By Jared Newman | Monday, August 15, 2011 at 12:00 pm
Dell’s first Android tablet, the Streak 5, is officially discontinued. A strange farewell message now appears on Dell’s Streak 5 web page (“Goodbye, Streak 5. It’s been a great ride.”), with an image of a pretty woman who is not holding a Streak 5.
The general consensus is that the Streak 5 was too big to be a good phone and too small to be a good tablet, but I’m not convinced of that argument. Phone makers have successfully made 4.3-inch screens desirable, and are now pushing toward 4.5 inches with the Samsung Infuse 4G and rumored HTC Holiday. And whenever I write about 7-inch tablets, I’m shocked by the number of commenters who want to use them as phones. I think there’s a niche for oversized handsets. Dell just failed to capture it. In hindsight, it’s easy to see why.
No clear identity: Although Dell called the Streak a tablet, AT&T treated it like a phone, requiring two years of voice and data service to get the Streak’s subsidized $300 price tag. Best Buy also buried the Streak among its smartphones. Dell and its partners needed a clearer marketing message to sell the Streak 5 to the masses.
A messy launch: As I wrote for PC World more than a year ago, mixed messages marred the Streak 5′s launch. The unlocked price was $50 higher than Dell had originally announced, the launch date was repeatedly pushed back, and the voice plan requirement came out of nowhere. Dell also waited until the last minute to debunk rumors that the Streak would be available on T-Mobile, angering a subsection of users who were waiting to buy the device on their carrier of choice.
Moldy Android: The Streak 5 launched with Android 1.6 at a time when most phones were getting Android 2.1 or higher, resulting in a sluggish interface compared to newer devices. An upgrade to Android 2.2 didn’t land until November of last year.
Dell has since launched a 7-inch Streak worldwide and a 10-inch Streak in China only, but in a market flooded with Android tablets in those sizes, the 5-inch Streak was the most unique in Dell’s portfolio. It’s a shame the company couldn’t make it work.