Update (26 October 2014): Here’s the latest on the Earl.
If you were hoping to spend part of the Fall out in the great beyond with your back country Android tablet then I think you might have to put your plans off for a while.
The developers behind Earl, the ruggedized Android tablet, posted an update today . They had initially planned to get the 6″ tablet shipped out to early supporters by the end of this summer, but it looks like they may have missed their target by just a bit:
At this time, we estimate that manufacturing will start around the beginning of January. I’ll be living in Shenzhen for the duration of development so I can be close to our engineers and approve/test each revision of Earl. This will shave off a couple of revisions and save time, but we want to make sure every component in Earl meets our requirements. Again, we know this is last thing you all want to hear. But Earl WILL be worth the wait!
It looks like the developers were a tad optimistic about the complexity of the Earl’s design, because it turns out that this tablet is even more complex than the Chinese manufacturing partner is used to working with:
As we mentioned in our last update, we have enlisted an engineering firm in Guangzhou, China to produce Earl. While they currently manufacture devices that run on Android 4.0 and the i.MX6 platform, Earl is a unique tablet that requires extensive engineering to include the additional sensors and radios. With so many components, placement is key and RF interference is a major obstacle.
The developers are now expecting this tablet to go through at least 3 hardware revisions, which will stretch to at least the end of November (and possibly even longer if more revisions are necessary). Software development isn’t scheduled to start until October and it should be completed by the January ship dated.
The developers have posted a revised schedule along with the update, and based on the amount of work that still has to be done I can’t help but wonder why they initially claimed that they planned to ship the Earl before the end of the summer.
Were the developers ignorant of the work involved or did they intentionally mislead everyone who invested in the crowdfunded campaign? I don’t know which possibility is true, but I do know that I’m not sure I trust these guys any more.
As originally reported back in May, the Earl was supposed to run Android 4.1 on a dual-core 1GHz CPU with 1GB of RAM, 16GB Flash storage, a microSD card slot, and a solar panel on the back. It was also supposed to have a 6″ HD E-ink screen (1024×768 resolution) which was going to be made by LG Display and use their proprietary plastic backplane (for extra durability).
Here’s more detail from my post in May:
This is also a well connected tablet with Wifi, Bluetooth, GPS, a conbo AM/FM/SW/LW radio, and a FRS/GMRS/MURS radio for picking up emergency transmissions.
And that’s not all. Earl can also double as a weather station – and then some. It’s equipped with a magnetometer, thermometer, barometer, humidity sensor, and an anemometer. Other sensors include GLONASS, an accelerometer, a gyroscope, and an IR blaster for communicating with other gadgets.
That is a feature rich tablet, and I do hope that the production model has as many sensors. But given that we now know that this is a truly complex piece of hardware I suspect that the final design will end up as a somewhat less complex tablet.