The new version of Telstra's T-Hub — essentially a tablet which also doubles as a central home phone control panel — has one big improvement over the original model: it runs Android, so you can expand it with a range of apps. That aside, what else has changed?
Being able to install your own apps immediately makes the T-Hub 2 a more appealing proposition than the locked-down first generation device. Telstra will supply built-in apps for browsing the White and Yellow Pages, as well as a Telstra Share application to share content from the tablet to other DLNA-enabled equipment like computers and TVs and an enhanced client specifically designed for its MOG music service. (You can use the existing MOG Android app if you don't want the Telstra-branded option.)
The one annoyance? The T-Hub 2 runs Android 2.3, so it's very far from being a modern device. Telstra says it will work to provide an Ice Cream Sandwich 4.0 update for the device, but hasn't given a timetable.
Using Android also means that you can easily sync contacts from an existing mobile onto your tablet. Observant readers will know Telstra uses Hotmail for its own Bigpond mail services; according to the company, there will be sync options to cover its own services, Gmail and Apple's iCloud options. There's also a Visual Voicemail option for checking your messages.
As well as the 7-inch tablet, the T-Hub bundle includes a central DECT control unit, a single cordless handset and a combined speaker/charging stand which lets you use the T-Hub as a speakerphone. You can connect a total of five devices to the system. There's a built-in kickstand if you want to use the tablet for standalone viewing (potentially useful for recipes or group video calls).
According to Telstra, around 300,000 of the model 1 T-Hubs have been sold. 300 customers were involved in beta-testing the new version, which goes on sale from Tuesday.
Like the original model, the T-Hub 2 will be available as an outright buy ($360). However, the vast majority of customers are likely to add it as part of a Telstra bundle, where it typically costs $15 a month on a 24-month plan. That said, its inclusion in some of those bundles is essentially subsidised, so you end up paying a fixed price for a glut of services. Bundles can also include options such as free calls to four specified mobiles (provided they're all on one bill.)
Existing T-Hub owners will be offered the option to upgrade to the new model at half-price. However, any remaining payments on the original model will still have to be made.
A disappointing note for dedicated hackers: while I'm sure people will install custom Android ROMs, the 1024 by 600 display means it won't work with Windows 8 no matter how much tweaking you do (though it's a step up on the original's 800 by 480 display).
Does Android make the T-Hub 2 more tempting for you? Are you past caring about a home phone line at all? (Telstra is pitching the product squarely at families, but even in family environments mobiles are widely used.) Tell us in the comments.