Augen's Alternate App Store, Firmware Update Fail to Impress
Last week, Augen issued a firmware update for its $149 GenTouch78 tablet, which was designed to allow USB charging and to provide calibration for the device's terrible touchscreen. In light of its mistaken installation of the Android Market, Augen also posted a copy of the AndAppStore Client, a program which searches an unofficial Android app store. Today, we installed both the firmware update and the AndAppStore client and tried them both out. While they offer some small improvements, we're extremely underwhelmed both with the tablet and the device as a whole.
We downloaded the 66MB update file from Augen, because it's not available as an OTA (over the air) automatic update and if you didn't visit the support site and click into the "news" section, you wouldn't know it existed. After unzipping the file, we read the instructions which advised us to copy one of the two included folders to our desktop and another to the root (and only the root) of our PC's C drive. After running an update file from the folder on the C drive and following the directions, which called for us to reset the device with a paperclip twice, our update installed without hassle.
The first thing we noticed after rebooting the GenTouch78 was that, with USB connected, the battery icon indicated that the device was charging. However, the device seems to get a lot more juice from its AC adapter, because we tried turning it one with the battery at low charge, and it wouldn't when it was plugged into USB only but would after we attached it to the outlet instead.
The second thing we noticed was the the presence of another app called AndroidCalibrate in the applications folder. Once we tapped it we were presented with a green crosshair icon on top of a black background. We tapped it and it moved to another location. This happened a few times so we could calibrate the screen. After calibrating, the screen seemed a bit more accurate, but required just as much brute force as it had before. In other words, the screen is still terrible and forces you to push really really hard before it will register your touch.
We were able to mount the GenTouch78 as a drive in Windows 7, but it the mounted drive only gave us access to an empty folder named DCIM, which sits somewhere on the device's internal memory. We say "somewhere" because even after we copied a file to that directory, we were unable to find it on the GenTouch78 itself, using the AndExplorer file browser that comes preloaded. We were also unpleasantly suprised to find we could not mount the microSD card we had plugged into the system as a drive on our PC.
Finally, a huge unadvertised benefit of the firmware upgrade is that it includes an ADB driver that allowed us to access the GenTouch78 from Davlik Debug Monitor (part of the Android SDK). This meant that we could finally capture screen shots from the device.
Alternate App Store
Last week, Augen also posted a copy of the AndAppStore Client on its site, which is a good thing because, we also learned that Augen made a mistake when it preloaded Google's Android Market. AndAppStore is a much smaller unofficial marketplace that has a few apps, but doesn't have a lot of the most popular ones. For example,, we were unable to find the Task Killer utility, the Raging Thunder racing game, the Dictionary.com app, or Google Translate. However, we did find Dolphin Browser.
Installing the AndAppStore client app on our GenTouch78 was an extremely difficult and unwieldy process, which involved downloading an APK file from the Augen site (get it here), copying it onto a microSD card from our PC, inserting that microSD card into our GenTouch78 (because we can't mount the SD card while it's in the GenTouch78), and then locating the file in the AndExplorer file browser.
Using the AndAppStore installer was an exercise in futility. Not only was the selection poor, but the UI was a pain. In order to search for something, you have to tap on the search box, then watch as the entire screen is taken over by the on-screen keyboard, type in your query, and then click next. However, rather than showing you the results of your search after you hit the next button, nothing happens. You have to hit the back button to get back to the results page you generated by hitting next. Confused yet?
The list of apps is nothing to write home about and carries no user ratings to help you choose one. When you click through to download an app, you have to tap on its icon in the status bar it after it downloads. You don't have to do this sort-of two step installation process with the Android Market.
Overall, neither the firmware nor the app store has changed our view that the GenTouch78 is too expensive at any price. Its screen is still unresponsive and it provides an incredibly sluggish and frustrating user experience. USB charging and a handful of mostly unknown apps don't change that experience.