Android Donut on the Archos 5 Internet Tablet

A few weeks ago, I wrote about the Archos 5 Internet Tablet (IT) with the Google Android operating system.  As a refresher, the Archos 5 IT is a 5″ personal media player for videos, music and pictures but can also surf the internet, do email, and run a subset of Android applications.  ”Donut”, or the Android OS version 1.6, came out Wednesday, January 20th, 2010 for the Archos 5 IT and I wanted to share with you my user experiences and my impressions and opinions.

Installation

My Archos 5 IT didn’t automatically detect an OS upgrade OTA (over the air), so I went to the Archos download website, downloaded Donut (1.6), copied it to the root directory, unplugged the USB cable, and it installed.  It  deleted my installed apps (with warning), but kept my music, video, and photo content.  It also, kept, thankfully, all my registered and expensive plug-ins.  The full installation took about 20 minutes, which I thought was fast.  I would recommend OTA for less experienced users as soon as it’s available.  Just go to Settings—> About device—>Firmware update, it goes to the web and checks for you.  I am guessing that Archos wants Donut in the hands of the geeks for a while before unleashing it on everyone.

The Good

Speed: Everything feels faster.  Opening applications, window transitions, auto-orientation, web browsing, home button, email….everything just felt faster.

More Android Applications: When I did my earlier review, a whopping 10 applications existed.  As of today, my Archos 5 was showing 478 applications.  This was a real improvement.  Programs that I use on my Android phone like Global Time, Newspapers, OI File Manager, Twitli, TV.com, AK Notepad and WiFi tools were there.  But it’s not all roses as I outline below.

Widgets: Widgets are like Windows PC gadgets or Google PC gadgets but for a phone.  This saves time to get to relevant information like weather, stock prices, even Twitter updates. So instead of requiring you to enter the application, it just shows up on one of the main phone screens.  This saves a lot of time.  The best one is the addition of the “Power Control” widget to easily toggle WiFi, Bluetooth, GPS, synch, and screen brightness on and off.

Multi-page: Instead of folders, Donut uses multiple screens, or pages, that you scroll through with your finger, either left or right.  This allows for widgets and for more shortcuts for applications.  I like a main page, a news and weather page, a social media page, and an entertainment page.

Updated ThinkFree Mobile: ThinkFree allows users to view Office and PDF documents. The updated 1.2 version seemed faster, looked better on the screen, and was more accurate.  Its linkage to Google Docs is a nice adder.

Consistent settings: Settings between my T-Mobile G1 and Archos 5 are virtually identical so I don’t need to learn a whole new nomenclature, a real time saver.

Better stability: I experienced more stability, less lockups and flaky behavior with Donut on the Archos 5 when compared to my earlier experiences. Nice job Archos!

Pattern password: I love what Google has done with passwords.  Instead of alpha or numeric characters, you draw a pattern on the screen.  I have found it faster and easier to enable my passwords and Donut enables this on the Archos 5.

I Would Like To See

More Relevant Android Applications: Many of the 478 applications were completely irrelevant to me or were just URL links to the web site, like the “Amazon Shopping” application.  I would like to see apps I have on my G1 like I Tweet, The Weather Channel, Shazam, Accuweather, Amazon MP3, Bank of America, Google Maps, Google Navigation, Facebook, PAC-MAN, Pandora,  USA Today, wpToGo, Where, LinkedIn, Fandango, Slacker, and Pro Football Live. While we are here, I would like to see my favorite Ipod Touch apps like Tweetdeck as well, that simply don’t exist for any Android platform.

Voice command: The T-Mobile G1 with Donut has voice command and control but the Archos 5 with Donut does not have this capability.

Flash 10: As I covered in my initial Archos 5 blog and I will ask again, a full web experience is impossible without Flash 10.

What I haven’t Figured Out Yet

Gallery and Music Apps: Google Gallery and Music applications don’t connect to the photo or music directory like on the T-Mobile G1 and the Google Nexus One.  It lists “No media found” on Gallery and is just blank on music.  I have thousands of pictures and songs.  My guess is that the application is competing with the Archos 5′s built-in photo viewer and music player.  Not a huge issue, but still a bit annoying.

Conclusion

I still stand by my earlier assessment that, If you are looking for a non-game entertainment MID, the Archos 5 Internet Tablet is a better device than the other MIDs I looked at.  Its ability to play HD 720P video, optionally connect via HDMI to your HDTV, built-in radio, and 500GB storage gives it a leg up.” Adding Donut, or Android OS version 1.6 capabilities makes the Archos 5 IT it even better by adding features enabling an improved “compute” device experience than with the previous Android load.  It doesn’t come close to the PC compute experience, but as a personal media player, I don’t expect it to either.  The consistency with my Android phone is an extra-added plus as well.