Meet Earl, The Android Tablet That Wants To Be Your Backcountry Buddy

Sure, your Android tablet probably works like a champ when you’re splayed out on the couch, but is it one of your go-to gadgets for when you go traipsing through the great outdoors. I’d wager not — they tend to be a little fragile — and that’s why the folks at Seattle-based Sqigle is looking to a bring a curious tablet named Earl to market.

As you might’ve guessed, Earl isn’t your ordinary Android tablet — the team refers to it as the world’s first “backcountry survival tablet,” and it has a prospective spec sheet that certainly lives up to the name. It sports a 6-inch frontlit e-ink display from LG for one thing, as well as an IR touch array (so you can operate Earl with gloves, naturally), and a flip-out solar panel for on-the-go charging, all encased in a 0.6-inch thick water and muck-resistant chassis.

earl-solarWhere Earl really seems to shine is its approach to connectivity. It comes with your usual loadout of Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and NFC radios, but once complete Earl will let users listen to AM/FM broadcasts as well as tap into shortwave and long wave frequencies.

Throw in the ability to use Earl as a two-way radio and preloaded 100k topographical maps of the U.S., Canada and Mexico, and you’ve got yourself quite the survivalist gizmo. The only major omission? There’s no camera to be found here, though it’s not like most tablets fare well on that front anyway.

To be quite honest, much of what the team claims Earl will be able to do seems a little outlandish — Sqigle’s early renders point to a heavily-tweaked version of Android 4.1 running the show, and I seriously wonder whether or not the team will be able to implement some of these features as elegantly as these images portray. That said, I can’t help but hope Sqigle makes good on all of it. All told, the team is looking for $250,000 to take the Earl from 3D printed prototype to full-fledged backwoods companion, and the outdoorsy types among you can lock down an Earl of your own for $249. If all goes well, Sqigle founder Jonathan Perry hopes to kick off the production process in earnest in July, with the first units hitting backer doorsteps by the end of the summer.