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The Kobo Vox, an Android powered colored eReader with huge tablet aspirations, was officially launched earlier this evening. The device is the first colored offering from Toronto-based Kobo (which recently got acquired for a cool $315 million by Japanese web retailer Rakuten) is geared to compete against the Kindle Fire and the Barnes & Noble Nook Colour which are similar eReader Android tablet hybrid devices.
Currently available at Future Shop for $199, the Kobo Vox eReader brings the best features of a standalone eReader and 7-inch Android tablet. In terms of look and feel, it is very similar to the BlackBerry PlayBook although substantially lighter.
Aside from all the features from previous Kobo readers such as WiFi connectivity and the social Reading Life features (which allow users to track their reading stats, earn various badges and accomplishments plus share, like or tweet what they are reading), the Kobo Vox brings the functionality of a capable, yet scaled down Android Tablet.
Kobo emerged in the market 23 months ago and was part of Indigo Books' offerings.
initially dismissed as another wannabe rival to (competitor)'s popular Kindle eReader, Kobo quickly evolved and became a popular platform on its own.
The company kept innovating and differentiating its product offerings by enabling added functionalities such as Facebook integration as well as the Reading Life aspect as well as maintaining a consumer friendly price as well as a well rounded selection of 2.2 million books and a curated Android marketplace.
Kobo CEO Mike Serbinis (pictured left) launched the latest reader and explained how it offered users so much more than just a portable reading experience.
During the event, Kobo took over a screen in Toronto's Yonge and Dundas Square to demonstrate the device's Pulse functionality. Great in concept but we couldn't really make out what was going on as the remote feed was blurred and unreadable.
Passing Yonge and Dundas Square on our way home later on, the Pulse screen was gone but they were looping various Kobo Vox ads.
Pulse is a clever realtime social reading feature that tips off readers when there are activities pertaining to the book they are reading. For example if there are a number of people reading the same book as you, it is easy to see what their discussions are as well as various stats about the book. It is available on the app versions of the Kobo reader for iOS, PlayBook and Andrioid.
The best thing about this is the instantaneous nature of sharing, responding or looking up information while still making it easy to jump right back into the book.
As an Android tablet running Gingerbread (Android 2.3), many of the more important apps are present so browser, mail and multimedia (RDIO streaming music) as well as games and other social media apps. During the event we tried to acquaint ourselves with the device but the WiFi signal was weak and since many apps had been open on the demo units, they felt somewhat laggy.
The launch event featured some of the actual developers for Kobo like Zinio who reformats popular magazines makes magazines and makes them tablet ready. The developers demoed the device and explained its capabilites to throngs of curious guests.
We hope to review the Kobo Vox soon and see firsthand how it enhances the solid eReader experience provided by the previous Kobo products.
All Photos by Gadjo Cardenas Sevilla