Sunday, October 16, 2011

Thoughts about webOS




HP has just released webOS 3.0.4, it makes the touchpad almost twice as fast (well, after the corresponding Govnah and UberKernal update which means still have to overclock to 1.5Ghz)

Well, just some random thoughts after installing CM7 for my HP touchpad. This maybe a rough comparison between webOS 3.0.2 vs. Android 2.3. This could be just some random rants as well… It is more expanded than the initial impression post I posted a few days ago.

Some good features about webOS 3.0.2:

1. Fairly good looking tablet interface. Dual/Triple pane, consistent design throughout the apps. Big plus for landscape mode.
2. Card system for multitasking. So that you always know what apps are running.
3. Synerge for managing multiple accounts, including many popular services.
4. Rotation lock/unlock in the notification area.
5. Good keyboard, especially with the numbers on top. Long pressing the numbers give you more features. Sometimes the keyboard layout isn’t consistent though.
6. Printer, although it only supports certain HP brand printers, it gives you easy access to print from almost every app. To bypass the limited printer support, you can install Touch2Pc Printer on your computer (this computer has to be always ON if you want to print something though)

The ugly about webOS 3.0.2:

1. Slowwww, almost everything is running slow, even after overclocking to 1.5Ghz, the apps are still running very inefficiently. Average app launching time is 5s-15s. This along with the language localization are the two real deal breaker for me to support webOS.
2. Very bad browser. The loading is extremely slow. The browser doesn’t have tabs. External links from certain sites almost never works (maybe killed by ad blocker?) And there’s no third party browser aside from advanced browser!

3. Card system takes way too much memory, you run out of memory fairly quickly. It might also be a problem trying to find the card you need.
4. Almost all the included apps didn’t have enough function. The email app doesn’t support search, nor finding labels for gmail. The calendar app won’t sync with google calendar automatically. The photo app lacks sorting, also only displays very low resolution. The video app supports practically mp4 with h.264 ONLY. The music app sometimes can’t handle unicode, can’t play music smoothly in the background.
5. Apps in HP catalog (app store) are mostly junk. What’s worst is that not a lot “HD” versions are available. I’m still puzzled why it’s so hard for developers to program some good apps. Also the apps are NOT cheap, the average is around $5-$10, many of them lack trial mode. You could end up spending a lot for crappy useless apps. The HP catalog doesn’t allow refunding.
6. Poor language localization. Well, it’s almost non-existent. With 3.0.4, it’ll add Chinese localization, but that’s about it. Poor unicode support. Both iOS and Android system support all almost all the major languages out of the box.

Now on the Android 2.3 side, the system is obviously NOT made for tablets. Even for the tablet optimized 3.0, things are not looking good either. The percentage of the “HD” versions on Android market are sparse just as HP catalog probably due to 3.0 is closed source and not too many real tablets are out there. Hopefully with the release of 4.0 ICS, things will change. The system also lacks a rotation lock/unlock function as seen in webOS. Majority of the apps are obviously designed for the cellphones, which use portrait mode most often. Or even if they do support landscape, they require manually readjust, or only rotate in certain angles, or in landscape mode, you lose access to certain function. It doesn’t have as elegant printing solution as webOS, either.

Some specific apps for directly comparison, these are the apps I use most often:

File Management:

Internalz for webOS: it’s not a native app for webOS 3.0, therefore it only supports portrait mode, but the graphics work fine. Coupled with file manager from preware, it’s a decent file manager and ipk installer for webOS.

Gemini File Manager for webOS: one of a few other options from HP catalog, $2.99. It’s a dual pane manager, supports windows SMB local network.

ES File Explorer for Android: Very versatile file manger. Supports almost every function (local, SMB, FTP) you could think of. It even has a music and video player built-in.

WiFi File Explorer for Android: manage your files via wifi. It’s a good compliment to ES File Explorer.


Chinese IME input:

Baidu IME for webOS: The design mimicks the native keyboard, even down to those number keys. The only problem is that it won’t remember the last input (English or Chinese), every time it seems to enforce Chinese. Also there seems to be no way to change input method like in Android, once you install this input, it will be your default keyboard.

Sogou IME for pad for Android: It is the only Chinese IME input that has a pad version. The design also resembles the webOS IME, but the number keys are not turned on by default. This is the only one that’s optimized for pad use, what can you do… Generally, I like Baidu better, if it ever gets a pad version, I would switch to it immediately.


Book reader:

Amazon Kindle: The webOS version has a double page design (like a real book) in landscape mode which the android version lacks. But the android version has a dictionary which can be handy for people like me who’s not a native English speaker. The webOS version also has a slightly more intuitive, clearly labeled interface.

pReader (epub) for webOS: The native alpha version is the “HD” version. It’s extremely buggy. Lots of functions such as bookmark, jumping to specific chapter don’t work. The unicode support is spotty.

FBReader (epub) for Android: It’s very light weight. It has full support for epub format. It uses ColorDict. The only function it lacks is a bookshelf function. Otherwise this would be perfect.

There are a few other good ones for Android: ireader, moon reader, Aldiko, etc. But I prefer FBReader for its performance.

Adobe reader (pdf) for webOS: It’s only pdf reader I’ve tried. It lacks a lot of important function such as bookmark, quick access to chapter. People on precentral has been spending some effort to add these missing features. But I don’t have much use on reading pdf docs anyways. It also has some problem with unicode support.

Thinkfree Office (pdf) for Android: I didn’t try it enough to conclude anything. But it does open pdf…



Hoshidict for webOS: Has tons of dictionaries to download, and they appear to be pretty accurate. The only thing it’s lacking is online function, it doesn’t support searching for google translation or wikipedia. So it’s a very decent offline dictionary ONLY. It doesn’t support pronunciation either.

For Android: Well, there are quite a few dictionaries here. Aedict is for Japanese, ColorDict is for multi-language. For online dictionaries, you also got google translation, WWWJDIC, etc.



Quickoffice (doc, xls) for webOS: It gives you basic function to edit doc, docx, xls, xlsx, but you can’t insert photos, nor draw your own pictures. It has integration with dropbox.

Thinkfree office (doc, xls) for Android: Aside from the basic function, you CAN insert photos, draw your own pictures. The “free” version that comes with my LG cellphone does not have integration with google doc, but the full version supposed to have it.


Note taking:

Tapnote for webOS: It is keyboard based. It has integration with dropbox. But the app is not cheap, costs $5… You are better off just using Quickoffice. I got it for free from the HP weekly giveaway, thankfully…

FreeNote for Android: It has a unique keyboard, handwriting mix mode. It also combines with calendar, to-do list. The interface is a little bit messy. But overall it has probably the most flexible features among all the note taking apps. The only feature it’s missing is export formats other than the only jpg, png or pdf are much preferred, or even better doc/docx.

Picture Viewer:

Synergy (native app) for webOS: It syncs to a lot of popular online photo services aside from manage your local photos. Only problem is that it doesn’t have sort function so that your photos are all over the place. Another problem is it indexes the online photo to local device with lower resolution.

JustPictures! for Android: It syncs to a lot of popular online photo services as well. It has sort function. Account management is not intuitive, but it does work. Wish it has a double pane design as webOS.

Comic/Manga Viewer:

One of the primary reason I bought for the Touchpad is to read manga.

ComicShelf HD for webOS: This is the only comic/manga reading app available for webOS, sadly… Well, if the native photo app supports sorting by names, I wouldn’t even need this app! That is to say I’m not satisfied with ComicShelf HD at all, it has way too many limitations and it runs slow as hell. It can only read *.rar, *.zip, *.cbr, and *.cbz files, and they all have to be placed in only “comic” folder. The way it reads pictures is that it first have to unzip, unrar all pictures, therefore it could take a longgggggggg time if the zipped files are too big. Sadly it couldn’t read uncompressed images… And the moment you close the card, you lose your unpacked files. It has very poor support for unicode, your file name cannot include any foreign characters, otherwise they won’t be recognized. It doesn’t have a right to left mode. It doesn’t have a single page mode to split pictures if they are scanned in per page. Well, for $1.99, I didn’t lose much.

Manga Reader for webOS: This is the only comic/manga reading app available for webOS to read fan translated manga. It downloads manga from certain server, and display it. It can not read your own manga unlike ComicShelf HD. The quality on the downloaded manga (English fan translated ONLY) is very poor, texts are often heavily dithered, and the fan translated manga has way too many watermarks on them, between chapters could be from different groups. Occasionally there is also server problem? so that the manga cannot be downloaded completely. The functionality however is more polished than ComicShelf HD. For $2.99, you get to enjoy some fan translated work as much as you can.

Perfect Viewer for Android: Like the name suggests, it’s really perfect. It has ten times more features than ComicShelf HD, it runs ten times faster as well. It opens compressed *.rar, *.zip, *.cbr, and *.cbz files within seconds. It doesn’t care where your manga are placed, it recognizes unicode extremely well, even for those wrongly coded character downloading from Share/Winny.

ComicBricks for Android: It has pretty much the same function as Manga Reader for webOS, but it only downloads from Chinese website (which means majority of them are Chinese translated). Image quality is far better, but it also means files are larger. It can be used as standalone manga reading app as well, but I would rather use Perfect Viewer. ComicBricks for finding the manga, Perfect Viewer to view is the perfect combo for Android!


As I said earlier, webOS features a very convenient printing system, it’s accessible from almost all apps. For Android, cloud printing is worth trying, as long as you have an HP eprinter or any computer that uses google Chrome on. The most annoying part is that it’s not integrated into the system, so you have to print it inside this app. Another one I’ve tried is printershare, which costs $12.99, but thankfully I got it from Amazon daily app… It works similarly as cloud printing as a standalone app. Only difference is that you don’t need google cloud service, thus no computer is required to print.

Video Player:

KalemSoft meida player for webOS: it supports a lot of more media file types than the native ones, avi, mkv, wmv just to name a few. Subtitle support is non-existent. Mkv works ok, but don’t expect to work on all of them. If everything fails, there’s always the streamer to do real-time transcoding from PC to touchpad.

Moboplayer for Android: it supports a few media file types (everything is done by soft decoding here, otherwise none will play, at least on current CM7 mod). But still it lacks good support for mpeg2 HD (ts, tp), wmv etc. The mkv appears to work, 720p appears to play a bit laggy, can’t seem to switch audio track if more than one track is included. Video doesn’t always have the correct aspect ratio. It does support subtitle for mkv, externally or internally. Some other considerations: MX video player, Diceplayer, Vital player etc.

For online video, there is no dedicated youtube app for webOS, instead you use the web browser. Crackle works pretty decent, even better ad block seems to do a good job at blocking any ads. Hulu, you have to install the patch from preware to work, and it works intermittently.

For CM7 mod, currently the youtube app sort of work, but sometimes the aspect ratio is not correct, sound cracks, lots of stuttering, buffering etc. Crakle app does not work, website access is spotty not to mention the quality is so poor…


Screenshot Taking:

WebOS support screenshot taking natively by holding “Power”+"Home” keys together. It even works in games. (Also by holding “Power”+"Home” keys longer than 30s, you can reboot the device, I only have to do it once for an app causing the system freezing up… But after I added CM7, I have to do this more often since the alpha release has some sleeping issue, as well as rebooting issue)

For Android, the CM7 mod has native screenshot by holding “Power” button (my LG phone doesn’t have this option). The quality is much better than webOS. Or alternatively, you can try shootme (root required, no longer available on market). It runs on background, you shake your phone and it takes pictures.



Spaz HD for webOS: you don’t have much choice here. Spaz HD is free, and it’s pretty much the only twitter client that’s optimized for tablet. You get all the standard functions here, including photo attachment, url shortening. I wish it can let you choose the width of column since I really only need two columns, but it enforces you to use three columns…

Glimpse for webOS: For $5, you get tons of tools in one card. And twitter is one of the many available tools. The interface closely resembles the official twitter webpage. All the major functions are there.

RSS Reader:

NomNomNom for webOS: My favorite webOS app. It revolutionizes the way I read RSS feeds. The card system works extremely well for pulling feeds with pictures and texts. I can get way more contents than the google reader way, but I also get lots more junk information… The only thing it’s missing is an integrated web browser to take you to the original site by directly clicking on the feed. It’s pointless to blow up the feed if it’s the same content, the “Get More Content” is not functioning well.

Google Reader for Android: Nothing to comment here, just wish that they could bring two panes back when they have a tablet version. With this I spent far less time reading than NomNomNom since I’m more selective by just reading the title.

Taptu for Android: OK, I’ve finally found the alternative to NomNomNom on Android platform. Taptu works similar. The difference is that NomNomNom shows three cards at a time, but taptu here shows a lot more. I still prefer NomNomNom though as you can read the entire feed.


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