December 19, 2014

Preliminary Thoughts on the Archos 5 Tablet

Archos-5-Internet-Tablet-to-get-AndroidHere are some stream-of-consciousness thoughts on the Archos 5 Internet Tablet that arrived today at CommonsWare‘s secret mountain lair.

Pros:

  • It looks slick.
  • The 800MHz CPU makes this device rather snappy for many operations. Flipping between settings activities and launching the Browser app, for example, are lightning-quick.
  • The screen, visually, is very nice. This is a great size for Web browsing, for example.

Cons:

  • Touchscreen is inaccurate, even after two calibration rounds. It does not register touches all of the time, which makes scrolling through lists a serious chore. For example, when reviewing the installed applications, I wound up accidentally clicking on applications several times when I was simply trying to get it to scroll the list.
  • The hacked status bar, offering soft keys for back, menu, and home instead of physical keys, is a bit clumsy to me, though it may be just because I am not used to it.
  • The Amazon listing for this product claims it comes with a bunch of apps pre-installed. It does not. It comes with Twidroid and ThinkFree Office (the latter installed in firmware), and that’s it for third-party apps.
  • As expected, it does not come with any of the Google apps for Android, as this product was (apparently) made using the Android open source project alone. However, confusingly, it does not seem to come with any sort of client for their own app market. Hence, other than by browsing to Web sites to download APKs, getting apps on this device will be a serious chore. And, since there does not appear to be a camera, Barcode Scanner and kin are out. A user’s first step would need to be to install an independent market client (AndAppStore, SlideME, etc.).
  • Translations to English are rough in spots.
  • Yet another incompatible USB cable. My guess is that mini-USB was too thick for this device, but it is annoying to have another cable to keep track of.

For what it’s worth, I obtained this device for experimenting with WVGA Android applications, to help advise developers on how to deal with larger screen sizes. I am not necessarily intending on using this device as an ordinary consumer would.



  • http://codeshogun.com/blog lordhong

    Mark, does ADB work on the Archos tablet? I heard it doesn't, please confirm. Thanks.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/commonsguy commonsguy

    There is no option in Settings to enable USB debugging, and Linux is not recognizing the device even exists unless I tell the device to mount the USB drive (which doesn't seem to work, but that could just be some udev rule issue). Hence, I would say that USB-based adb will not work.

    The MOTODEV guys indicated that they have some tricks with MOTODEV Studio for Android that allow for IP-based debugging, but I do not know the specifics and I do not know if that would work on this device, either.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/droidin droidin

    So much for my trumpeting of DroidIn pre-installed… Oh, well

    • http://archosfans.com Charbax

      DroidIn comes pre-installed..

      My guess is Archos rushed to upgrade firmwares or didn't manage to pre-install all the apps on some early batches.

  • http://archosfans.com Charbax

    I'll fix most of your cons for you one by one:

    1. A bunch of Apps including DroidIn and others come pre-installed, unless you are getting a very early production unit where they didn't manae to pre-install the apps or they got to somehow install a firmware update before shipping it out. But you can download those apps here: ftp://support.archos.com/ARCHOS%205%20Internet%20Tablet/System/APK/COMMON/

    2. You can download the Archos AppsLib application library at http://appslib.com/download/AppsLib.apk

    3. Resistive screens have been used in devices for more than 10 years without problems. You need to use the tip of your finger instead of the flat finger, I actually prefer resistive cause I can actually see where I click. And 800×480 4.8" capacitative screens are not on the market anyways.

    4. The USB connector is of the type Micro-USB which is the worldwide standard for mobile phones as decided by the EU among others.

    5. There are no Google apps for now. I think that is more likely to be because Google has not yet released the Google apps for 800×480 screens, even though Android 1.6 has been released for a week. This is basically the 5th Android device every released in the world and the only 800×480 Android device in the world. Leave it for Google and Archos at least a few weeks for them to adapt all the apps for this new larger resolution screen.

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/commonsguy commonsguy

      1. I purchased this from Amazon.com on October 7, arriving October 9. This means, among other things, that Amazon is stocking the hardware (in my case, a warehouse in Kentucky IIRC). If Archos is giving Amazon "early production units", then Archos is making a mistake IMHO. Typing that URL into an Archos device is not exactly user-friendly, and you cannot download and install those via a desktop browser terribly easy either. The Archos is supposed to be a consumer device; expecting consumers who buy through Amazon to jump through all those hoops to make the device match the product description is crazy. Even after installing a firmware upgrade, the apps were not there (which makes sense; Twidroid is installed as a regular app, not on firmware, and I would expect the others to be the same).

      2. I wrote: "However, confusingly, it does not seem to come with any sort of client for their own app market". Your counterpoint does not address this. Furthermore, if I am going to bother downloading a market client, I'll choose AndAppStore and/or SlideME before I bother with AppsLib. The *only* value AppsLib would have for me right now is if it were pre-installed. Perhaps someday AppsLib will be a compelling alternative market; for me, it is not at that state today.

      3. Resistive screens usually come with a stylus; the Archos does not. The manual shows users using fingers to manipulate the screen and says nothing about using fingernails instead of fingertips. Hence, many people will try using it like they see people using iPhone and other Android devices and will get frustrated as a result. Expecting people to know the availability of capacitive screens in various sizes and resolutions is asking a bit much of the average Archos consumer.

      4. I will take your word for it that this is micro USB. I can state positively that I have numerous phones and other mobile devices, from US, European, and Asian manufacturers, and none use that plug. As a result, for me, it is yet another incompatible USB cable. If you have many micro USB devices, so this is a standard cable for you, great!

      5. It is patently obvious, from comments from the core Android team, that they have had no exposure to the Archos device. Other comments from the core Android team suggest that they regularly interact with so-called "Google experience" devices (e.g., Ms. Hackborn's comments about rejecting an early QVGA device because third-party apps would not be compatible with it). Hence, there is no evidence that Archos has licensed the Google Apps for Android, regardless of resolution. They don't even claim they have such apps and do claim to have replacements (e.g., AppsLib, their own mapping client). There is nothing intrinsically wrong with this, as it is Archos' right per the Android open source project. I would not expect Google Apps for Android to be available for Archos without Archos licensing them, if for no other reason that I would not expect Google Apps for Android to be available anywhere other than the Android Market.

      • http://archosfans.com Charbax

        Wow it is really brave of you to stick with your cons even though I think I quite clearly broke them down one by one.

        1. Archos updated the firmware since they shipped these out of the factory a couple of weeks ago. When they update the firmware they didn't bother to re-install the softwares. That's not going to be an issue for 99% of the people buying this product. If it's not "user-friendly" for you to install .apk files just simply by clicking on a .apk URL or dragging and dropping them on your Archos storage and double clicking on it, well then sorry for you. Most "consumers who bought this first batch from Amazon" are geeky users and probably do not mind installing the apps that they need manually. In fact, power users tend to hate it when devices are preloaded with a bunch of bloatware apps that they don't need and that they have to un-install. For example, you don't care for AppsLib and just want your AndAppsStore or Slideme.

        2. Quit downloading the AppsLib from http://appslib.com/download/AppsLib.apk however you want. If the other AndAppsStore and Slideme are well filtering the 800×432 and 1160×652 apps suitable for Archos with space for the on-screen home/back menu buttons and with testing of compatibility with other Archos hardware features, then good for them. You can install those app stores easilly on Archos in one click. The Archos AppsLib has 500+ applications that are all tested to work about perfectly on the Archos, which I think is quite an achievement given the device has barely been released.

        3. People have been using their fingers on resistive screens for more than 10 years. The resistive screen works best by using ones fingertip. Capacitative works more with a flat finger on the screen. Thus with capacitative you tend to not see where you are clicking while I think resistive is actually more precise.

        4. I suggest you read here about Micro USB standard which all data oriented mobile phones must integrate if they want to be sold in the EU : http://europa.eu/rapid/pressReleasesAction.do?ref… This shift towards a micro-USB standard is already supported by some international organizations that oversee mobile communications, so its adoption beyond Europe is fairly likely.

        5. You can speculate all you want, perhaps even wish for Archos not to get the Google apps. The reality is that Google has not yet released any of their apps for 800×480 4.8" screens yet, even less optimized for 1280×720 HDTV output which Archos is the only device to be able to do. And that Archos has repeatedly announced support for Google apps such as in my video of Archos Paris event: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GkD7OHuxCwM So unless you can produce an official quote from Google that they don't want their apps to be on Archos or that you can perhaps show proof that Google apps for Android are available for 800×480 screens even in public beta state, then well, speculate all you want. I am fairly certain that Google just needs a few weeks and they will release the Google apps for Archos and for any other Android 1.6 based 800×480 devices, since Archos has also announced they will update the firmware to Android 1.6 later this month.

        • http://intensedebate.com/people/commonsguy commonsguy

          "Archos updated the firmware since they shipped these out of the factory a couple of weeks ago."

          That does not change the fact that the device, as it is shipping from Amazon this week, lacks the apps listed in the Amazon product description. In fact, Amazon US has already discontinued selling the device (160GB model) based on excessive returns and complaints. Perhaps in another month or so, this problem will get cleared up, but today, it's still an issue.

          "That's not going to be an issue for 99% of the people buying this product."

          That depends. The devices' ratings on Amazon are in the toilet (2 to 2.5 stars out of 5), and Amazon user ratings carry weight beyond that individual online storefront. The question, therefore, is if 100x more people will purchase this product after the devices start shipping with the apps. That is probable but far from certain.

          And, in the interests of full disclosure, I have not submitted a product review of this product to Amazon, nor do I intend to.

          "The Archos AppsLib has 500+ applications that are all tested to work about perfectly on the Archos"

          And your proof that all of these applications were tested on Archos is…what, exactly?

          I have spoken with one developer whose app is among those that is supposed to be shipping on the device, and Archos did not give him a device. At the time AppsLib was opened, the emulator skin they supplied did not match the device (e.g., wrong status bar height), as was pointed out by Al Sutton and confirmed by the core Android team (note: I do not know if this problem has since been corrected; I hope it has). Given all of that, I would need some greater evidence that the testing you cite has indeed occurred.

          "Thus with capacitative you tend to not see where you are clicking while I think resistive is actually more precise. "

          That's nice. And if there were *any* instructions *whatsoever* to explain to users that this is what is supposed to happen — or even including a stylus as a big fat hint — then your point would have merit. Users comparing this device to the dominant touchscreens of today (iPhone, iPod Touch) will think the Archos touchscreen is lacking. This could have been resolved with one little slip of paper in the packaging that explained the nature of the touchscreen, so users would know how best to use it.

          "I am fairly certain that Google just needs a few weeks and they will release the Google apps for Archos"

          I hope you are correct, though I have a small mountain of doubts.

          The net of pretty much all your comments are "wait until some arbitrary future date, and the device will be all better" — wait for 1.6, wait for them to ship devices with the apps that were supposed to be included, wait for micro USB to take over the world, wait for the Google Apps, wait for them to include information about how best to use the touchscreen, etc. That's fine. This does not change the present day.

          Had Archos waited until most of those things came to pass, then released the product, that would have been great. For whatever reason, Archos did not. Archos will suffer in the court of public opinion until that future bright, shiny day when these problems, and the other ones users are encountering, are resolved. This is no different than had any other manufacturer shipped a product with the same sorts of issues — this is not some anti-Archos meme.

          Don't get me wrong: I sincerely hope that the Archos 5 Android Internet Tablet, or future generations, are successes over the long haul, even if none of that impacts the specific device I picked up. And the point of my picking up the Archos device was to help teach developers how to create apps that do work well on this device and others of its ilk, so I can indirectly contribute to Archos' hoped-for success.

          But, today, the cons still stand.

          • http://archosfans.com Charbax

            Archos is for early adopters. The 2 Amazon ratings are from a couple newbies that have no idea what they are buying.

            Unlike Apple, HTC, Samsung, Microsoft and other established giants of the consumer electronics industry, Archos does not insult the intelligence of its customers.

            The benefice of being one of the first few thousand people in the world with a 800×480 4.8" Android experience, with MKV HD video playback, Youtube HD playback, storage up to 500GB still very pocketable, battery life extremely good and form factor incredibly slim for the flash models.

            A geek that knows about the benefit of MKV HD, 500GB may have absolutely no problem buying this first in the world device even if there are some weeks before all the Android 1.6 updates, Google apps for WVGA and other stability issues are sorted.

            For users that are not such early adopter types, they just need to sit by their current desktop computer screen and salivate watching pictures, specs, videos of this device and wait a few weeks or even a couple months after the release to see confirmations that the fully stable firmwares with Android 1.6, Google Apps, optimized caching, RAM utilization, HDMI output and more are confirmed by the real early adopters.

            Archos has a history of more than 10 years releasing such embedded Linux based products that were every single time just so way ahead of anyone else in the industry. And that considering Archos is just a small 100-person company from Paris France, competing against Silicon Valley, Taipei, Seoul and Tokyo giants that hire upwards 100 thousand people and achieve much fewer actual features and value propositions.

            I don't think Archos needs to include a user manual for Apple fanboys. Touchscreens were invented and used 10 years before Apple started to use them in consumer electronics devices like the iphone. Consumers that buy Archos products are usually not morons.

          • http://twitter.com/mikecane @mikecane

            This has been an interesting exchange. I've used resistive touch since my first Palm III and currently on my LifeDrive. I'd rather have capacitance on a device like this, but hey, resistive will do. Better than no touch and a bunch of buttons (as WinMo used to be on phones!).

            Unfortunately, enthusiastic praise for Archos' products is hard to come by. Users constantly mention poor customer support, lack of bug fixes, lack of timely updates, and abandonment of prior models. I hope this won't be the case with this device because it looks to be the most promising of everything they've done.

  • johnkzin

    I’m not interested in a 5″ device…

    but I do wish their newer 9″ device ran Android instead of Windows. That I’d be interested in.

  • http://twitter.com/mikecane @mikecane

    >>>I am not necessarily intending on using this device as an ordinary consumer would.

    I hope, however, that you will continue to use it and do posts about it.

  • http://www.intensedebate.com/people/c0z c0z

    For me this device is too small to be useful for long periods of time and too big to be portable for what it offers.