Kobo has today officially unveiled their latest attempt at a 7-inch reading focused tablet, the Kobo Arc, which is the successor to last years Gingerbread powered Vox. The Kobo Arc is a much different proposition to the Vox, and will come running fully Google certified Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich. The Arc will also be reasonably well priced for a device of this nature, starting at just £159.99.
The Arc is more more design focused than the Vox, and packs more impressive hardware. Powering everything from within is a 1.5GHz dual-core TI OMAP processor, and 1GB of RAM. The 7-inch screen is a 1280x800 IPS panel with a pretty respectable PPI of 215. There's no rear camera on the Arc, but there is a front facing 720p HD 1.3MP camera and a microphone, so video conferencing is a definite possibility. Connectivity is WiFi only, but the Arc is WiFi Direct capable. Rounding out the hardware is a pair of stereo speakers on the front of the device, and in partnership with SRS home entertainment technology volume and sound quality is increased with the function turned on. Battery life is pegged at 10 hours of reading or watching videos with the WiFi off, with standby time of around 2 weeks.
So, the specs are nice. Not ground-breaking, but a definite mark up from the previous Vox. Hardware only tells half the tale though, it's in the software that Kobo is looking to be a little different to the norm. Kobo has designed their own custom interface that they call Tapestries, which is focused on organizing your content into easy to manage chunks -- or Tapestries. We got a look at the device, and the Tapestries interface back at IFA 2012 in Berlin, and it has some interesting features within.
The back story first though. Kobo has decided upon their design based around a principle of tablet use -- they're being used to consume content, be that books, videos, music etc. The UI of more traditional Android tablets is somewhat focused more around applications. Kobo wanted to focus on content, and so Tapestries was born. It's all about creating a personal experience on the Arc, and all about the users content.
As a content focused UI, applications are kept away from being front and center. Instead, the UI gives us a long scrolling wall to fill with content, and the main view shows off all your created Tapestries -- think of them as folders, but folders that open up a whole new home screen. Kobo has included some stock tapestries to organize some basic content such as reading, social media interactions, and entertainment, but the user can create one based around any kind of content they wish. App shortcuts and widgets are still usable as with traditional Android tablets, but it allows for total customization and organization of all your topic specific content. And it was all developed in house by the Kobo team.
Kobo hasn't forgotten too their reading roots. Integrated into the web browser is a "distraction and ad free reading experience." By partnering with Readability, the Arc's web browser has a reading mode that will just show you the juicy text on a web page. The fonts used are all customized to look best on the Arc's display, and from within this view online content can be pinned to any Tapestry for reading later. It doesn't have offline capabilities however, so you will still need to be connected to WiFi.
The final area of the UI worth noting is the discover area occupying the bottom portion of the display. This learns about the content that you consume, and will start to make suggestions for you. It can even make suggestions based on topics contained within the text of a book. No personal information is given to any services, everything is managed in the cloud by Kobo.
Kobo's social reading features from the Vox have also made their way on to the Arc. Pre-loaded apps include Facebook, Twitter, Skype, 7Digital and Rdio, along with the full suite of Google apps including the Play Store. It is expected to be available in November at £159.99 ($200) for the 8GB version, and £189.99 ($250) for the 16GB and will be available globally through existing Kobo retail partners. Black and white versions will be available, along with different colored interchangable rear covers.
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