Dark Android Round-Up: Thermal Cameras, Archos Tablets, with Tablet Sales Drooping

Yes, I said “drooping”. And Happy Leap Year! A bonus day of the year deserves a bonus round-up of news. And why don’t we start it off with some tablet sales figures (ooh, how interesting!)…

Tablet Sales Have Dropped 10% According to IDC

While to many people, tablets don’t really matter much outside of their iPad 2 (yes, that one), or their $50 (or less) Kindle Fire (a great buy, by the way), at the Dark Android Project, tablets are at the forefront of what I recommend and use. They largely exist minus all of the security issues that come with having a SIM card, and many of them have excellent support for custom ROMs and operating systems, and seem to generally be built to last. The 2013 Nexus 7 32GB is a particular Dark Android-favorite, with the Nexus 9 and the 4GB of RAM ASUS ZenPad S 8.0 not far behind.

And even though 2015 saw some of the best tablets made get released (like the ASUS ZenPad S 8.0 and the Acer Predator 8), according to the IDC (International Data Corporation) tablet sales have dropped 10% overall.

In the fourth quarter of 2015, otherwise known as holiday season, IDC asserts that 65.9 million units shipped worldwide. This was a 13.7% drop compared to the same period in 2014. 206.8 million devices sold in the entire year, down 10.1% from 230.1 million the year before.

The top five players in the fourth quarter were Apple, Samsung, Amazon, Lenovo, and Huawei, in that order. Despite being in first, Apple sold 24.8% fewer iPads in Q4. Samsung, by comparison, saw a drop of 18.1%. Amazon’s story stands in stark contrast to them both. The online retailer sold 175.7% more tablets this holiday season than the one before. This has everything to do with the latest Fire costing only $50. Huawei too had an impressive showing with a 124.6% rise.

Apple, Samsung, Lenovo, Asus, and Huawei were the top sellers for the year as a whole. Apple still saw a 21.8% decline, and Samsung followed with 16.1%. Asus was the biggest loser with a 39.9% drop. Lenovo managed to increase sales by 0.4%, while Huawei jumped up a significantly larger 116.6%. Apple sold 49.6 million tablets compared to Samsung’s 33.4 million. Huawei doubled its numbers from 3 million in 2014 to 6.5 million in 2015.

Wild numbers, and mostly drops in sales, but clearly not for everyone. Lesser-considered (and inexpensive) tablets like the Kindles and (I theorize) ASUS’ offerings are gaining a serious cult following and have wide “aftermarket” community support. So let the garbage that the market doesn’t value fall by the way side. Tablets as an idea itself isn’t going anywhere. It’s just maturing.

Archos Oxygen Tablets

archos_80_oxygen_t170216Speaking of value-priced tablets that have some oomph and run later versions of Android (in this case shipping with Android Marshmallow), French company Archos is releasing another round of low-cost tablets. A 7, 8, and 10-inch version of the Archos Oxygen tablet line will be released, and all of them cost less than $175. All three models use a somewhat underpowered MediaTek 1.3GHz quad-core processor and 2GB of RAM, which should run Android 6.0 just fine even if they don’t break any speed records. All three use 16GB of storage (no mention of MicroSD card support), 5MP rear cameras with LED flash, and a 2MP front-facing camera. The two smaller tablets use a 16:10 1920×1200 IPS screen, while the 10-inch version gets a tiny bit more resolution with 1920×1280. Though the batteries are a bit lacking at 3000mAh, 4500mAh, and 6000mAh in ascending order.

While they’re not anything to really write home about, you can’t beat the pricing. $107, $143, and $172, for the respective 7, 8, and 10-inch versions of the Oxygen tablet. The first Android tablet I ever owned was actually an Archos in 2011 that was about the size of a the average smartphone today, and I while it wasn’t very impressive even at the time, it definitely worked when connected to a keyboard, mouse, and monitor (all of which it could do), and really set the standard for me as to what Android could become. I’m not saying Archos is delivering an experience like that with the Oxygen tablet line, but I do have a soft spot for the value hardware the company offers.

Also, I don’t know if I would recommend these for a Dark Android tablet build since I’ve never seen much of a dev community build around Archos products, but since these tablets do automatically come with the latest Android 6.0, it may be an inexpensive way to get into using that OS. And let’s hope they do come with a MicroSD card slot, as that could potentially greatly improve this tablets ability and future-proofing. Perhaps, too, bolstered tablet sales may cause Archos to release a tablet version of their privacy and security-hardened (though odd) GranitePhone.

Thermal Cameras On Mobile Devices!?

catflironeSpeaking of smartphones, why would a smartphone need a thermal camera built into it? I’m not 100% sure what’s behind this (other than perhaps this is a sign of future privacy invasion by people that can see and track you with thermal signatures in your phone…but I’m going way left field with that conspiracy, don’t hold me to it), but construction company–and sometimes device manufacturer–seems to think it needs to be a thing.

The CAT FLIR One thermal camera is pretty interesting. Along with that thermal camera (which is rather bulbous on the back) that overlays thermal data onto a picture taken from the phone’s normal light camera, here are the specs for the phone:

  • Thermal imaging camera, powered by FLIR
  • Strengthened Die Cast Frame
  • Drop proof to 1.8m, MIL Spec 810G
  • Super bright display (typical 540 nits), Gorilla Glass 4
  • 4.7” HD capacitive multi-touch with auto wet finger & glove support
  • Optimised battery performance (3800mAh)
  • High quality audio experience (>105dB)
  • Underwater 13MP main camera with dual flash, 5MP front-facing camera
  • 4G LTE
  • Snapdragon 617 Octa-core processor
  • 32GB ROM, 3GB RAM
  • Android Marshmallow

That’s actually not half bad. No word on pricing yet, but you’re getting a pretty good phone with a very unique ability to boot, regardless of price (even though that is a tiny screen by most people’s standards). And personally, I love the ruggedness of the design. Have a look at one of the test images from the FLIR One…catflirtwo

Yeah, it’s interesting. On a not conspiratorial or privacy-invading level, there’s a part of me that really likes the idea of smartphones having thermal cameras. It helps bring the modern smartphone just one step closer to a certain “holy grail” of technology: The Star Trek tricorder. With its seeming durability and ability to scan anything, the CAT FLIR One does seem to be one serious step closer in that direction, and I’m sure Alphabet/Google’s Project Tango technology can bring it ever closer still.

It’s tough to get excited about this stuff while there enforcement bodies around (governments, police, armies) that could use this technology to do harm or use against you in a preposterous thing called a “court of law” (what did you expect, I’m an anarchist, after all), but I still get a little excited that at least it’s possible.

Carpe lucem!