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Nook Color: The 1.2 Update

On Monday Barnes & Noble released a much anticipated update for the Nook Color.  This adds some more tablet like features to the “Readers Tablet” and I’m sure will be well received by many.

So what does this update add?

The NOOK Color Ver1.2.0 update contains new features and enhancements, including:

  • Access to shop a broad collection of popular NOOK Apps™ to enjoy great games, stay up to date on news and weather, and more
  • Full-featured free email to check and send web-based email (i.e., Yahoo, Gmail, Hotmail, AOL) all from one in-box
  • NOOK Color’s update to Android OS 2.2/Froyo offers system improvements, browser performance and a more complete Web experience giving customers access to enjoy even more video, interactive and animated content. NOOK Color now includes support for Adobe® Flash® Player
  • NOOK Kids™ exciting new Read and Play titles that bring animation, activities and stories together
  • NOOK Books Enhanced offer in-page video and audio in a growing number of titles
  • Enhancements to magazine navigation making it easier to enjoy even more of the growing selection of magazines in NOOK Newsstand
  • NOOK Friends™ (beta) to see your friends’ reading activities, swap books with LendMe™, share recommendations and discover new titles

 

The Apps…

The selection of apps available at this point is pretty thin (140 when I just checked) and many of the paid apps appear to be more expensive than their counterparts in the Android Market, which unfortunately we don’t get access to.  Buying and installing an app is similar to other Android markets and is pretty self explanatory and once purchased can be shared by any Nook Colors sharing the same account.

A couple of  apps that might be of special interest to Dear Author readers are a GoodReads app (free) and the new Nook Friends app (comes pre installed).  The GoodReads app is fairly basic, but works well and with the popularity of the site is likely to be a hit (an Android app for everyone else is coming soon). Nook Friends is a combo social reading network (like GoodReads, Shelfari, etc.) and a shot at mimicking the Nook Lending sites out there.  You can both discuss books with your friends and see what books they have that are lendable, you can manage your lends and request lends through the app too.  Also available are popular apps like Angry Birds ($2.99), Pulse (free), Quick Office Pro ($7.99) and Epicurious ($4.99).

The email app, while very basic, works pretty well it does the job of letting you send and receive email and also allows multiple email accounts.  One thing I don’t like is it doesn’t remember what email was already sitting in the inbox and keeps alerting me as if all of them were just received.

I would have preferred they include the stock Google/Android apps like Gmail, Calendar and a Calculator (or at least make them available), but at least there is a free Calendar App and a $.99 Calculator app in the app store.

One quick note since I know a lot of people like Angry Birds.  Apparently folks are getting an error when trying to install Angry Birds.  The workaround per B&N is to remove your SD Card and try installing again (you can reinsert the card when you’re done installing).

 

Improved Web Browsing…

Web browsing has improved in performance and the addition of Flash opens things up even more.  The browser has desktop and mobile mode settings which is nice as you won’t automatically be sent to a sites mobile version. YouTube works pretty well , I tried some other video sites such as Hulu, Amazon, Crunchy Roll and HBO Go too with little success.  Amazon and Crunchyroll will play, but you’ll get a message about the video not being formatted for mobile viewing and things were pixilated and stuttered at times.  Hulu doesn’t work at all (just like on all mobile devices I can think of) and HBO Go’s login overlay popup wouldn’t display to let me login.  Overall I was quite pleased with the browser although there were lag problems sometimes.

 

Now the important stuff, reading…

All of these above mentioned updates are fine and good, but this is a “Readers Tablet”, what has been done to upgrade the reading experience?  Not much unfortunately.  B&N has added support for ‘page turn animations’ and support for enhanced content (embedded audio/video/animations).  It also appears they’ve added a couple of new fonts.  No landscape mode for reading, no new colors (for those who wanted a true black background night mode) and still no last page read or bookmarking when viewing PDFs.  There is a PDF viewer ($0.99) you can buy in the app store that will give you these features, but only for content on an SD card.  Not that the reading software doesn’t work as is, but in my opinion B&N’s own Nook for Android is better overall and I’m not really sure why they don’t just use that for the Nook Color.

The biggest update to the reading software, which B&N hasn’t mentioned from what I can find, is the update to Adobe RMSDK 9.2 (from 9.1) which is said to improve typography and includes, among other things, a hyphenation engine.  I didn’t notice much/any change, but also didn’t spend the time to read an entire book or anything either.

One very nice addition related to reading that should make lots of people happy is that your sideloaded books are now integrated into your library and can also be placed on the devices home screens.

As far as Enhanced books go, there is a sample Good Housekeeping cookbook installed with this update (which can’t be removed) that does a good job of showing what the Enhanced Nook Books can be like.  I can see this being an interesting feature for things like cookbooks and history books and the like.

 

All in all this is a pretty good update for those wanting some tablet functionality without rooting or loading a custom ROM like Cyanogen Mod 7.  For folks that are used to running rooted you’ll likely be disappointed in the app store selection and inability to sideload app .apk’s.

This update will be automatically downloaded and applied over the coming weeks, but Nook Color owners who want it now can download it and install it manually by following these instructions from B&N.

Brian is an avid reader who loves books of all kinds. He's been known to try just about anything once, but is partial to SciFi, Fantasy, Mystery and Romance. His favorite authors include Jane Austen, Ray Bradbury, Jacqueline Carey, Lisa Kleypas, Michelle Sagara West, JD Robb, David Weber, Julie Miller, Lynne Connolly and Lynsay Sands.

15 Comments

  1. Heather K
    May 01, 2011 @ 09:21:40

    I had to use the remove SD card workaround to install Angry Birds, and it worked perfectly after that.

    ReplyReply

  2. theo
    May 01, 2011 @ 09:22:49

    I’ve been on the fence with this one for a bit and almost ended up buying it last Friday, but I have a question I don’t seem to be able to find a solid answer for. It’s probably just me not digging hard enough but, with the iPad, you have to pay a monthly fee to connect to the internet, but do you need to do the same with this? Or can you just connect anywhere there’s wi-fi available?

    Right now, I have an EVO and that’s been the biggest reason I haven’t purchased the Nook. For me, the only thing that would be advantageous is the larger screen at this point and that, along with the connection question were the two things that held me back from buying now.

    ReplyReply

  3. Walt Stone
    May 01, 2011 @ 10:56:08

    So, is the Angry Birds install different from the one I put on my rooted Color Nook some months back? :)

    ReplyReply

  4. Lynne Connolly
    May 01, 2011 @ 10:59:49

    It’s wifi enabled, and that doesn’t cost any extra.
    I love my NC, but I love it more now I’ve rooted it. I used the autonooter, and I’m still on 1.1 but I’m waiting for the update.
    Rooting isn’t illegal and Barnes and Noble isn’t objecting to it, but it does invalidate your guarantee.
    But I have Kindle on my NC and FBReader, and the sky hasn’t yet fallen in.
    Although it might.

    ReplyReply

  5. Brian
    May 01, 2011 @ 12:20:32

    @theo: The NC is WiFi only so you can connect anywhere there is WiFi available. The only cost would be if the place charged for WiFi access.

    @Walt Stone: It’s Angry Birds HD which is tablet optimized and the only other place it’s available right now is for the iPad ($4.99). It’s also ad free if what you’ve been using is the free version with ads. Is the HD version worth the extra $$$ over the Android Market $0.99 version? I don’t know, but if you’re happy with the version you have there’s probably no reason to upgrade.

    @Lynne Connolly: Apparently some folks have been able to manually nooter their 1.2 NC’s so I’d guess a new Autonooter will be available soon.

    ReplyReply

  6. Brian
    May 01, 2011 @ 12:24:31

    @Lynne Connolly: I agree one of the nicest things about rooting is having all of the reading various Android reading apps available.

    ReplyReply

  7. theo
    May 01, 2011 @ 12:50:40

    I’ve had my EVO over a year and am still hesitant about rooting it. I’d root that first though to see if it worked well for me before I did the Nook. The thing is, other than a few annoyances, I don’t have many complaints about my EVO so what are the advantages to rooting the Nook? Besides the various Android reading apps which obviously would be a big plus.

    ReplyReply

  8. Brian
    May 01, 2011 @ 13:01:11

    @theo: The only real advantage to rooting the NC is that you can then access the Android Marketplace and load any app you want. So you’ve not only got access to the reading apps (Kindle, Nook, Kobo, Google, FB Reader, Aldiko, Moon+, etc), but everything else out there as well. If you’re fine with the stock reading app (which works fine, except the PDF reader stinks) and don’t need to access Kindle books or something there’s no reason to root.

    The NC also has some custom ROM’s out there that are interesting and since it boots from the SD card first (provided there’s something to boot from) you can load a custom ROM to an SD and have your stock NC by just starting it up without the SD card in it. I’m currently running the CM7 (Android 2.3 Gingerbread) ROM from an SD card which makes the NC a full fledged tablet (albeit a slow one compared to a dual core Honeycomb tablet). It’s a fun device in that you can play around and tinker if you want to and it’s pretty much impossible to brick, but if you’re using the NC pretty much for reading the stock interface is great.

    ReplyReply

  9. theo
    May 01, 2011 @ 13:19:07

    So…if I keep the SD card that comes with (I’m going on the assumption you get one with the unit though we all know what ‘assume’ means) as long as I keep that I can run whatever from a different SD card and won’t void my warranty? That would be awesome and is the one thing I can’t do with my EVO. If I root it, that’s it.

    I’d want the additional reading apps and such on the NC though since I still don’t believe any eBook should be proprietary to the seller, meaning just because I bought it through Amazon shouldn’t mean I can only read it on a Kindle.

    Thanks, Brian, for all your help. And you too, Lynn. It’s helped a lot!

    ReplyReply

  10. Brian
    May 01, 2011 @ 13:23:24

    @theo: The NC doesn’t come with an SD and when running a ROM from the SD some cards work better than others (IIRC there’s a post at XDA about which cards work best), but since you’re not rooting and not modding the stock NC software in any way by running from SD I don’t see how it would void your warranty.

    ReplyReply

  11. Leslie
    May 01, 2011 @ 14:16:34

    I love my NC and the updates are nice. They have already added about 10 apps since the update and I anticipate a steady trickle (hopefully there will be a pdf app so I can mark-up and make notes on journal articles right on the NC and easier access to Google Docs – this would mean that there would be many days I could leave my laptop at home instead of taking it to school).
    I haven’t rooted my NC for the simple reason that the person who gave me the Nook recognizes my innate clumsiness/occasional carelessness and paid for the extended (physical damage) warranty – I don’t want to risk voiding a warranty for something that I will likely need to replace through the warranty within the next 18 months. Friends who have rooted theirs are delighted and have adopted it as a tablet – happy as clams for doing so.

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  12. Walt Stone
    May 01, 2011 @ 15:28:16

    The coolest app so far for (for me) the rooted Nook is the Wyse PocketCloud. I can log in and manipulate my real computer remotely. The “lite” version is free and useful.

    ReplyReply

  13. Avid Reader
    May 02, 2011 @ 10:38:50

    For an elderly mother with failing eyesight (who needs the ability to blow up text)– which would y’all recommend — the Kindle or the Nook? I love that the Nook is color. I know they both have the text-enlarging capability, but which one has the clearest buy screen?

    ReplyReply

  14. Brian
    May 02, 2011 @ 10:54:07

    @Avid Reader: It all depends. Personally for long reading periods I prefer eInk, but the NC with the brightness turned down some isn’t bad. For clarity I don’t think one is really better than the other, just different. Some prefer eInk, some prefer an LCD with color and backlighting, neither is a wrong choice it just depends on the individual.

    With the Kindle I know you get a 30 day no questions asked return policy so if it doesn’t work for her you can send it back which is nice. I’m not sure on the NC. B&N’s return policy used to be 15 days plus a restocking fee, I don’t know if that’s changed now or not.

    If your mother still gets out and about B&N has both the NC and the original eInk nook on display at their stores to try (it’s the older eInk screen, not the Pearl screen of the Kindle, but it’s not bad) so she could try the screen styles side by side.

    One thing to keep in mind. If she’s not used to a touch screen and multi-touch it can take some getting used to so if the NC is what you go with don’t get frustrated if it takes a bit for things to settle in.

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  15. Lynne Connolly
    May 25, 2011 @ 19:37:12

    If she’s not tech savvy, then the Kindle, every time. It’s still my preferred reader, though I use the Nook for night time reading because of the backlight. The Kindle is much easier on the eyes, and it’s really intuitive to use.
    I sideload my ebooks from Calibre, because then I can put them on both devices. My Kindle books sync to the Kindle app on the Nook, one of the main reasons I rooted it.
    I rooted my NC manually to 1.2, and so far it’s working fine. If you root it, you can always return it to factory settings if you need to return it.
    But I live in the UK, so returning it would be a pain, and I can’t buy books from the B and N store easily, so for me, rooting was a fairly easy decision.
    Also, the apps you pay for at the B and N store are sometimes available for free at the Android Market.

    ReplyReply

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