First Full Day with the Camangi WebStation

Judie: As you may recall, I received my Camangi WebStation yesterday afternoon. Other than downloading some of my eReader library to it, I wasn’t able to spend as much time with the tablet as I might have liked before previously made plans drew me away. This morning I was greeted with tweets and links pointing to Michael Smith’s review, where he calls the Camangi a “total fail” because (among other reasons) it isn’t as fast as his first gen iPhone and because it doesn’t browse the internet as quickly as the Hackintosh he likes to couch surf from.

Michael has a legitimate point when he says that “the product is called the WEB station, and therefore should be optimized at surfing the web.” And for doing this, the Camangi is okay — with the main caveat being that it is slower than I might like and it is not using a fully powered browser that can “see” embedded flash items such as the radar images on the site, You Tube videos, or the CES slideshow we’ve embedded on Gear Diary in anticipation of Dan’s, Larry’s and my trip next week. It’s an okay browser, but it will never be confused with one on any laptop.

After reading his article, I could see exactly why Michael was disappointed, but I also have my own reasons for disagreeing with him; he never tested the Camangi for the one use I had in mind when I purchased — using it as an eReader.

Let me back up for a moment …

I have a Kindle 2, a Kindle DX, a nook, an iPhone, and what I like to do on all of these devices is read books. Admittedly, the iPhone and the Kindle devices are my favorite ways to do this so far, but there are problems with each method. The Kindles will not access my eReader library, which is composed of ~500 .pdb files. The iPhone is nearly an ideal solution, because it will read my Kindle, eReader and nook books, but its screen is a little bit smaller than I would like. Until a 7″ Apple tablet gets released (assuming that will actually ever happen), the Camangi seems like an intriguing piece of hardware. It may not be “Mr. Right”, but it could be “Mr. Right Now”. While the Camangi won’t read my Kindle books, it will read the majority of my eBook library, and I would be willing to continue purchasing books from eReader if the hardware I was using to read it from was good enough.

Now add to its eReader capability that the Camangi has the ability to get my email, surf the internet (even if in a slightly handicapped fashion), and do some other Android tricks, and you can see why if I liked it, it might effectively replace my Kindle DX. I would see the Camangi as a backlit eBook reader with benefits.

Yes; I ordered it on an impulse and with little to no real information, but it certainly wasn’t the first time I have done so, nor will it be the last.

Dan: I spent most of the day (after DHL finally delivered the device) wanting to throw the device out the window. I was dreading having ordering it in the first place and damning myself for the impulsive purchase. Websites wouldn’t load, applications other than those in the company’s own market wouldn’t download and start, and even some of the applications from their marketplace wouldn’t load properly. I checked the settings and found nothing. I rebooted the device numerous times but to no avail. I tried to do a hard reset on the device but couldn’t figure out how to manage it. Seriously my head was spinning. At one point the Gmail application which had worked no longer worked. And there was never a point in which the native e-mail application would work. I kept getting notified that there was a certificate error, or that the certificate was expired, or that the connection was lost. I was absolutely positively hating the device. And all the while my dear friend Judie was laughing at me as she was loading books onto the reader application without a problem.

Judie: I absolutely wasn’t laughing. I was telling Dan that there had to be something wrong, because my device wasn’t giving me any of the trouble his was. I knew there had to be an explanation — even if it was that his was a defective device, because mine was working!

Dan: Fast-forward to 5 PM this evening.

I discovered that the solution was incredibly simple and stupid. When I first got the device, the date it was showing was wrong. I changed the date to today’s date. In the process, however, I inadvertently made the year 2010 rather than 2009. I never would’ve picked up on it except that Joel was kind enough to ask the question — “Is the date on the device correct?” when I asked if he had any ideas why my device was messing up as it was.

I have no idea what he was asking, until I went and checked and discovered that, in fact, the date was incorrect. I changed the year to the proper year — 2009. Lo and behold it started working. The native Gmail app began to work, eReader began to download my books, the additional Google apps worked fine, and I was able to load alternative Android application stores and began downloading applications. Two Twitter apps both work fine, Pandora works perfectly, a Google Docs application works great, Newsrob, an RSS reader that syncs with Google reader not only works well but it’s the best news reader that I have seen on any handheld device … and all of the applications display it on 7 inches of beautiful screen.

No, the Camangi doesn’t have the best resolution of any devices that I’ve seen; it is, however, more than good enough to get the job done.

Judie: My big frustration this afternoon came from a lack of familiarity with the Android in general and the Camangi in particular. I couldn’t figure out how to mount the device to my Mac to load eBooks directly, so I was having to spend literally hours patiently downloading them 25 at a time to the microSD card. When I connected the Camangi via USB cable to it’s miniUSB connector, I could see the USB icon in the upper right hand corner, but the Camangi’s card did not automatically show up on my Mac’s desktop as I expected. Instead, through trial and error and finally a tip from a link Dan IMd me, I discovered that if I tapped the USB symbol, a dragbar would appear. Still holding the USB symbol, I could take another finger to pull down the dragbar, exposing the option to mount the Camangi. Once that was done, loading pictures, eBooks and yes – even a few sample movies was easy.

Dan: The device isn’t the fastest device that I have seen. Not by a long shot. But it’s also not the slowest. And, unlike the Archos device that I tried for a brief period of time (twice), the Camangi has not crashed or locked up once since I fixed the date issue.

Judie: Speaking of finding things out the hard way … I found out just how solidly made the Camangi was early this morning. Kevin tripped over its charging cable, which sent the device skipping across our bamboo floor and careening into the stainless refrigerator. The crash was quite impressive, and nearly immediately he was calling me to confess and asses the damage; poor guy. In shock, we both saw that the Camangi did not appear to have a single scratch or ding. It immediately turned on, and has since behaved as if nothing was wrong. That’s more than I can say for any other device that similar disasters have befallen.

Dan: So here’s my initial impression after a few hours of it. It isn’t the most intuitive device that I’ve seen. Then again, I haven’t found any Android device is as intuitive as the iPhone or the iPod touch.

Judie: Exactly, and understanding that no matter what — the comparisons will ensue, it only seems fair to say that the comparisons aren’t necessarily fair.

Dan: With that said, the Camangi’s build quality is excellent. The 7 inch screen size is terrific. And having used a variety of UMPC devices over the years, it leaves them in the dust. If you’re looking for this device to be an iPhone replacement with regard to speed or ease of use you going to be unhappy. If you look at the device as an opportunity to read eReader books on a 7 inch touchscreen, get your e-mail, check your RSS feeds and do some web browsing on a device that has decent battery life (obviously we haven’t had a real chance to fully test battery life, though), runs cool, and is super easy to take with you wherever you go, then the Camangi is actually quite good. My initial impressions — now that I’ve got it working — are quite positive.

I mean…

Try THAT in a dark room with a Kindle!!

Then again, Larry pointed out that he doesn’t take any feedback on a device with anything more than a grain of salt from anyone who has only used it for two or three days.(Especially me since my first impressions usually change radically within a day or two for good or for bad.) At the same time it is already clear that due to the midrange size, the touchscreen’s lack of multitouch and sensitivity etc., this is a device better for consuming content than creating it.

Judie: Indeed. The way I feel about the Camangi today may change after a few weeks of using it, but so far it’s been a better than expected experience. I already like the fact that it will show the color covers for my eReader books — unlike the nook, which treated them like second-class citizens, and I like that it is backlit and has real surfing capabilities — unlike the Kindle. If Amazon releases a Kindle app for Android, that will be the death knell for any of my other current eReaders, with the exception of the Camangi and the iPhone.

Dan: So we end where Judie began this post- you are going to get something different from this device depending on how you look at it and approach it. If you look at this as a full Android phone or a netbook replacement, then you are going to be disapointed. If, however, your main focus for a device like this is the ability to use it for READING- books, RSS feeds, etc., then there is a lot to like.

Judie: And when you look at the cost of a Kindle or nook, the Camangi gives you a lot of flexibility for $150 more. You get color, Android apps, a touch screen, the ability to stream Pandora (which works well!) as you read, and the list goes on and on.

Dan: From one perspective the Camangi WebStation is a failure already. However from the other perspective — and it’s the one we are viewing it from — after a day we are still both rather intrigued.

Categories: eBooks, Reviews

Tags: , , ,

10 replies

  1. It’s still early. VERY soon the Android version will be released making browsing on Android much better.

  2. Oh wow, I can’t believe you guys like the device so far. The review from tomorrowland was very harsh. I guess this device is a ebook/light web browsing/streaming audio player and not a speedy/video playing/flash supporting hard core web browser.

    I wanted the Camangi but the price was a little high. I also lost interest when I learned of the ICD Ultra. And who knows what Apple is working on.

  3. alslayer

    As we said, it really depends on how you approach the device and what expectations you have. It is early but this is for sure- it is NOT a bad device.

    That is not as negative as it sounds. By comparison, the Archos was, in my experience, a BAD device. It was buggy, limited in scope and just… well bad. This isn’t. Once I resolved the issue on my end the device has performed well. It isn’t a speed demon but it doesn’t lock up either.

    Tomorrowland’s comment- “My suspicion is that the unit is basically a digital picture frame loaded with a cell phone version Google Android with a touch screen.” That is NOT the case at all.

    Another comment over there notes- “We are all so spoiled by the fluidity of the iphone that we expect everything to work like it…” This one is totally on mark. Time and again I am excited about an Android device only to be a bit disappointed that it isn’t as fluid or easy as the iPhone or touch. They aren’t! None of them. But that is an Android issue. Android is not, in my opinion, as easy, fluid or enjoyable to use as OS iPhone. That doesn’t make it bad but it also doesn’t make it my OS of choice.

    I’m being long-winded but want to make the point again- the device is far from perfect but far from a total fail. I used it to check RSS feeds, do a bit of browsing, check my email etc last night and then was reading a book in bed before going to sleep. It was a very nice user experience.


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