The least expensive Android tablet . . .

The least expensive Android tablet was not born to be an Android tablet, but is the Barnes and Noble Nook Color — an e-book reader — with a specially-modified version of Android put on it. I bought one, and realizing that I’ll never get much value out of it as an e-book reader made the next logical step . . . .

That Android version is a flavor called CyanogenMod formatted for the Nook Color, and while still lends itself for phones overcomes the fact that the e-book reader has fewer buttons to control it by putting them on the screen. And, more importantly, you can run it from an installed micro SDHC card — the kind that store photos in many kinds of camera — rather than on the internal memory. Which means I can turn it off, pop out the card, restart and have the Nook as Barnes and Noble intended. And the warranty isn’t voided. I used the directions found here. It does take some technical ability, your own or someone else’s. And while they didn’t recommend it, I was able to make it work quite nicely (thank you) on a cheaper class-4 card. (It didn’t boot the first time, but was fine the second time.)

Android, while built on Linux, is not itself open-source, for which the phone is too small. And Google, Android’s sponsor/owner, is holds access to its apps store closely. But as the story suggests, if you already have a proper Android phone, they don’t mind (in essence) you adding it here. Indeed, I was shocked to see a facsimile of my phone — including the background but excluding third-party apps — when I first logged in with my Google account.

So why not use the phone? Well, it comes back to books. As regular readers know or guess, I’m more prone to read from Google Books’s public domain offerings than buy something from B&N. And the Google Book app is ideal — better than I expected, since the books cache on the Nook and the margins are magically cropped. Perfect for when I’m out of wifi distance. The browser works nicely, and when pivoted into the landscape mode, the soft/screen keyboard is almost touch-typeable. And unlike an iPad, you can hold it comfortably in one hand.  It also plays music and videos (not added any videos yet), and since it’s an Android tablet, I’ve installed Square, a credit card processor should I eventually take donations for the new church start.

I like it.

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