The move to tablets was fairly easy for Apple. It took the same underlying operating system and hardware powering the iPhone and applied the package to its iPad, which makes sense. Not surprisingly, then, the competition seems to be working from the same playbook.
Enter Google. In the world of smartphones, the company’s Android operating system is the only thing allowing companies like HTC to put up a fight against the iPhone onslaught. Ergo, the logic has always been to use Android as the basis for a competing tablet.
There have been a number of updates since Android first emerged, but version 3.0 (Honeycomb) is significantly different. Past builds were clearly designed for smartphones. That’s what you got from Android 2.3 (Gingerbread). It looked and felt like better version of Symbian S60. But Android 3.0 feels more like the jump from XP to Windows 7.
Previous Android users will find the changes in Honeycomb to be just as extreme. Once you complete the setup process, the lock screen pops up. But unlike iOS and Android phones, you don’t swipe to unlock the screen. Instead, you have to drag a circle and release it once it hovers over a white lock.
The home screen is unchanged. You can add contact cards, Gmail labels, widgets, and other icons for quick access, and there are a total of five panels that you can fill to your heart’s desire.
Navigation, Browser, And Email
If you own an Android-based phone, you generally enjoy the benefit of physical and on-screen buttons. Android tablets only have touchscreen buttons.
- Back button: move to a previous screen or App
- Home button: instantly takes you to home screen
- Multitasking switcher: expose the multitasking switcher
My first experience with these buttons was a little confusing. With the exception of the Back button, the icons don’t exactly convey their exact function. They're certainly not as intuitive as pressing the iPad's Home button.
Here's an example: the built-in Chrome browser has its own dedicated Back button, which retrieves the previously-viewed Web page. Pressing the operating system's Back button doesn’t enable the same functionality while you’re browsing the Web. Instead, it returns you to the previous app. But if you’re browsing Gmail, the operating system's Back button does help you move between folders.
If you have a large music collection, management is a bit of a mess. You can sort music based on albums, artists, playlists, and genres, but CD covers represent all of that information in a 6x3 array. If you're trying to find one particular song, it's difficult because there is no column browser like the iPod app in iOS. You can browse for specific songs after you click on an item, but it's a slower process.
Third-party apps like doubleTwist operate in the same manner, which is a major disappointment. The main attraction of a tablet is its more immersive media experience. This interface needs a little fine-tuning if Google wants to compete at the same level as Apple.
- Motorola Xoom: Tablet Mania
- Motorola Xoom: The First Android Tablet
- Honeycomb: Navigation, Browser, And Music
- Honeycomb: Notifications And Multitasking
- Honeycomb: App Store, Data Transfer, And Screenshots
- Adobe Flash + Android: Certified, But Not Perfect
- Honeycomb 3.1: Small Enhancements
- Tegra 2: Nvidia Goes Mobile
- Honeycomb And Tegra 2: Gaming Spotlight
- Display Quality: Color Gamut
- Display Quality: White And Black Uniformity
- HDMI output And Camera Quality
- Real-World Performance And Battery Life
- Final Words