Tablets

HTC Flyer teardown: A smartphone in tablet's clothing

The HTC Flyer has tablet features, but this 7-inch Android device is built like a smartphone and seems to have been rushed through the design process.

The HTC Flyer is the company’s first effort to grab a piece of the tablet market. This 7-inch Android device has several nice tablet features (a touchscreen that supports both a digital pen and your finger, a 1.5GHz processor, and 16GB of storage). But after cracking it open, the Flyer looks more like an over-sized smartphone than a built-from-the-ground-up tablet.

The Flyer is available for $499.99 (US) from Best Buy. The current versions only support Wi-Fi connectivity, but HTC plans to launch 3G models later this year. The Flyer weighs just under a pound (14.82 ounces) and measures 7.7" (H) x 4.8" (W) x 0.52" (D).

Full teardown gallery: Cracking Open the HTC Flyer

Cracking Open observations

  1. The case is easy to open and HTC used Torx T5 screws throughout the Flyer.
  2. Despite being relative easy to open, the Flyer is difficult to disassemble.
  3. You must disconnect several ribbon cables to replace the battery.
  4. You must loosen or remove the main PCB to remove the speaker and vibration motor assembly.
  5. The Flyer contains multiple PCBs that are connected via ribbon cables. This increases the potential failure points.
  6. The antenna wires are soldered to points on the display assembly.
  7. Compared to other tablets (Apple iPad 2, HP TouchPad, Motorola XOOM), the Flyer appears to have an inefficient internal design.

Internal hardware

Our HTC Flyer test unit had the following hardware components:

Smartphone in tablet's clothing

You can tell a lot about a company's roots and vision for the future by cracking open its products. For example, Apple's changes to the internal design of the iPad show a trend to produce disposable, rather than repairable, tablets. This is not surprising given the Cupertino company's history with the iPod and iPhone. On the other hand, HP's TouchPad is built more like a PC and straightforward to repair. This too seems appropriate given HP's history in the PC market.

I was therefore, not surprised by the internal design of the Flyer. The Taiwan-based manufacturer got its start building pocket computers and PDAs. But for the past decade, it focused almost exclusively on smartphones. HTC is one of the world's top five smartphone vendors. This smartphone know-how comes through in the Flyer.

On the inside, the Flyer looks more like an over-sized smartphone than a built-from-the-ground-up tablet. For example, parts are stacked on top of each other and removing one component often requires removing or loosening two or three others. The antenna wires are soldered to points on the front panel assembly. And, the display and digitizer are difficult, if not impossible, to separate without damaging them.

HTC fit a lot of tech into the Flyer's small case, but the device's internal layout appears far less efficient than the TouchPad, XOOM, or iPad 2.

Rushed design process?

Given the Flyer's jumbled hardware arrangement, one can't help wonder if the device's design process wasn't rushed. Leaning heavily on their experience building smartphones may have helped HTC bring the Flyer to market quickly, but designing a tablet from the ground up may have produced a better device.

About

Bill Detwiler is Managing Editor of TechRepublic and Tech Pro Research and the host of Cracking Open, CNET and TechRepublic's popular online show. Prior to joining TechRepublic in 2000, Bill was an IT manager, database administrator, and desktop supp...

20 comments
Chase111
Chase111

I was having trouble removing the digitizer. There is a lot of adhesive. Overall the LCD is very rigid but you may still want to use care removing the digitizer from the assembly. Thank you author, great work~ please check out my website city fix orlando iphone repair

tutor4pc
tutor4pc

Apple is the prime example of the pump and dump society. The products are good (from what I hear) and the software seems to be great. Because of the sealed design they do not need to deal with people like me who like to "play" with their gadgets and get everything possible out of them. So they save money and their balance sheet shows. That turns me off because my goal is to do something for me and not for apple. A device that does not even allow a battery change? Imagine a camera came like that! I do not like built-in expiration. As far as that goes I hope HP will make this a point: Our xyz is repairable if something happens - we protect your investment!

pivotmac
pivotmac

Well, there you go. Having purchased a WIFI Dell Streak 7 a month ago, (simply because of the price), I quickly regretted it. Talk about a $200.00 brick! But...in sorting out some aps to see if they would run on the Dell Brick 7, I found some hidden gems that actually work with my HTC Incredible, including the Netflex ap with no tweeks! Now, what I am saying is this, let's give HTC a little room to get headed in the right direction. I actually had four HTC 6800's before I got one that worked, and my HTC Incredible is the most reliable phone of any kind I have ever used, so I have faith that HTC will eventually be a tablet market leader, not just on price, but functionality too. Ya gotta walk before you can Fly'er.

MacNewton
MacNewton

" I do believe HTC will eventually garner a reputation as a cut-rate brand that only cheapskates will buy." Clone pads will be sold in vending machines, offered as stocking stuffers at Christmas parties and be game show give aways on late-night info commercials.

Vulpinemac
Vulpinemac

... as to how well it's put together and operates. I'll grant that HTC is noted for making some junk but they're also noted for making some pretty good products. I haven't heard all that many complaints about the functionality of their smart phones, but it seems their reliability in many cases suffers--requiring replacement long before the carrier contract expires. Basically, you get what you pay for and HTC's more noted for their 2'fer phones than their high-end models. That said, the basic technology is there and HTC has the ability to produce a usable tablet for less than almost anybody else that will probably survive one year of everyday use--depending on the user. Considering our modern throw-away society, it really doesn't matter when a device dies as long as the user believes they got their money's worth out of it. I don't read all that many complaints about the Android 2.x series any more, though I will add that the people I know who have Android still complain of erratic functionality. Android 3.x, however, is getting less than stellar reviews of 'feels incomplete' or 'beta-level software' on otherwise excellent hardware. Were they to run iOS instead of Android, the Xoom and Galaxy among others would probably be strong competitors to the iPad itself. If you ask me, HTC is approaching the tablet wars from an entirely different direction from most of the others; they're aiming at that low-end price point to make its profits through quantity rather than quality. They're at least trying to offer a complete device that doesn't have to be rooted to make functional and at least 'feels familiar' to its users who hopefully already have an HTC smart phone. I'll give HTC credit for finding a way to cut costs and thus reduce price, but I do believe HTC will eventually garner a reputation as a cut-rate brand that only cheapskates will buy.

ebarreiro
ebarreiro

Tear down and speek is too easy. Making tablets and entering in a new field is far more difficult. I feel that is not fair to judge a first attempt in that way, you are too hard. It is reasonable that they use their proven resources, you should judge it by it's performance: is it strong and good or not?. (I just love my old Excalibur phone!)

camcost
camcost

How many manufacturers, and how many devices are we going to see jump on the ipad bandwagon. I know, I know... Apple's making a ton of money, but they're doing so because they spent time and research in order to release a decent, functioning and innovative device. Seems like too many other manufacturers are shouting "me too" and releasing so-so devices that aren't competing dollar-for-dollar, and (bottom line) none of us really want or need. HTC... keep making your good phones (I own one) and forget this tablet stuff. If you can't beat Apple, what's the point of trying to beat the lesser devices?

spawnywhippet
spawnywhippet

I have to confess that I was a cynic about WebOS based on previous experience with HP mobiles (iPaq) and doubted that the offering would take off. However, after a quick demo with one last week I think this device is probably the best tablet on the market, if you can see around the Apple hysteria and initially small apps store size

arwen_in_nj
arwen_in_nj

"Clone pads will be sold in vending machines, offered as stocking stuffers at Christmas parties and be game show give aways on late-night info commercials" You might be talking about some of the inexpensive Chinese clones hitting the market, but the Flyer is way out of that class.

JJFitz
JJFitz

so let's dissolve the NHL. ;)

blakjak.au
blakjak.au

Having had a few HTC smartphones (Desire HD, Desire and a TouchPro) as well as a few from other vendors (Sony Xperia X10, Samsung Omnia, iPhone 3G) - as well as substantial usage of the Samsung Galaxy S, HTC Legend, iPhone4 and Nokia N800 - I have to heartily disagree. I've found HTCs smartphones to be very well built compared to the competition. I use my Desire HD every day as though it were a tablet (at 4.3" the lines are a bit blurry anyway) surfing the net, playing games, remote access to my PC, watching videos and I see no problems with a tablet that is truly nothing more than a scaled-up version of the same device with the same great UI and performance. Lets not forget, that is all the iPad is, a scaled up iPhone/iPod.

arwen_in_nj
arwen_in_nj

"I do believe HTC will eventually garner a reputation as a cut-rate brand that only cheapskates will buy." Count me in the cheapskate camp then, if almost $600 qualifies as "cheap "! Have you actually picked a Flyer up? The construction is polished and solid. Most reviews give it high marks for the thoughtful design and the aluminum body. Like JJFitz, mine goes with me everywhere- and since I got it I have barely touched my laptop, car GPS, or iPod. And as JJ said "it just works". Plus I don't pay through the nose for every new app I want to try. Last night I had my first ever video call with my niece in California- through Skype from my Flyer. And I am posting this while sitting on my deck having my morning coffee- from my Flyer.

JJFitz
JJFitz

I own an HTC Flyer and I love its functionality. I originally bought it for the size and the pen functionality. There is no other 7" device on the market with a real pen feel to it. It's always with me because it's so easy to carry in my back pocket, it starts up instantly, and allows me to quickly jot down notes that are automatically synchronized with my EverNote account so that I can look at them from any networked device. I was pleasantly surprised at how easily it connected to my WiFi at home and at work and very impressed at how effortlessly it printed to my networked printers. I just selected print and chose one of the printers from the list it had automatically gathered. It was that easy. Yesterday, I was watching TV and exploring the apps that came with the Flyer when I came across Media Connector. I opened it up and selected my photo gallery and the gallery appeared on my networked TV! I didn't even have to choose the TV. It just worked. The same app also played my videos and music over the TV effortlessly. It holds a lot of media with a 32 GB microSD card. Then there's Google Music and Amazon Music for additional Cloud storage. I don't need my iTouch anymore. (Score 1 for my daughter!) I recently installed a $1.50 app for keeping score at my son's baseball games which has proven to be indispensible to the parents and coaches. I am absolutely blown away at how useful this device is.

JJFitz
JJFitz

A world with one tablet manufacturer would not be good for the consumer. Where is the incentive to innovate if there is only one game in town? And who says you can't beat Apple? They were beaten out of the enterprise market. The HTC Flyer can coexist with the iPad. They are different in very significant ways. - Operating system, size, pen functionality, and removable storage to name a few. There's also room for the Playbook and the TouchPad.

arwen_in_nj
arwen_in_nj

The Flyer IS is "a decent, functioning and innovative device". It is fast, smooth, has a great display and a well-thought out interface. It has features that the iPad has only **recently** caught up with such as two cameras and Flash.

jonf
jonf

I prefer Android tablets over the iPad.I like having different options and don't like being trapped in the Apple hive. Have you even seen or used any Android tablets?

bestbenwade
bestbenwade

When his user-name is MAC (McIntosh) NEWTON (an old, failed Apple product), what do you expect?

MacNewton
MacNewton

Apple will end up owning this market segment for years to come. And yes, I have used a number of them, some are not bad others are junk. But whats your point. Apple will make money off each unit sold through cross licensing when the courts case gets settled. So in the end you're helping Apple make money with your purchase.

MacNewton
MacNewton

First Name is Mackenzie and was born in a city called Newton Massachusetts now lest look at your handle, bestbenwade@... best ben wade, Nope, can't see anything to make fun of ;(