long for ease of use that the Cydia & Rock app stores on my iPod touch.

So the Archos7 is quite a neutered device as it comes from the factory.  But hopefully in time the Android version can be updated to at least 2.1, and somebody will eventually hack the market so that it can “illegally” run on the device like the Archos 5 tablet was hacked.  Then it will become rather neat.  I guess I’m going to hold on to it and hope for the future.

The moral of the story is that Apple is not the only one to foster a “closed ecosystem”.  Sure it’s not as closed as an iPhone OS device, but I wouldn’t call it open either.  It’s not so much a walled garden… more like a unhealthy patch of grass surrounded by a rusty chain link fence.

Coming next (in 11 days):  The Sprint HTC Evo 4G… a “real” android device, I hope.

Broomfield, Colorado, United States