Color Nook E-Reader Turns into Tablet with Free Update
CREDIT: Barnes & Noble
Barnes & Nobles's Nook Color e-reader could be the dark horse in the tablet race led by the front-runner Apple iPad 2 and its top rivals the Motorola Xoom and Samsung Galaxy Tab. Come April, the Nook will get an update that adds signature tablet capabilities, including email, apps and a full browser with video- viewing capability.
Will this supercharged $250 Nook Color shake things up on the tablet scene? The device has already proven popular in its native e-reader market. At the beginning of March, Barnes & Noble ran an eBay promotion offering a $50 coupon on the device. The result: B&N shipped 10,960 devices representing around $2.2 million in sales in 48 hours, and had to cut its promotion short by a day when it surpassed the number of units allotted for the sales, according to eBay.
The Nook Color is the only color e-reader offered by a well-known brand. And while it was launched as a dedicated e-reading device, on the whole it looks a lot more like a tablet than an e-reader, especially compared to the Kindle, Amazon's iconic black- and- white device.
Sometime in April, the tablet lookalike Nook will gain features that will allow it to actually work like a tablet. All current Nook Color owners will receive the firmware update automatically through the device's Wi-Fi connection.
"Nook Color will get even better this spring when a major update to the device’s firmware will offer customers access to explore exciting new applications, email and many other requested features," a a Barnes & Noble press release press release said.
Details came from the Home Shopping Network, (HSN)whoich will now be selling the device at a $50 premium, plus shipping. The firmware update will support Adobe Flash for video viewing and include several big- name Android apps such as Angry Birds , Lonely Planet Phrasebook and Drawing Pad.
Hackers got there first
Friendly hackers are always looking for ways to add additional functionality to Android-based devices via "rooting," which is taking complete control of the device's software using unauthorized techniques and usually requires technical know-how. For instance, Android tinkerers posted Google's Froyo update for phones long before carriers rolled out the official updates to their customers.
Likewise, Nooks have been unofficially upgraded to Android tablets for some time now. Alex Kukinski, a college student in Omaha, Neb., was featured in an NPR story this past weekend for his "How to Root a Nook Color" videos on YouTube. Kukinski's video has been viewed more than 81,000 times in the last two months. All it takes, Kukinski shows, is 30 minutes and a $15 SD card.
Rooting a device, however, voids the warranty. With this in mind, Kukinski also offers "How to Unroot a Nook Color," with the promise that the process "should leave no trace of your device ever being rooted."
Even with the comprehensive April update, the Nook Color will not be able to stand toe-to-toe with the iPad or the Xoom in a number of important user categories. But put it up against the Galaxy Tab and the Nook Color starts to look like a smart bargain.
For starters, the Nook Color doesn't have a camera, so there is no video chatting. Books must be downloaded with a cable connection to a computer rather than purchased over-the-air. The Nook Color has a significantly smaller 7-inch screen than the 9.7-inch iPad. Initially, apps for the Nook will be extremely limited, but B&N promises more in the future. The Nook Color is only available with a Wi-Fi connection ― no 3G ― and it's running Android 2.2, an older version of an operating system designed for smartphones.
Compared with an iPad or Xoom, in other words, you'll have to make some pretty big compromises if you get a Nook Color tablet, albeit at half the price.
But once the Color Nook gets its update, it looks like a value compared to a 7-inch $500 Galaxy Tab running Android 2.2. and unlikely to ever be updated to Honeycomb 3.0.
And don't let the Galaxy Tab's price fool you: The list price looks great at $200, but the two-year contract that you'll sign to get subsidized pricing means you'll pay at least $680 over the course of two years. Tab contracts include a monthly data fee starting at $20 for 1GB and up to $80 for 10GB plus an early termination fee of $350.
As for a Nook Color? No contract. No data fees. And no strings attached.
Note: Samsung Mobile has offered a promo code good for $100 off the on-contract price of a Galaxy Tab to the first 500 who "like" Samsung Mobile USA on Facebook.