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 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.