Living With Our Rapido 963f Le Randonneur Motor Home.

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

7" Android Touch Tablet 2 - currently on offer at Maplin

I decided to treat myself yesterday! When my smart phone contract runs out at the end of the year, I am going to give up the £35 / month no limit data allowance, and revert to my simple Nokia GSM, which I installed with a Vodafone Simplicity pay as you go sim card, with passport activated, which gives UK rates in 35 worldwide countries including Australia and New Zealand. Last year, on our trip down under, my contract 'phone cost me an arm and a leg, and I had used my capped data roaming allowance in the first week away, where this little Nokia, with its WAP Gmail and Facebook for everyphone applications, cost next to nothing to run for the next 12 weeks we were away from the UK.

I decided to complete my future package yesterday by buying an Android 7" touch tablet 2, which I intend to use in conjunction with my 3 mobile broadband wi-fi dongle in the UK, and with free wi-fi points abroad.
This is currently on offer at reference A13KK,until 8th August, down in price from £149.99 to £99.99.
This will (should) replace all that I need from my smart 'phone, without the cost of going for the (much better) i-pad. All I need it for is to connect to my mobile wi-fi, to keep in contact with my web pages, and email, when we are out and about, particularly on our next world trip next year, when I will connect to free wi-fi hot spots. There are one or two shortfalls with this machine though, that I will now point out, should anybody else fancy taking up the offer.
1) There is no sim card, so the only connectivity is with either wi-fi or a mobile internet dongle via the USB socket. The dongle option though, is very limited in compatibility. This is only known from the information contained within the manual after you have bought it. There are about a dozen compatible dongles to choose from. Forget the rest! Although my 3 dongle provides a wi-fi access point for up to 4 units, so works a treat.
2) The unit comes with various "apps" pre-loaded, and ready for the new user to activate as they require. However, this facility is also limited. The unit has no compatibility with Google Android apps market, but instead relies on its own app seller. Many of the apps available are downloaded as trials only, with a link to the Google Android apps market to upgrade - but it is not compatible with that, so you can't. (It can be hacked, if you know how).
3). One of the apps that are pre-loaded is Skype, which would be very useful. However, it downloads a third party app for Skype, which isn't compatible, and won't run. Skype, in fact, have no software that is compatible, though they say they are working on it. Even if it had compatible software, you couldn't access it as it is provided on Google Android market, for the more expensive (compatible) units, which isn't compatible with this one! Are you starting to get the picture?

Having said all this, you gets what you pays for! The i-pad is several times the price, as are many of the "branded" Android tablets. The i-pad also has exclusive access to i-store and is limited to that. This unit is cheap enough to provide what I need, without having to worry too much about damaging / losing it on my travels. I have managed to install a fully operational office suite, that is fully compatible with Microsoft Word, and Excel. My Gmail also installed automatically without any problem at all. It comes with 4GB of internal memory, with the option of fitting up to 16GB additional memory into an external micro-sd slot. (I fitted 8GB - enough for what I want to do). At home, I have also recently moved over to BT internet. They have an interesting set up where registered users can connect to a worldwide network of wi-fi hotspots known as BT Openzone, or BT Fon. (There is also an Android app available to download for that, which would tell you all the worldwide locations of hot spots right on the tablet screen, but guess what - it is only provided on Android market, which of course can't be accessed by this machine. There are ways around this though, by using BT's links to their maps from the 'net). A downloaded 'net browser from a third party supplier also now gives "Flash" support, which is quite good, as many modern websites rely on this very heavily. (Animation and interaction). It is also ready to sign up to Amazon Kindle and other e-book accounts, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and Ebay. These all work no problem on their respective pre-loaded Android apps.

As long as you buy being aware of it's many shortfalls, I believe it is good value for mobile net surfing and email. It is supplied with a mains charger, a USB lead, and earphones. A driver disk is also supplied, so firmware (operating system) upgrades can be downloaded to a laptop or PC before connecting the tablet via USB. It is solidly built and is of good quality - and of course - made in China. I also ordered a neat black and red neoprene case for it off an Ebay supplier yesterday. Cost - £1.97 with free postage would you believe. It arrived this morning!


  1. Compatibility update: Skype Beta Lite works with the current 2.1 firmware version as it is, providing you have a mobile broadband dongle phone number to insert into the registration form. However, it appears that only Skype to Skype instant messaging works, albeit on both mobile broadband or a fixed wi-fi connection. With this you can have a typed conversation with another Skype user who is on line. You can download the latest version, 2.2, from the companies official support website and instructions on how to do it. I am told this give compatibility with the full Skype version and Android Market, but haven't tried it because the process wipes all previously downloaded apps, and leaves you with a "clean" machine, as it was purchased.

  2. The Maplin offer seems to have been extended to 6th September 2011.


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