On Black Friday, I saw a K-Mart doorbuster for a $139 Augen Android tablet and "threatened" to go get it. I didn't really intend to, because I was certain it would be a disappointment. My wife snuck out with our friend who was visiting to buy it for me - but instead, she got the alternative, a Coby Kyros MID7015 Android tablet.
The Coby device fits in a niche of low-end tablets that exist somewhere between Chinese counterfeit knockoffs and legitimate name brand devices. You only need to look at the COBY logo - it's no accident that they use almost the same font as SONY uses for their corporate identity - to get a feel for how this company operates.
From the very start, this device represents the paradox of the Android platform. On one hand, it's an opportunity for a small importer of inexpensive Chinese electronics to compete with big brands like Samsung and Apple. The opportunity for a company like Coby to compete with these big firms probably benefits consumers with a more competitive market. After all, Acer was once a small upstart offering inexpensive electronic solutions.
On the other hand, Android also offers an opportunity for abuse and neglect. Smaller companies may bite off more than they can chew, with grand aspirations that they can't quite deliver in their products. Less scrupulous organizations may not really care, looking to mislead consumers and make off with a quick profit by selling devices that are little more than expensive paperweights.
I was honestly surprised when I opened the gift. Even though I probably wouldn't have bought it for myself, I put on my best, "What a great gift!" face and decided to give it a shot, if only to show my wife my appreciation.
So, I've played with the device quite a bit. It's a FOSS-licensed Android OS platform built on a Linux kernel, and it delivers on its promises and potential pitfalls as well. I've experienced all the difficulties of an inexpensive Android tablet made by a company that simply can't afford to provide the same level of support as a Fortune 500 manufacturer. I've made note of all the ways the unit is unrefined or lacks attention to detail, particularly when using the device side-by-side with my iPad and Droid 2.
In my next post, I'll provide details about my experience. I hope you'll join me to share your own opinions and experiences in the discussion thread.
Donovan Colbert has over 16 years of experience in the IT Industry. He's worked in help-desk, enterprise software support, systems administration and engineering, IT management, and is a regular contributor for TechRepublic. Currently, his professional role is as a Linux support engineer for a fast-growing Linux/FOSS consultancy group. You can follow him @dcolbert on Twitter or his personal blog, located at http://donovancolbert.blogspot.com.