Slashgear is reporting a rumor that Dell’s 5″ MID Device is headed stateside. On AT&T, no less. This is big news, given that AT&T has yet to offer an Android device, and Dell has yet to offer a smartphone in the US. According to Digitimes, AT&T will test the Android waters with Dell’s Streak in 2010.
I’ve been mulling over the usefulness of a ‘Droid tablet versus a traditionally-sized smartphone, and I don’t think I can make up my mind yet. There are a number of advantages to a having a tablet computer that (barely) fits in your pocket, but do they outweigh the disadvantages?
Among the advantages are a more powerful hardware set (the Streak features next-gen Intel Atom technology, codenamed Pine Trail) and more screen real estate (which makes reading easier, and software keyboards more accurate). Imagine the already-slick Google Navigation feature of Android 2.0 on a screen so large it eclipses most stand-alone GPS units. Think of how easy it would be to type on a software keyboard splayed across 800×480 glorious pixels (more than twice the pixels of an iPhone). True mobile multitasking might finally be here, with the first Pine Trail Atom chips clocking in at a smoking 1.66 GHz.
The downsides of an Android tablet come like a double-edged sword on the flipside of the advantages. A larger screen means less pocketability, more powerful hardware typically means less battery life, and it’s girth may make it a little awkward to hold against your face.
I’ve been thinking all day about how this device could fit into my mobile life. Some quick math tells me that the screen size would be about the size of an entire iPhone, bezel and all. Photos seem to show it with about 1/4″ of width and 3/4″ of length added for the bezel. That puts the Streak at about 5.15″ (131mm) tall and 2.65″ (67mm) wide, a bit taller and wider than the HTC Touch HD2. We don’t have any real way to know the thickness as of yet, but it looks like it could be a fatty. So it’s teetering on the edge of too-big-for-normal-pockets. Lest we forget, HTC slapped this sticker on the Touch HD last year:
Cracked screen worries aside, the size of the Streak may be the pivotal feature that decides whether people buy it or not. I think a 5″ smartphone may be polarizing. Some may find that while the 4.3″ Touch HD2 is just big enough to be luxurious, talking on a 5-inch slab of glass with a generous bezel is just taking it too far. Others may feel that it shouldn’t be used as a phone to begin with; and maybe 5 inches isn’t big enough.
Another potential issue is how AT&T markets the streak. If they push it as simply a gargantuan smartphone, will they require a voice line? Many folks will want to carry the Streak as an MID, and stick with their trusty flip phone for chatting. Or will they sell it alongside their netbook line, perhaps with a tack-on voice option; the reverse of a smartphone plan?
Dell may have either a segment-defining smartphone on its hands, or a curious hybrid that can’t find its place in the world. I could see it either way, and that’s why I’m going to reserve judgement on the Streak until I see it for myself.
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