I Just Saw the Vox – Who is Kobo Kidding?

I saw the Kobo Vox today for the first time, and I have to wonder what the hell is in the water up in Toronto.

A couple weeks back, Best Buy started carrying the Vox.  This was the first US retailer to do so, even though the Vox shipped 4 months ago. It had been carried in stores elsewhere, but BB was my first chance to get it in my hands (Kobo's PR firm excluded me from the press briefings, so I didn't see it at launch).

I'll confess that I didn't read any reviews before hand (not ever); I like to go into these things with an open mind. Also, there are only a few reviewers that I trust to really understand a gadget and speak the truth, and only one had reviewed the Vox. I didn't think to read his review until after.

I spent about half an hour with the Vox, and it really, really confused me. I had assumed the Vox was one of the big 3 (KF, NT, and Vox), and it's really not.

The Vox is nothing more than just another mid-level Android tablet. I couldn't see any features, performance, or well, anything to recommend the Vox over the numerous tablets I played with last year.

It's also clearly not worth $200; I have $150 and $100 tablets that offer a better value now. The $99 IdolPad, for example, ships with the Android Market and thus is a better buy. In fact, I would say that there were at least 2 tablets on the same display that were probably better buys (besides the Nook Color); they were from Pandigital.

Now that I've laid my hands on the Vox, I finally understand why it wasn't carried in Walmart, BB, or other US chains at launch. The buyers for all those chains were probably as underwhelmed as I was.

I have to say that this tablet does not speak well of Kobo. When compared to the rest of the tablet market, they released it far too late and at too high of a price. That suggests that they cannot get products out in time to keep up with the market.

This is not a good sign for Kobo. If you add the Vox to the dozens of complaints about the screen on the Kobo Touch, you'll see a worrisome trend.

What we have here is a company who cannot execute on hardware. That's a serious defect, and it will probably preclude Kobo from being one of the majors. I know that Kobo has big plans for international expansion, but do you really think they can pull it off?

10 thoughts on “I Just Saw the Vox – Who is Kobo Kidding?

  1. As you already know, Kobo gets what hardware it can from China. I think this will change now that Rakuten owns them. Some have speculated that the bezel on the KoTo is too shallow for the IR to operate properly. I don’t know about that since some people don’t seem to have any problems. As for the Vox, hey, at least people don’t need Kobo’s permission to add apps, unlike B&N and Amazon.

    I’d like to see them make the next KoTo Android, so it can be rooted like the Nook Touch. I prefer the hardware design of the Kobo — slimmer, thinner, lighter — to the NoTo.

    1. No. The Kobo Touch was designed by Ideo with Freescale guts. I don’t know where the Vox came from. Let me go look.

      Edit: The FCC paperwork says Wistron, so you’re probably right about where that design came from.

  2. It’s hard to see how Kobo will ever be able to compete in hardware. Even companies like Sony and HP are struggling so what chance for an EBook retailer? A gloomy future if this pans out. I wonder, though, if the tie-up between hardware and ebookstore will lessen, now that we’re entering the era of powerful ereaders that can do more than one thing. How long can Amazon, et al get away with selling a crippled device, once perfectly good multi-purpose gadgets are available? And if it’s not crippled to create some sort of lock-in, consumers will buy the best gadget for them. Once that changes, companies like Kobo should be able to concentrate on services, not hardware.

    1. “I wonder, though, if the tie-up between hardware and ebookstore will lessen, ”

      Probably not. The 3 major ebookstores in the US (Kindle, Nook, iBooks) are all run by companies who also do good to excellent hardware. It gives them a platform which they control as well as a captive audience. If Kobo wants to compete then they’ll have to match the abilities of the others.

      1. You forget that anyone who has a reader that uses standard Adobe DRM can buy from Kobo. That’s not the case with B&N or iBooks or even Amazon. People who own a Sony can buy from Kobo. People who own a Nook can buy from Kobo. They can’t buy from Apple or Amazon.

  3. I have considered buying the Vox…because one of their phone techs told me a while back that the font goes up to about 72pt. I need large fonts because of limited vision. I bought a Kobo Touch and the fonts get as large as I need, it’s lightweight, good for my arthritic hands, plus I liked the idea of the more open format (although so far I have only bought books from the Kobo store). I have a few problems with the touch screen, but I find a lighter touch works better than a harder touch for me. I guess nothing is perfect in the tech world anyway (or most of us can’t afford it). I thought about getting the Vox for the color, sound, large fonts…looked at the price…and at that price, it seems like one of the $99 tablets out there might be as good. Still wondering….

    1. For DRM-free ebooks, there are plenty of Android reader apps that go to very large font sizes; Coolreader in particular.
      For DRM’ed content check out Aldiko and Overdrive among others.
      All run on generic low-end Android tablets.
      Which is also true of the Kobo for Android app.

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