We spent all day together yesterday and stayed up until the wee hours of the morning, and I woke up today still wanting more. In the harsh light of the morning after, the oily smudges on the 7-inch touchscreen were readily apparent and tended to smear rather than disappear when I tried to wipe off the evidence of countless hours of manhandling. The reason the screen was covered with so many traces of taps, swipes, and pinch-zooming is embarrassing to admit, but it speaks volumes about the necessity of what I thought was the Flyer's most unique feature, the "only reason" that people would buy it.
Yes, I'm referring to the pen. The Flyer doesn't have Honeycomb, a dual-core processor, or 4G (Sprint's EVO View will address that this summer), but it has a capacitive digital pen complete with dedicated buttons to highlight and erase. Also referred to as the magic pen or Scribe stylus, it's the accessory that differentiates the Flyer from all the other Android tablets out there.
And I still haven't taken mine out of the box.
HTC sent it to me in the same package that contained the Flyer, so both had an equal shot at getting some time in my hands. The pen initially ended up being pushed aside while I dealt with some WiFi issues (as mentioned in my unboxing) but as the day turned to night—and the night turned to morning—I just never looked at it again.
Even after I got the device set up the way I wanted it, downloaded and installed my favorites, wrote a review of the new HTC Watch app, pored through the settings menus, tried in vain to get root, watched a movie, streamed some music, played a few games, sent emails, browsed the web, ran a couple of benchmarks, and exhaustively explored the tablet-optimized HTC Sense 2.1 (lots of similarities to Sense 3.0 for phones), I still didn't touch the pen. I just lost track of time and always had "something else" I wanted to do first. In fact, hours into my non-stop usage of the Flyer, it dawned on me that I had completely forgotten the pen even existed.
I didn't miss it. I didn't think about it. I didn't even remember that it was in the house.
The pen is an optional accessory for Best Buy's WiFi-only Flyer (and maybe for Sprint's EVO View 4G too), and after spending yesterday, last night, and this morning with the device, I'm surprised to say that it's been an optional accessory for me as well.
Should it have been included? Oh, absolutely. The decision to keep it out of the box and then charge $80 for it is baffling; all HTC has to do is read the comments in any article that mentions the pen is sold separately to know that everyone thinks it's a terrible idea. I think it's ridiculous too . . . and yet, based on my experience with the tablet so far, I could be satisfied with returning the Flyer to HTC in a few weeks without ever using the pen.
Of course I will use the pen since it's right here and it is what makes the unit stand out from the crowd, but I'm really going to have a make a conscious effort to do so. I'm going to have to remind and maybe even force myself to use it.
But to be honest, I don't really want to.
Even during the good ol' UMPC days, I was never interested in inking, palm rejection, handwriting recognition, vectoring, and digitizers. I don't like to handwrite anything on paper; why would I want to hold a pen and write on a gadget screen? I'm obviously not part of the Tablet PC's target audience, which is the group that seems particularly interested in the Flyer's digital pen integration, so I guess it makes sense that the pen hasn't gotten any love from me yet. And not having anywhere on the device to store it certainly doesn't help its cause.
For me, the Flyer is perfectly usable and incredibly enjoyable without the pen. I love HTC Sense, as I've mentioned before, and the version here (Sense 2.1 for Tablet) is sweeter than ever. Its inclusion already puts the tablet ahead of the 7" competition for me, and all that I've come to adore about Sense on Android is completely sans pen.
I'm sure that there will be many users who will view the pen as the Flyer's most valuable asset, but I predict that it will be nothing more than a novelty for me. It hasn't had a chance to strut its stuff for me yet, as I've been so immersed in using the tablet with my fingers, but I'll try to give it my undivided attention when it does.