The Dell Streak: Better than an iPad and an iPhone

Dell just announced their Streak Smartphone/Tablet and, as I wrote before, I’ve been using an early prototype since the beginning of the year. 

I still think Apple might have been better off doing a device like this initially rather than the iPad. 

The reason is that you don’t need two data network services on the struggling AT&T network to get this to work because it is both small enough to be a phone and big enough to do a number of things the iPad does acceptably well. 

I’m a big believer in fleshing out a successful line before starting another and that an additional iPhone would have been a better hedge against the incursions that Google Android is making in the Smartphone space. The iPad is doing well but Android is now closing on the iPhone and that could be a problem when it comes to Apple retaining developers.  

So, let’s explore the Dell Streak once again.

The 5” Android Phone

The Dell Streak is an Android phone with a 5” screen, Qualcomm Snapdragon technology, and two cameras, a low resolution camera facing you and a high resolution camera facing everyone else with a powerful LED light source.  In use, it is potentially a more elegant and inexpensive alternative to the combination of an iPhone and iPad (now if you could just tether an iPad to an iPhone). 

Individually there are tradeoffs as it is larger and less portable than an iPhone and doesn’t have the screen real estate of the iPad. Think of the decision to buy it as similar to choosing a sporty SUV rather than buying a sports sedan and a van. In this case with the emphasis on the sports because, due to the cameras, multi-tasking, and eventual Flash support it will do a number of things that the iPhone doesn’t but the screen size is a fraction of the iPads.

In short, the folks that will like this phone are those that find the Android platform acceptable (and apparently there are now more of those then IPhone buyers) and want something that is better with the web and movies then the iPhone but don’t want yet another device and data plan to manage. It is kind of like Chrysler figuring out there is a market for a Mini Van, or better, Infiniti and BMW figuring out that folks wanted sporty SUVs.  

In Use

The one problem I had is that there wasn’t a belt pouch available for this phone yet and I don’t carry a purse (my wife won’t let me). So I had to fashion one out of belt camera pouch and it was less than ideal (the word ugly comes to mind), however the device was no harder to carry then the HTC Smartphone I usually carry because, while it is wider, it is also substantially thinner (I have keyboard phone). 

However, while I think holding the iPhone or any large Smartphone to your head pushes the dork envelope holding this to your head crosses that line and if you don’t like Bluetooth headsets you’d better get used to folks doing double takes when you have this puppy upside your head (and don’t answer fast as this thing could hurt).

I use a headset or car phone system about 95% of the time anyway (some folks think I sleep with my headset on) so I’ve already got a good dork vibe going and this wasn’t a problem for me. If you like the iPhone or typical Android phone keyboard you’ll love the Streak’s, the extra screen size actually makes it more usable and those that have used the screen keyboard on the IPad have learned that size does make a big difference with this these things.    

The iPhone is too small for Navigation and while I’ve seen one in-dash installation of the iPad I think it is too big. The Streak is just right and screens of similar size are commonly used on standalone GPS systems.  So, the device shines here but you’ll want some kind of a dash mount and I haven’t tried that yet.

For reading, I know folks read on their iPhones and my first eBook experience was reading on an HP iPaq PDA (read the Monica Lewinsky Story, don’t ask…) which had a similar screen size to the Streak and I actually enjoyed the experience. Currently, I use the Kindle DX and the drop in size from an iPad size device to a PDA size device wasn’t something I’d look forward to.  

However, Android will shortly support both the Kindle reader and the Barnes & Noble reader so if you have a Kindle, Nook, or Pandigital Novel and left them at home you could continue reading your book on this device and I can tell you from experience it isn’t that bad. (I’m a big fan of the Kindle sync). 

Wrapping Up

The Dell Streak is just the beginning of an exploration of what we want in a tablet/Smartphone and it may be years until the right size and combination of technologies come to market. In fact, much like it is with cars and Notebook computers there may never really be a one-size –fits-all product.   

Because I like both the idea of a larger screen, a device I can wear on my belt, and don’t want to pay for multiple data plans the Streak fits my needs better than the combination of an iPad and iPhone do. But, saying that, I’m not getting rid of my Kindle anytime soon either. 

Much like it was with Minivans and SUVs, the Streak won’t be for everyone, but, I think, for those that like it there won’t be another size device that will meet their needs better, however, I’ll also bet there will be other devices in this class coming shortly.  

Isn’t choice a wonderful thing?

Rob Enderle is one of the last Inquiry Analysts. Inquiry Analysts are paid to stay up to date on current events and identify trends and either explain the trends or make suggestions, tactical and strategic, on how to best take advantage of them. Currently he provides his services to most of the major technology and media companies. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the writer.