Wednesday, April 27, 2011

At long last, small NookColor improvement

Barnes & Noble released their NookColor 1.2 update on Monday, updating the 7" tablet to Froyo (Android 2.2) and providing a limited app store.

After playing with it for 24 hours, I can say there are two major pieces of good news. One is Flash: I tried it with Google Voice, and was able to listen to my voicemail messages. (Obviously I couldn’t make calls from my NookColor because it lacks a microphone).

The other is a decent email client. It auto-configured for my two Gmail accounts, and seems allow for arbitrary POP and IMAP servers. (One quibble: no "Reply-To" field, important in many organizations.)

A third small but useful change — the Quick Settings popup includes the screen brightness, something I asked for last December.

However, the long overdue app store is a bust. The contact application is still useless: as before, it only picks up email addresses from Gmail, not the phone number, street address, or any other contact information.

And there’s still no calendar app. The 7" screen of my NookColor is larger than my last physical organizer in the 1990s — it would be a great way to schedule and view meetings, again synchronized to Gmail, Exchange or whatever.

Android phones have a decent built-in calendar and a choice of dozens of calendar apps, but the NookColor still has no built-in calendar. The only one in the app store is the Fliq Calendar — criipleware for a paid side-loading application that doesn’t synchronize to the net — an odd choice for a device that’s always on Wi-Fi and rarely on USB.

And that’s the rub: there are only 139 (there were 140 Tuesday night) Nook Apps™ for the NookColor vs. an estimated 150,000 for Android overall. There are only 15 free apps, versus 100,000+ for the iPhone and tens of thousands for the iPad. A dollar for a clock app?

Maybe there’s just a lag in qualifying. B&N is soliciting new developers to join their “qualified” developer program, so perhaps in a few months we’ll have a broader range of applications.

For now, what we have is a tablet that is exactly what was released last November — plus the long-promised Flash.

Still, this is amazing: 15 years after Palm Pilot, we have a 7" PDA that has no calendar and no usable address book. What gives?


Bill said...

I think the real problem is that Google is blocking "unofficial" Android tablets from the Android marketplace. I don't *want* a 3rd party Contact/Calendar app, I want the *Google* suite (on my Archos tablet).

Joel West said...

I don't know about the Archos, but this choice was B&N's. If you root the NookColor you can use the Android Market without modification.