V3 got its hands on Motorola Solutions' ET1 enterprise-only tablet, checking out how the business-focused Android device compares to its more consumer-focused competitor, the Apple iPad.
Built by Motorola Solutions, the business wing of Motorola which is entirely separate from the mobile phone Mobility wing purchased by Google, the tablet is currently only available on a channel sales model. This means it can only be purchased directly from Motorola Solutions and will never be seen anywhere near a high street store.
Design and build
Speaking to V3, Motorola Solutions Product Manager Andy McBain, explained that the tablet was designed to be useful in a variety of industries including courier, healthcare and government services, retail and construction.
This means that Motorola Solutions really hasn't bothered trying to make the tablet look very pretty. As a consequence the tablet is incredibly bulky when compared to other consumer products, measuring in at 131x224x25mm and weighing 630g.
One positive about its bulky design is that the tablet is very tough and durable. During our hands-on tests we got to bang the ET1 against a table and give it a not too gentle series of "taps" and in both cases it was the table and our hand that came off the worse.
The ET1's great durability carried over to its 7in capacitive, 1024x600 Corning Gorilla Glass screen. Demoing the device we were allowed to rub the screen over a rough wooden table and floor and in both cases the tablet's display came out scratch and chip free - we didn't dare try the same tests on any of the other tablets we had in the office.
We didn't get the chance to take the tablet outside to try it in outdoor lighting, but given the issues we saw during our hands on, we're nervous the tablet may be all but illegible in bright sunlit conditions, a problem for businesses like courier companies whose staff spend the majority of their time outside, looking to use the tablet.
The tablet runs using the now ancient 2.3 Gingerbread version of Android, though McBain did promise us a Jelly Bean update will be rolled in early 2013.
Motorola Solutions has made a series of customisations to the ET1's user interface, making it look incredibly bare bones when compared to consumer tablets. This is largely due to the company's decision not to overload the UI with widgets or unwanted apps.
This means that the ET1's interface is one of the nicest representations of Gingerbread we have ever seen. A nice consequence of this is that the tablet is really quite fast, with the lack of unnecessary bloatware leaving the ET1's 1GHz dual-core processor free to deal with important tasks.
That said we're still not convinced Motorola's use of Android for a business machine was a smart one. Android has consistently been listed as the least secure mobile operating system, with numerous security vendors including Trend Micro, Kaspersky and F-Secure listing it as cyber criminals' target of choice.
This is largely due to the fact that the Android OS works on an open as opposed to closed model, letting developers and users customise it. Apple by comparison has a closed model, keeping development of its operating system in-house and checking and vetting all apps applying to be released onto the platform. This means that while it is far easier to develop and mould Android to suit bespoke tasks and functions, the iPad is a likely a better choice security-wise.
Despite our questions regarding the ET1's software we did notice a number of perks for businesses on the ET1.
The most noticeable of these is the ET1's series of "expansion modules". These are add-on peripherals that plug into the ET1's USB 2.0 port. Motorola Solutions told us that there are already numerous expansion modules on offer, both from it and third party developers.
The one we saw was a dedicated laser scanner that plugged into the tablet's top, allowing it to scan and extract information from numerous objects. During our demo we were shown how the peripheral could extract and save a contact's name and information simply by scanning a business card.
From a business perspective, our opening impressions of the ET1 are positive. Motorola Solutions has built a robust tablet, complete with a surprisingly full portfolio of business-focused apps and add-ons.
Our two concerns regarding the ET1 are that it's only available on a channel price model and its use of the Android OS.
Being on a channel pricing plan, the cost of the ET1 is subject to a number of factors, including what industry the buyer is in and how many units they want to order. Because of this the ET1 may prove to be too expensive for a number of small to medium sized businesses.
Additionally, the use of Android may put off security-savvy IT managers and systems administrators, due to the ongoing security concerns over the OS.
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