Short review: Using Echolink on an Android tablet

I wanted a tablet too, as I quickly realized how convenient such a device is when surfing and e-mailing. After comparing all the current offerings, I decided to go for a tablet running Android. The one I bought is the Packard Bell Liberty Tab, which is 100% identical to the Acer Iconia Tab A500. Packard Bell doesn’t really exist anymore since 2007, the year Acer acquired that company. The only difference between the two tablets was price, and the beautiful ‘wine red’-colored back of the Packard Bell.

The iPad would have been a good choice too, thinner, less weight, but I didn’t like the lack of connectivity and hated the 4:3 aspect ratio of the screen. Nice to watch an old episode of Lucille Ball probably, but not for enjoying a recent movie.

Echolink software
The Echolink software for Android is free and can be found in the Android Market. Installation is a breeze, and the software proved to be quite stable, too. I didn’t experience any crashes at all, in spite of the fact that the version of the OS changed gradually from 3.01 to 3.2. After logging into the software with your callsign and password, you’re ready to go. Callsign and password will be remembered, so there’s no need to enter them over and over again.

Optimized for phones
It is clear that the software was designed with Android phones in mind, a world where resolution is limited and screens are relatively small. On tablets, the software looks a bit odd and stretched. When transmitting, for example, the complete screen disappears and makes place for one big microphone. That’s ok for a one to one QSO, but it is annoying when you are in a conference with a lot of unfamiliar callsigns. This is something worth changing as quickly as possible. A version for tablets, resembling the layout of the PC version, would be great.

Audio quality
The audio quality of the tablet itself is quite good, but when running Echolink the Packard Bell sounds a bit distorted. It is as if the software tries to compress the audio as much as possible. Although I can’t prove that this is the case, it would make sense: bandwidth is expensive when using a cell phone. If I’m right, this should be user selectable. After all, when using your own WiFi connection, the price of bandwidth is no issue.

Great for phones, less great for tablets. In spite of the current flaws, a ‘must have’ app nonetheless.