After spending the last month with the Sharp IS01 Android clamshell (first impressions here), I can safely say that the honeymoon is over. The thrill of finally having it in my hands after more than half a year of waiting is gone.
While I still think the device offers a respectable amount of bang for the buck given its size and form factor, I find that I am tolerating rather than enjoying it.
The problem for me is that I use an HTC EVO 4G, Dell Streak, and Samsung Galaxy Tab just about every day . . . and all three of them are running Android 2.2 (Froyo). None of these devices have a keyboard, trackball, or the compact clamshell design of the IS01, but to willingly choose to use something with Android 1.6 (Donut) over anything else with Froyo is complete and utter madness.
Donut isn't abysmal on its own but compared to Froyo, it can almost feel unusable. The IS01, HTC EVO, and Streak are all powered by the same 1GHz Snapdragon processor, so it's really the OS that's holding the IS01 back. And with little progress being made in the root scene and what sounds like no official upgrade on horizon, it may be time to accept that what the IS01 is today is all that it may ever be.
While waiting for my IS01 to be delivered last month, I began thinking about how wonderful it would be for quick on-the-showroom-floor blogging at CES 2011. Even though its 3G radio only works in Japan, tethering it to my 4G-enabled EVO in Vegas would make that a non-issue.
Today, however, I know without a doubt that the IS01 is staying home in January. Although battery life is good (4+ hours for video playback, outstanding standby time due to airplane mode: 80% battery left after 25.5 hours with WiFi on), the 960 x 480 screen resolution is great for web browsing (as mentioned previously, this resolution is only used fully in the stock browser and stock home launcher), and the keyboard is nice for text entry, Android 1.6 is unbearable for me.
Sometimes things move along at a reasonable speed while other times it's so slow you think it crashed. This obviously becomes very frustrating because you never know what you're going to get. And that kind of unreliability isn't something I'm willing to put up when the EVO, Streak, and Tab are within arm's reach.
I can't find anything official on how much RAM the IS01 has but when I don't have any apps running in the background, the most I've ever seen free is 40MB. Judging by its performance, I wouldn't be surprised if it had just 128MB of RAM onboard. If anyone knows of a way to find out for sure, please let me know.
There's also a 30 fps cap to deal with here, so some of the best Android games are unplayable. For example, Angry Birds crashes before the first level can load, Fruit Ninja is choppy, and Asphalt HD takes about a hundred years to load and then crashes before the first race. Sometimes it takes up to 10 seconds to get back to the home screen from an app; it can take even longer when you're using a third-party home launcher.
Then there's the 5-megapixel outside camera. Image quality is fine and there are lots of options and settings in the stock camera app, but it takes too long for the lens to focus. The slightest movement makes everything that shows on screen blurry; panning left to right displays as streaked motion on the screen. In the time it takes the IS01 to take a good picture, I could just grab my point-and-shoot.
Some other things I don't like are that the bottom half of the unit picks up finger oil very easily, the battery drains in 10% increments, the stock email client is tied to au/KDDI in Japan, there are some typos in the system (e.g., "Westarn"), the keyboard isn't backlit, and typing is a little uncomfortable because the back of the device is flat (i.e., no contours or curves to fit the shape of your hand).
And even though I've said this before, it can't be overstated that the 960 x 480 resolution is a bit of a sham since it only "works" in the stock browser and home launcher; with everything else, a black bar containing the back, menu, home, and search buttons is a permanent fixture on screen. I assume this bar is 160 x 480 so that everything else displays in standard WVGA.
The IS01 is fine for reading ebooks, watching standard-quality YouTube videos, jotting down notes, and casual web browsing, but so are a lot of other Android devices. Lots of other units can do all of that and more with less compromise.
I'm disappointed that the Sharp IS01 didn't work out for me because I was really looking forward to it and had such high hopes for it. Froyo is sorely needed, though even Eclair would be enough to keep this out of my gadget closet, where many devices end up finding themselves day after day, month after month, and even year after year.
*sigh* I guess first impressions aren't everything.
If you're a fan of this particular form factor, though, and you're okay with the possibility of living with Android 1.6 forever, then $300 for the Sharp IS01 may not be a bad price.