I’ve recently purchased a Wise Tech Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich) 7″ tablet from Amazon, for the princely sum of £80 – I opted for the 1.5GHz 1Gb RAM, 16Gb storage version, you can spend less for a lower spec device still quite capable of running ICS. I had three main aims:
- Acquire a cheap ICS device for personal development, as the emulator is just too damn slow and I can’t really justify taking work phones home all the time;
- Get to know Android 4 as an end user (I use Windows Phone 7 as my main phone platform, an iPad for casual browsing and other tabletty jobs, and an iPod Touch for music but after my earlier experiences I haven’t encountered Android by choice for some time);
- Get a spare tablet, for when the iPad is in demand with guests or girlfriend.
The WiseTech tablet handles the second two admirably – for the money, it’s pretty amazingly good. I won’t be stopping using the iPad any time soon for tabletty things when I have a choice of device, but it can handle most things I need it do when needs must. The only bad thing I can say about the hardware is that the screen is fuzzy and a magnet for fingerprints – other than that, the multitouch is responsive, the processor fast, ICS isn’t nearly as bad as the previous versions of Android, and it comes with Google Play (the amiguously renamed Android Market) so you can download any apps you want.
The biggest frustration is the lack of ADB (Android Debug Bridge) drivers, without which it is fairly useless for development. My Windows 7 PC easily recognized the tablet as a USB storage device but refused to recognize the device for ADB and wouldn’t consider the generic ADB driver as appropriate, also refusing to make use of the other “named manufacturer” ADB drivers I already had installed.
Google’s advice is to try downloading the OEM driver from the manufacturer, at which point you hit a slight problem – who is the manufacturer? The box and slim manual are conspicuously unbranded, with no clues to follow, and the device itself only reports some pretty cryptic hardware IDs. Wise Tech seem markedly absent from Google’s OEM list, and also don’t appear on Google search results (part of my motivation for writing this post is to make something appear for those who follow me!).
Figuring that the rival devices I also considered – such famous names as the CloudNine Neuropad, the LB-01, the TabTronics M009s and the Ployer MoMo9 – probably all came from the same no-name Chinese or Taiwanese factory and possibly even the same mould, I started googling those names to and eventually ended up here.
In a nutshell, if you have any manufacture-less cheap Android phone or tablet and you can’t get Windows to recognize any drivers, try installing the PDAnet application and you’ll probably find that it includes an installation of the generic ADB drivers that work for your device. At which point these £60+ tablets really open up a world of very cheap development.
Bootnote: the tablet worked first time when plugged into a Mac. But for the price premium of a Mac, I could have bought a Galaxy Nexus with its working driver set, and used that instead…