Verizon Wireless's new Ellipsis house line of Android tablets, released just in time for Christmas, shows significant potential for holding its own in the crowded and highly competitive field of tablet computers.
If you want or need a tablet with a mobile data connection without breaking the bank, it's hard to beat the Ellipsis 7", currently on sale for $49.99 with two-year contract and adding $10 to your monthly Share Everything bill - sharing an existing bucket of data. The price fluctuates (it was free with contract on Black Friday), so if you see a higher price, check back in a couple of days.
The Ellipsis 7" comes with 8 GB of onboard memory and accepts a microSD card for storage expansion, something you won't find in some popular tablets.
It measures 7.72" by 4.94" by .4" and weighs 12.7 oz or about .79 pounds - just a hair heavier than the 7.9" iPad Mini, which weighs .68 pounds, costs a whopping $429.99 on contract ($320 from Amazon without 4G) and has a lower screen resolution (1024 x 768 vs. the Ellipsis's 1280 x 800).
The iPad Mini has more memory - 16 GB on the low end - but you can't add a microSD card to any iPad, which seems to negate the extra 8 GB. You can pick up a 32 GB microSD card on Amazon.com for $17 for storing thousands of MP3s, photos and videos. You can also move certain apps to a storage card.
Running Android 4.2.2 (Jelly Bean) on a 1.2GHz quad-core processor with 1 GB of RAM, the Ellipsis makes short work of installing apps and runs them smoothly. Games play well and look fantastic. Messages and Kindle books are easy on the eyes with crisp, clear text. As on other tablets I've encountered, I turned off the auto-brightness and jacked it up all the way in order to read Kindle books and play Words With Friends comfortably outside.
The Ellipsis's 3.2 MP camera (VGA front-facing) takes decent photos for a tablet, and you can take up to 1080p videos with the camcorder (also VGA front-facing). If you're keen on taking high-res photos with a tablet and are willing to pay a few hundred more for that privilege, the iPad Mini has the Ellipsis beat in this area, at least on paper, with its 5 MP camera. Most people finding taking pictures, other than the odd shot here and there, awkward on a tablet and prefer using a smart phone or an actual camera for serious photo taking.
If you add a tablet to your Verizon Wireless account without increasing your monthly data allotment, you'll want to exercise caution in your use of Verizon's super speedy and reliable 4G LTE network, making use of Wi-Fi whenever possible. A couple of hours of downloading apps and watching videos used nearly 1 GB of data - which is the lowest-cost mobile data option with Verizon.
You can keep track of your data usage under Settings or download a free widget like 3G Watchdog, which tracks 3G and 4G data, to help you stay within your confines.
The Ellipsis's standard onscreen keyboard lacks some features of many other Android tablets and phones, such as a top number row and multi-function keys. However, you can download a free keyboard app such as Go Keyboard to add more functionality.
The tablet comes with a few pre-installed programs of note, such as iHeartRadio and Redbox Instant by Verizon. With the new Redbox Instant service, for $8 a month, you get four monthly DVD credits for new releases at Redbox kiosks, plus streaming from a library of hit movies. For a buck more, you can get four monthly Blu-ray rentals instead of DVDs. You can also install the Netflix app from the Play Store, but only Kindle Fire tablets can show Amazon Instant Videos.
Battery life on the Ellipsis rivals that of the better smart phones I've tested, which is high praise for a tablet. Two hours of watching videos on Wi-Fi drained less than a quarter of the battery's life. Leaving it sit all day collecting emails barely budged the battery meter.
I found one caveat, though - leaving certain apps, like YouTube, running in the background seemed to suck battery life quickly, even with the tablet sitting idle. You can experiment with this to make sure you're maximizing your battery life and not draining it unnecessarily.
While all mobile carriers have some dead areas, you'll be hard pressed to hide from Verizon's signal. Some people in rural areas can pick up Verizon's mobile signal and no other. If you don't already have Verizon Wireless service, chances are pretty good that you know someone - or several someones - in your neighborhood and workplace who can verify Verizon's signal strength in your regular hangouts.
Verizon Wireless has come out swinging with their first stab at a house-brand 4G LTE tablet and priced it competitively. Almost anyone could make good use of a nice Android tablet. If only one with a mobile data connection will fit the bill for you or someone in your family, the Ellipsis deserves a spot near the top of your list.