- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 9, 2011

At first encounter, the HTC JetStream tablet computer can be as captivating as a young Audrey Hepburn first contemplating the display windows of Tiffany & Co. in New York City. Its 32 GB of memory, stunning 10-inch color screen and touch interface all impress.

Like the late actress, the JetStream tablet, $699 from AT&T Wireless with a two-year data contract, sparkles, entices and even seduces a bit. Load an Internet page on it using AT&T’s 4G LTE wireless service and you might just swoon at the super-fast speed. (The device is available without a wireless contract for $849, or $120 more than a similarly equipped Apple Inc. iPad.)

But unlike Hepburn, whose star quality hasn’t dimmed, the JetStream’s luster quickly fades. As with many devices running the Google Inc.-created Android operating system, the JetStream jets through battery power faster than one would like. Recharging isn’t terribly long: It took about two hours, connected to a wall outlet, to go from a 1 percent charge to 92 percent. But there seems to be no easy way to really power down this device; I thought I had done so before transporting it home from my office, but it apparently wasn’t the case.

Then there’s the issue of applications for the JetStream, supposedly abundant in the “Android Marketplace,” Google’s equivalent of Apple’s “App Store.” Yes, there are a ton of Android apps available. Getting one or two of them installed onto this particular tablet is, frankly, a challenge.

I tried to do this, three times, with the popular (more than 10,000 downloads in its first month) Android version of Logos Bible Software. No success. I tried twice with Google Docs and, again, no luck.

This is one of the qualms I continue to have concerning the whole Android thing. As much as one might wish for a solid competitor to Apple’s iOS software for the iPad and iPhone, if only for the sake of choice, there’s no denying that once Apple approves a program for its App Store, the thing works. The application downloads, installs and opens, approximately 99.99-percent of the time.

My other Apple-versus-Android comment is that Apple, rightly or wrongly, maintains a level of “editorial control” that Google might do well to implement. Search “top new free” lifestyle apps in the Android Marketplace, and you’ll find “Sexy Seductive woman SouthKor” as the third-most popular. I didn’t download this, but the preview showed a young, lingerie-clad Asian woman in several suggestive poses. It’s not available for the iPad, as a check of Apple’s App Store revealed.

Accessories for the JetStream are difficult to find: A digital pen said to work with the device lists for $80, and that’s about it for custom-designed items. You can find a stand to prop up the tablet on a desk, and external Bluetooth keyboards are on the market. You could, conceivably, make this into a portable workstation of some stripe, enabling you to do many things remotely that previously might have required a notebook computer.

The positive draw of AT&T’s 4G LTE service is, as mentioned, something that might make you swoon. Then again, so might the pricing: $25 a month for 2 GB of data transfers is OK, especially for the speed. Each additional gigabyte will cost you $10. Go overseas and use Wi-Fi only, however: You’ll rack up massive charges for overseas wireless data service, although AT&T offers some plans that can mitigate that.

Now, the data service thing would be an issue for wireless-data equipped iPads just as much as for Android tablets. Yet, on my recent overseas trips, I found Wi-Fi just about everywhere from the Brussels airport to Kenya and Slovenia. So one could skip wireless data on an iPad, I believe, and be rather happy.

The same doesn’t appear to be the case with the JetStream, which means it had better be a superlative performer to wean one from the iOS world. It’s very good, but Android, even the latest release called “Honeycomb,” isn’t there yet. Thus, I can’t say the JetStream deserves a high spot on your holiday shopping list, unless you’re a fan of disappointment.

Email mkellner@washingtontimes.com.

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