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Hands-on With the Kobo Arc (video)

This week Kobo decided to give us a lesson in how to secretly launch new gadgets on the same day as Amazon. While the Amazon event was covered extensively by everyone both on that day and weeks before hand (some blogs sent a half dozen people), it seems that only a handful of blogs covered the Kobo event.

Of course, it didn’t help that Kobo held the event in Toronto and not where the blogs have offices like say, New York, but I think their biggest mistake was timing. There’s such a lack of coverage that I have found just the one hands on video for the Kobo Arc, Kobo’s new 7″ Android tablet to go along with the single unboxing video for the Kobo Mini and Kobo Glo.

It’s from a blog called Mobile Syrup, and it appears to have been shot in an overly bright hallway. Even so, the video stills manages to show off some of the Kobo Arc’s features, including a new way to organize your content. This is definitely worth watching.

The arc is running Android 4.0 on a dual core 1.5MHz CPU with a 1.3MP camera, 2 front facing speakers, Android Market, SRS sound, and more. The 8GB model sells for $199, and the 16GB model goes for $249. The 7″ Kindle Fire HD, on the other hand, has better Wifi, a similar screen resolution, more storage (16GB at $199), a camera with unknown resolution, Bluetooth, and access to all the content sold by Amazon. About the only way the Arc beats the KF HD is the CPU speed (1.5GHz vs 1.2Ghz), and that difference means less than you might think.

So once again Kobo is a step behind the competition. And this is the company who thinks they’re Amazon’s only real global competition? I wonder what they’ve been smoking.

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DavidW September 7, 2012 um 10:29 pm

An obvious comment: the kfhd won’t be available in Canada. Saying that amazon is doing better is irrelevant here since Kobo’s primary market is still Canada and they are not seeing competition from Amazon in the realm of new tablets. This is a big step up from the Vox and will obviously sell very well in Canada.

But yeah Kobo shouldn’t have announced their new line up on the same day as Amazon.

Nate Hoffelder September 7, 2012 um 10:56 pm

Except it won’t be hard to buy one on Ebay and have it shipped. And frankly Canada has the population of California, so it’s really not all that much of a market.

Mike Cane September 8, 2012 um 11:02 am

Wouldn’t georestrictions kick in with a USA-intended KF?

Nate Hoffelder September 8, 2012 um 11:30 am

For content, yes. But the device will still work.

Mike Cane September 8, 2012 um 11:35 am

The content *is* the damn device. No sense for non-Amazon people to have it or even want it.

Nate Hoffelder September 8, 2012 um 11:40 am

Except that the price is low because Amazon expects to sell content. That low price might make it worthwhile for some. It’s still going to be a decent Android tablet, no matter whether Amazon will sell you content.

Tyler September 7, 2012 um 10:52 pm

I think if I were demoing my tablet if I were Kobo, I wouldn’t have Steven Jobs biography prominently displayed on the screen.

Dan September 8, 2012 um 12:42 am

Just for clarification, I’m pretty sure you have access to all content sold by Amazon on pretty much any Android device or computer calling that a plus for the Fire is just crazy talk. The better wifi on the Fire is about as much difference as the processor difference is and means about as much, unless you just want to run benchmarks. The only place the Fire clearly wins is price/ram, and that just isn’t enough to lock myself into their ecosystem. Don’t get me wrong, I love Amazon, buy stuff there all the time, but when I spend a couple hundred, I want a gadget that will do what I want it to do, not what they want me to do (and Amazon telling me what I want is as arrogant as Apple and I don’t buy their products either).

Mike Cane September 8, 2012 um 11:03 am

Also, you won’t have root the damn Arc to put on any apps you want. And it’s Google certified. Those are all major selling points over the KF.

devortex September 8, 2012 um 1:43 am

Assuming there’s no way to disable ads on the latest KF variants, I can see why people might want a Kobo tablet.

Ravi September 8, 2012 um 2:06 am

It isn’t just Canada. There are several countries where you’ll be able to get the Kobo Arc, but not a Kindle Fire or the Nexus 7 (Austria, Japan, Netherlands, New Zealand and Hong Kong [potentially strategic as the first step on the way into China]).

It is also worth noting that, since it is now confirmed that the new Kindle Fires are ad-supported, the price gap is an illusion (just like last time). Given that, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Google come up with an ad-supported option of their own to keep the Nexus 7 competitive on "headline price". If they do, I think there’s a good chance Google would share an ad-supported option with other Android OEMs (in return for concessions on updates?), so Kobo might be able to take advantage of it, too.

TuuronTour September 9, 2012 um 6:36 pm

For the second time: Nexus 7 is for sale in the Netherlands in the electronics shops

Mike Cane September 8, 2012 um 11:10 am

The Spec Race isn’t everything. Even though the Nexus 7 has a quad-core CPU, there’s still a place for the Arc. There are all those Kobo customers who will probably like the customization. And it’s probably a better experience for them than just loading the Kobo app onto the N7 or another tablet. And then there are the G apps the Kindle Fire lacks, the ability to add apps without rooting, and those front speakers. Not to mention the color backplates and the nice white design. Kobo shouldn’t be ashamed of this tablet — at least not until we get benchmarks and real world reports from users. Those can do in anyone.

Andrys September 9, 2012 um 2:29 pm

Mike, on the Kindle Fire, Amazon (unlike B&N) allows the customer to enable "install app from unknown source" and we do. You can sideload the app or download it (from a number of sites many of us consider trustworthy [ w/Android apps even on Google Play/Market people have had to be careful.]

I have the Nook app of course plus Aldiko and Mantano to read DRM’d e-Pub books. I haven’t found an app I couldn’t get onto the Kindle Fire in this easy way. But it’s not discussed much (except at the Amazon Kindle forums where we discuss the other apps and how to get them onto the Kindle Fire.

Kobo has had not the best word of mouth on its software functioning — but they have neat things like the intense foreign-language support.

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