Published July 20, 2011
Messaging, App Store, Browser
Thanks to the aforementioned Synergy integration, messaging on the HP TouchPad is quite strong. Within the messaging app you can have all of your messaging accounts integrated into threads organized by contact. It supports most of the popular instant messaging protocols, including Google Talk/Jabber, AIM, Yahoo! Messenger, and Skype. You can also access the SMS messages on a connected webOS phone.
Like Synergy on webOS phones, if you start a conversation with a contact in Google Talk, and then switch over to AIM to continue the conversation, all of your messages will be in the same thread. The system is very cool and works well. Surprisingly missing is support for Facebook Chat, but that could be added with a future update if HP chooses to do so.
The webOS email app has been redesigned for webOS 3.0, and it includes a lot of features that take advantage of the larger screen real estate found on the TouchPad. It uses a sliding pane system that allows you to adjust the size of a message or list window depending on how much you want to see. This takes the dual-pane email concept that we have seen on many other tablets a step further and is really cool.
You can aggregate multiple email inboxes into one list, and there is support for POP/IMAP, Gmail, Microsoft Exchange, MobileMe, and Yahoo! accounts. The email app supports IMAP Idle, so you can get push email services with an IMAP account should your email provider support it. The webOS email app is still missing a few features that we'd expect to see in a modern email client, most notably threaded messaging and multiple message management, but the email experience on the TouchPad is much better than it is on webOS smartphones of late.
Apps / App Store
HP's app store for the TouchPad is called the App Catalog. It has been fully redesigned for webOS 3.0 with a multi-pane interface for browsing and downloading new apps. Pivot, a magazine-style presentation of new apps, complete with editorial and direct links, greets users when they first open the App Catalog. It is a nicely-presented and unique way of surfacing new apps to the user. You cannot choose to view only TouchPad apps in the Catalog, but each TouchPad app has an indicator in its description that shows it has been designed for tablets.
Unfortunately, as has been the case with webOS since its inception, there aren't too many apps to showcase for the TouchPad right now. TouchPad specific apps are limited to a handful compared to the 100,000 that iPad users can choose from. The TouchPad is capable of running some, but not all, of the webOS apps designed for smartphones, but it does it in a shrunken-down emulator view, like how the iPad handles iPhone apps. The TouchPad will not allow you to double the viewing size of the app like you can do on the iPad, however.
Since there are roughly only 6,000 apps available for the webOS platform as a whole, and the vast majority of those are designed for phones, the TouchPad has quite a long road ahead to be competitive in the app space with other tablet platforms.
I would be remiss not to mention the Facebook app that HP designed for webOS 3.0 and the TouchPad. It uses the sliding panes navigation scheme found elsewhere in webOS 3.0 (the email app, messaging app, other places), and has a new "newspaper" view of the News Feed that you can choose.
Most all of the Facebook functions that one would expect to find are present, including check-ins to Places and integration with webOS notifications. The app is a bit sluggish though, with laggy and choppy scrolling and it can take far longer than it should to load up the News Feed. Still, it is nice to see that HP made sure that a Facebook app was ready to go at launch, as it is the first thing many users ask for.
The browser on the HP TouchPad is an evolved version of the WebKit-powered browser found in webOS smartphones. It features multi-touch zooming and double-tap to zoom with text re-flow, and has Adobe Flash Player integration, too. Panning and scrolling in the browser is usually fast and lag-free, though the browser can hang when it initially tries to load a page. When put side-by-side with the iPad's browser, or the surprisingly good browser on the BlackBerry PlayBook, the TouchPad is always a few seconds behind when loading a webpage.
The Flash integration works as advertised, as I was able to load embedded videos and Flash animations without trouble most of the time. There were a few instances when Flash would crash and force me to quit and restart the browser, but those times were rare enough where I didn't worry about it. You can open multiple webpages at the same time in the browser, though instead of loading in a familiar tabbed interface, each new page loads in a card of its own in the browser's stack.
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