HTC Flyer soars through in-depth user interface walkthrough

Can the HTC Flyer's phone version of Android stand up against Honeycomb? You be the judge, after checking out our exhaustive walkthrough of its features.

Flora Graham

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The HTC Flyer flaunts the Android tablet trend by using a heavily customised version of Android 2.3 Gingerbread instead of Google's own tablet software, 3.0 Honeycomb.

The Flyer's main competition, the Motorola Xoom, LG Optimus Pad and Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1, serve up an untouched example of Honeycomb, the version of Google's operating system that was built specifically with tablets in mind.

The Flyer will eventually get an update to Honeycomb, but not until HTC has taken the time to wrap it up in its Sense user interface.

It sounds like madness -- how can we crave a tablet that's still rocking a phone version of the Android OS? But despite a heavy dose of scepticism, seeing the Flyer in person shows there are definitely advantages to HTC's old-school approach. 

HTC's glossy, bright widgets look more welcoming and usable than Honeycomb's blue wireframes on a black background. On the other hand, using the Flyer feels more like handling a giant phone, while Honeycomb's 3D interface gives us the impression of standing in a big room.

We'll be reviewing the Flyer and the various Honeycomb tablets with an open mind in our full reviews. But just to convince you that the Flyer has a shot at taking on its honey-covered competition, we've put together an exhaustive, yet exhilarating, walkthrough of the tablet's user interface. Click the photo gallery above to get started.

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The Flyer's widgets work in portrait or landscape orientation.
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HTC is justifiably renowned for its spectacular weather widgets, and the Flyer takes them to a new extreme. A full screen of clouds may be useless, but it looks stunning nonetheless.
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The music widget uses the Flyer's screen real estate to show off lots of album art, from the currently playing track to the most recent albums.
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The People widget should show off your friends' status updates on Twitter and Facebook as well as their photos -- although the twins in this sample hadn't been up to much.
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HTC has its own ebook reader and book store, in partnership with Kobo, which is separate from the Google ebook store.
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The Flyer comes with a stylus, that works along with your fleshy fingers, on the capacitive touchscreen. A button on the front of the tablet turns stylus mode on and off, because the screen can be over-sensitive when it's on.
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In the Flyer's note-taking app, a menu pops out from the corner of the screen where you can change the width and colour of the pen.
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The note-taking app also supports typing with the keyboard, as well as writing with the stylus or your finger.
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You can insert photos from the Flyer's camera, audio or other media into your notes, too.
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The Flyer's note-taking app displays your notes as thumbnails.
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You can also take notes anywhere on the Flyer's user interface, including the homescreen. When you take notes this way, they're saved as an image file.
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You can also write on any app, including the Web browser.
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You can share your notes over email or social networks.
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The Flyer has HTC's new movie store, which displays new releases in a cover-flow-inspired carousel.
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You can check out a film's trailer before you buy or rent it. You can also start watching the movie before it's finished downloading to the tablet.
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The Flyer's OnLive game store wasn't working when we saw the tablet, but we did catch a glimpse of it in this video. OnLive claims to be able to stream PC and console games straight to the tablet.
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Most apps on the Flyer have had a reboot for the big screen, including the email app. It looks pretty normal in portrait mode...
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...but in landscape mode the email app takes advantage of the space by having a panel for your inbox and another to show the email.
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Similarly, the photo gallery app is a grid of thumbnails in portrait orientation.
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But in landscape, the left-hand side shows you albums, while the right-hand side shows a photo.
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The Flyer comes with a photo app, which offers various filters to mess with your snaps, including this pixelly effect.
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The Flyer has some tweaks to the standard Android Web browser, including the toolbar across the top of the screen.
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The Flyer's browser supports multiple open pages, which can be managed in a panel that pops up on the top of the screen.
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You can switch between open windows, or close windows in the browser.
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The Flyer's Web browser also supports Flash, so you won't miss out on videos and other Flash content.
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Full-screen Flash videos looked good on the Flyer's 7-inch screen.
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The Flyer's keyboard looks familiar from HTC smart phones. We'll have to give it a full test before we can judge if it's a winner.
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In landscape orientation, there's much more room on the Flyer's keyboard.
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The white and aluminium case gives the Flyer a cool, futuristic, but slightly sterile appearance.
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A 3.5mm headphone jack and a power button grace the top of the Flyer.
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A standard micro-USB port will make it easy to find cables to sync and charge the Flyer.
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The Flyer also sports volume buttons on the side.

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