As I wrote about yesterday, I took my family on a Griswold-style vacation over the holidays. We loaded my two sons, my wife and me in the car and drove from Florida to New York with several strategic stops along the way. I knew we would never arrive with everyone alive unless I had plenty of entertainment to keep the boys occupied for the 20+ hours of driving.
Since our present vehicle does not have DVD players built in (the kids have outgrown that for the most part), we had to load entertainment on portable devices. Watching movies on smartphones is not really enjoyable. So I turned to my handy, dandy, trusty HP Touchpads!
I had bought four of the HP WebOS devices when they were discontinued a few years back. For $99, they were a steal. I installed Android on them a while back and my whole family has enjoyed using them ever since. As I wrote a while back, my own beloved touchpad running Android Jelly Bean gave up the ghost after many hours of service some time ago. But the other three Touchpads, all running Ice Cream Sandwich, still serve my kids' and wife's needs. Since they all have smartphones and various forms of computers, they don't use their tablets quite as much as I do, so maybe that is why they still are kicking.
I loaded up all three Touchpads for the trip. First, I went to the Google Play store in the movies and TV section. To save bandwidth and storage I downloaded SD versions of the programs, since the Touchpad didn't do HD anyway. This allowed me to really stock up. Each Touchpad had two or three full-length movies, a bunch of TV episodes (Family Guy and stuff like that) and some good games to boot (especially Madden 25, which surprisingly ran very well on the pads).
Interacting with Google Play was quick and easy, and downloads were snappy. It didn't take long load all three Touchpads with enough content to keep my kids from growing too bored as we sped down Interstate 95.
My biggest concern was battery life. Playing videos would be especially taxing. I had car chargers ready, but my experience with Touchpads running Android was that even while plugged into a car charger, you could still be in a negative charge situation if you were using power-intensive apps like video. Sure enough, that was exactly the case. Even though the Touchpads were plugged into the car charger, the battery levels dropped while the boys watched videos. The good news was that even so, the Touchpads still had enough juice to power on for hours of entertainment.
My kids would watch a movie and then play games for a while. The games were easier on the battery than the movies. Then they would return for another movie and more games. Before you knew it, we were pulling in for lunch, dinner or the hotel for the evening. At these breaks we would plug into a wall socket and charge the Touchpads back up. This kept all three devices charged and, more importantly, kept the kids from driving me crazy!
Once we made it to New York, I reloaded the Touchpads with fresh content for the trip home Many of the movies which I had only rented were already off the device. That is a nice touch from Google, that the content erases itself when expired. This was not the case with rented content on my Windows tablet. On there, while the movies wouldn't play anymore, they still took up GBs of my hard drive and I had to delete them manually.
On the way home, it was the same routine, and the Touchpads again performed flawlessly. I really felt like they were like the sturdy trucks and railroads upon which so much of our commerce depends. They just keep on ticking.
While my Touchpads may be long in the tooth now - not as many pixels as newer device, not as powerful a CPU, etc. - they still do the job. As long as they keep working ,I don't see any reason that my family should stop using them anytime soon. Over the last few years, I would say my HP Touchpads running Android have been the best technology I have bought. They are the Timex of our computers.