The Kobo Arc has been selling well since its recent launch in Canada, propelled largely by its retail presence at Canadian book chain Indigo, where it undercuts the Google Nexus on price, and by a decently impressive spec sheet. I had the chance to speak with a few Kobo Arc customers, now that they’ve settled in with their tablet.

What’s working for them … and what’s not? Keep reading.

1. The Longing for Full Control

Firstly, most of the Kobo customers I’ve spoken with are universally impressed with the Arc’s sharp screen and front-loaded speakers. They compliment the form factor, and many are enjoying the unique tapestries feature.

A few, however, are disgruntled by the lack of customization options. The discovery bar, meant to suggest new content you might enjoy, takes up a large-ish chunk of screen real estate and there is, as yet, no way to reclaim it if you want to use that space for other things.

Two Kobo reps, both posting at Mobile Read, have defended this difficulty as a feature: You’ll like the discovery bar, they promise. Just try it! A simple preference tweak would allow users who truly don’t want this bar on their screen to reclaim that space, but the developers don’t seem inclined to permit this personalization. The only way to get rid of the bar right now is to install an alternate launcher, like Go Launcher, from the Play store—it’ll hide all the Kobo widgets so you can get rid of the bar, but it means giving up the tapestries feature too, so some users feel stuck between a rock and a hard place on that one. You can’t get rid of the discovery barand keep he tapestries.

2. The Amazon Advantage

I’ve also spoken to at least two users (including my co-worker, whose Arc I got to play with for awhile) who are finding the Arc experience a little overwhelming. Here is where Amazon might have an edge: If you’re in a market that can use the Kindle Fire, you can register it with your Amazon account and get books, apps, movies and everything all in one go.

The Arc, in Canada, at least, doesn’t have nearly as robust an ecosystem. You can do all the same functions, but they require multiple apps and multiple registrations—Kobo for the device and books, Google Play for the apps, and Netflix for the movies.

My coworker has finally gotten around to desiring apps, and couldn’t understand why it kept prompting her to register; didn’t she do that already? (Didn’t I do it for her when I set the damned thing up?)

Personally, I’m fine with the expansion-via-app system, and in our household, we have a lot of cool stuff on the iPad and the Google Nexus 7. But I can see how, for a tech newbie like her, it can all seem a bit much.

I’m starting to appreciate the advantage of the ‘walled garden’ for certain users. I do appreciate that for many users, full control over their own devices is really important, and I understand why. But I think the percentage of users who just want everything to work right out of the box is larger than many of us tech-heads realize, and for them, something like a Kindle Fire may be a better option. I fear that my co-worker is not going to use her new device very much and that she’ll write off e-readers as something ‘not for her’ because of it.

So, overall? My initial first impression holds. This is a viable Google Nexus alternative for those on a budget, and it has some slick features. But I think I’ve changed my mind about the Kindle Fire and the Nook Tablet. They aren’t the devices for me—because I’m not American, and because I have too many iOS apps already to jump to another ecosystem. But I can see the appeal of that kind of ecosystem for some users.

Any other Kobo Arc users out there? We’d love to hear your opinion on the device’s pros and cons.

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"I’m a journalist, a teacher and an e-book fiend. I work as a French teacher at a K-3 private school. I use drama, music, puppets, props and all manner of tech in my job, and I love it. I enjoy moving between all the classes and having a relationship with each child in the school. Kids are hilarious, and I enjoy watching them grow and learn. My current device of choice for reading is my Amazon Kindle Touch, but I have owned or used devices by Sony, Kobo, Aluratek and others. I also read on my tablet devices using the Kindle app, and I enjoy synching between them, so that I’m always up to date no matter where I am or what I have with me."


  1. I’ve had an Arc for only one day, but I do have a few opinions on it:

    Right from the start I was a little surprised at how heavy it is. Of course this is my first tablet and the only other device I have to compare it to is a K4. While it’s not really a complaint, it’s something to think about for those considering it as something they can hold in one hand for long periods of time.

    OMG talk about finger print magnet. Once again, I don’t really consider it a complaint exactly, as I’m sure all tablet screens are the same in this manner. Just another thing to be aware of.

    On the plus side it has plenty of apps at your disposal that are already installed, although I noticed there is no Netflix. No big deal as it can be had at the google play site.

    I find the Arc works well with Press Reader and Zinio (newspapers and magazines) which is the main reason for my purchase.

    Oh, and Kobo, please do something about that awful dictionary.

  2. I’ve had my Arc for a few weeks now and really like it. The Discovery bar I pretty much ignore, but agree it would be nice if we had the option to hide it entirely. It’s annoying that I can’t get the Tweetdeck app to work – apparently it’s because there’s no GPS identifier on the Arc. That, however, I blame on the tweetdeck people, not on the Kobo designers…I’m just as happy NOT to have a GPS locator on my device! The keyboard is a definite improvement over the Vox (I had one which I passed onto my husband after my Arc arrived), as is the increased processor speed etc. No major cons at this point, that’s for sure…

  3. Hi, I have owned my arc for three weeks and am loving it
    It does a great job of being an ereader and a web browser.
    The screen is vibrant and I have found no lagging.
    The sound from the front facing stereo speakers is top notch
    The ability to read a web page in text only format is areal winner.
    My 23 year old daughter has got serious arc envy :-)

  4. simple way to get rid of the discovery bar is a strip of back tape. maybe Kobo can supply it until they can fix it. Happy New Year.

  5. I bought an Arc last December and loved it. Then I discovered I couldn’t install certain Android apps because I wasn’t using Jellybean, which was incredibly frustrating. Eventually I bought a Nexus 7 which gives me the full Android experience without that silly Discover bar and their a-little-too-user-friendly Launcher.

    There are two advantages the Arc has over the Nexus: the Arc is easier to hold, and the sound quality is much better on the Arc. Other than that, I’m pretty happy I switched to the Nexus.

  6. I had Kobo Arc since X’mas 2012. I also have an ipad. They are both great devices for different usages. Being an ipad user, I found that ipad has more precise finger movement recognition then Kobo.
    Back to Kobo:
    Durability – I dropped it on the floor last week, the case cracked open, I snapped them back, it works – good.
    Color and sound – great
    What I hate about it:
    – the discovery bar
    – the camera ( but I don’t have to use it )

    What I wish to be added:
    – ability to read .mobi files.

  7. I previously had the Kobo Vox and it was horrible, and so sluggish. I received a Kobo Arc for Christmas and I really do love it. It’s like night and day compared to the Vox.

    I really dislike the Discovery Bar, because the recommendations are horrible. Books that I would never buy, or have already bought through Kobo showed up. I previously disabled Discovery Bar but with the new update, it causes shortcuts to not work. My Libary shortcut wasn’t working and as soon as I deleted it, the screen would being blinking. This happened to me twice. I factory reset it, and installed a launcher. I’m using the Apex Launcher Pro, and I’m very pleased with it.

  8. i have a kobo arc, and it was playing netflix just fine , and today i get sound and no picture. i have tried everything please help

  9. I am on my 3rd Kobo Arc 7 HD and I hate it. It is the 3rd because the original that I bought crapped out (would not hold a charge, wouldn’t turn on) within the first 2 months. After a runaround it was replaced by Kobo. The 2nd unit had the exact same problem and I sent it back for a replacement within another 3 weeks. I now have a 3rd replacement and although it does hold a charge and does turn on (I hold my breath each time I try), now the launcher keeps crashing. I get the message “launcher has stopped unexpectedly”. This happens when I am playing games, it doesn’t matter which one.

    I don’t know if there would be a problem when using the tablet to read because I will not install a book on this one. I am tired of doing so, reading part of the book only to have the unit die and have to wait for a replacement.

    I will never purchase another product from Kobo and would not recommend it to anyone. Save your money and get something else!
    Oh, and I find it very interesting that each problem I have, when I search on Google for solutions, there are many others looking for the same solutions to the same problems.

    Kobo, fix your issues.

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