The UnoBook has arrived! If you hate Apple products but see the trend of tablets in education, you can now supply your school with a state of the art Android tablet running v. 4.03 (Ice Cream Sandwich). These devices have an eight inch screen, so they are not as small as an Amazon Kindle Fire, or as large as an iPad. They have 1GB of ram, 16GB of storage, an extended life battery, and dual cameras. Buy yours today! Don’t wait!
I apologize for the sarcasm I’ve already used in this post, but this product has me VERY concerned. I know there are schools out there (or IT directors) that hate Apple. As I’ve said before, I used to be very anti-Apple (in recovery just under four years), so I get it. But this new tablet leaves far too many questions to be answered (as does the Android platform) for education–but I guarantee you that a number of schools will be placing orders on Monday morning as the “answer has arrived.”
If you go to CDI’s website, no mention is made of this product at all. You would think that a company that is the sole distributor of a product would make the specs of the product available the moment the product was released (like Apple, Dell, HP, etc.). Instead, the ad shown above was from a marketing e-mail.
NOTE (10/3/2012): It appears that CDI may no longer be directly carrying the UnoBook, and that the UnoBook has been released as its own standalone product (at the time of writing of this article, CDI was the sole distributor of the UnoBook). CDI has requested that I provide an updated link at: http://www.unobook.com.
So, how about giving us some real specifications so the device can be compared to other products (Android or otherwise)?
RAM is a relative specification. It is necessary, but Apple has included a very small amount of RAM on its iDevices since they were released. There is speculation that the new iPad has 1GB of RAM, but the iPad 2 and iPhone 4S only have 512MB of RAM. The operating system itself can limit the need for the amount of RAM required by a tablet. So in theory, an Unobook running Android 4.03 might not have enough RAM yet an iPad 2 is fine with 512MB. If you notice, Apple doesn’t put RAM stats on the iPad spec page.
The eight inch screen: is this actual viewing area, or the size of the screen? Is the tablet widescreen or 4:3? (It looks to be 4:3, but it could be a photoshopped image. I saw a 4:3 Coby tablet at a Shopko yesterday–$300–which is funny because the Coby website says that it makes all its tablets in 16:9 for movies, when this is listed as a 4:3 device). In reality the Unobook could be the same size as an Amazon Kindle Fire.
Aluminum? That’s generally a better answer for heat dissipation, but has its drawbacks, too (even on the iPad). Extended life battery? That Unobook battery had better match (or approximate) the 10 hours of an iPad. 16GB of storage? Sounds pretty standard–a starting point for most tablets I know of.
More questions: Is there an SD slot? HDMI or Video Out? What is the resolution on those cameras? What is the weight of this device? Is there a case that fits it? What accessories will it work with? What is the warranty? How do you get service?
And some other questions: How do you control all the Unobooks from the IT side? After all, if you are considering the Unobook, you are shunning the iPad. One of the great complaints about the iPad is how hard it is to lock it down, even with Configurator. That means you want control. So how do you mass control Android tablets in an educational environment? How do you handle the Google Play Store or the Amazon App Store? If you thought the Apple educational volume pricing program was undeveloped, you’re in for a world of surprise.
There’s a very clear reason why you don’t hear of very many Android 1:1 educational initiatives.
Ultimately, a better solution, albeit slightly more expensive, is to go with iPad 2s in the educational cart. At the same time, it is pretty clear that the iPad works best and is most effective when it is a personal device and not a cart-item (this could change at any time if Apple creates user accounts on iPads, but we’re not there yet).
In case you missed it, I would NOT suggest buying the Unobook for your school, particularly when the president of the company has said:
We sent one hundred generic test tablets to educators for a few weeks, then we called them and sent them surveys. We asked what would turn this into the perfect device. We came up with 12 points that would make educators and students happy…We’re launching Version 1 in May. It addresses a few of the 12 points. Version 2 will add more, and by 2013 we will have a tablet with all the elements educators requested (districtadministration.com).
I think we all realize that technology becomes obsolete (another criticism of the iPad) but buying a tablet for your school that only addresses a “few” of the points that would make educators and students happy, and knowing that version 2 won’t even meet all of the points? That’s an unwise decision.
Meanwhile, you could be using iPads for two years that will likely meet all (or most) of those needs while you wait for an Android tablet that catches up. If you really need to stay away from Apple, you would be better off finding a bunch of used HP Touchpads and installing Cyanogen’s Android 4 on them, or going with an established Acer or Samsung tablet.