Posts tagged android tablet
Motorola’s big launch of CES 2011 and the first Android 3.0 Honeycomb tablet on the market, the Motorola XOOM has a lot to live up to. In its haste to reach Verizon shelves, the XOOM could seem a little half-baked; it doesn’t get Flash Player support for another few weeks, and won’t have 4G until an update sometime in Q2. Still, as the iPad has shown, there are undoubtedly benefits to being first out of the gate, and there’s undoubtedly plenty on offer. Can the XOOM bypass pricing skepticism? Check out the full SlashGear review after the cut.
Hardware and Performance
Motorola’s design is sober and discrete, and where the iPad shows off its brushed metal the XOOM seemingly prefers to let the 10.1-inch display do the talking. It’s a 160dpi, 1280 x 800 WXGA panel with a capacitive touchscreen supporting multitouch gestures, and while it doesn’t use the same IPS technology as the Apple slate, it still manages decent viewing angles. We’ve had no issues with touchscreen responsiveness, though at 9.8 x 6.61 x 0.51 inches and 25.75oz it’s a somewhat heavy device, and one-handed use can get tiring.
Inside, NVIDIA’s Tegra 2 is calling the shots, a dual-core 1GHz SoC paired with 1GB of DDR2 RAM and 32GB of integrated storage. Although the XOOM has a microSD card slot, currently the tablet doesn’t support it; similarly, there’s an LTE SIM slot – filled with a blanking card – but that won’t be used until Verizon updates the tablet to 4G in Q2 2011. Instead, you get EVDO Rev.A, WiFi a/b/g/n and Bluetooth 2.1+EDR, along with USB 2.0 and mini HDMI ports. Motorola is readying a WiFI-only XOOM, but that isn’t expected until later in the year.
We’ve seen sensors of various types proliferate on smartphones, and the XOOM ups the ante. As well as GPS, an accelerometer, digital compass, ambient light sensor and gyroscope, there’s a barometer for measuring air pressure. So far there’s no actual use for it in Honeycomb, but since it’s available for third-party developers to tap into via the Android 3.0 APIs, it’s only a matter of time before somebody takes advantage.
On the front is a 2-megapixel fixed-focus camera and a tricolor notification LED, though no physical controls, while on the back is a 5-megapixel autofocus camera with a dual-LED flash. It’s flanked by stereo speakers and the power/standby button. The only other hardware control is the volume rocker on the left hand edge. A 3.5mm headphone socket is on the top edge of the slate.
While the hardware of the Xoom is notable, it’s not the real story. The real story is all about Android, and the next stage of its evolution – namely Honeycomb. Version 3.0 of the mobile operating system represents a significant change for just about every aspect of the user interface, and some notable alterations under the surface as well. As we’ve extensively covered, UI wunderkind Matias Duarte left Palm to work for Google less than half a year ago, and seems to have immediately dived into the work that he does best – reinventing user interfaces and user interaction for mobile devices.
The Honeycomb look and feel certainly has the work of a single mind written all over it – while we know this is very much a team effort (something we discussed with Matias in our interview at CES), it’s also clear that someone is steering the ship with far more resolve than ever before witnessed in this OS. From a purely visual standpoint, Android 3.0 comes together in a far more cohesive manner than any previous iteration of the software, and the changes aren’t just cosmetic. Much of the obscurity in the OS and arcane functions of this software have been jettisoned or drastically changed, making for an experience that is far more obvious to a novice user… though we wouldn’t exactly describe it as simple.
From a visual standpoint, we could most easily explain that Android 3.0 looks very much like the world of Tron. Think soft focus neon and cold, hard digital angles. A homescreen which phases between panels with a blue, ghosting glow that represents your last and next page. When you place items on the homescreens, you see a distant patchwork of grid marks, and a vector outline of where your icon or widget will eventually land. Even in the app list, you see electric blue representations of your icons before the icons themselves. The effect is angular, but the feel is still very human – like a cross between the "chromeless" environment of Windows Phone 7, and the photorealism of webOS or iOS. It absolutely works. From the overall look and feel down to the method in which you get widgets onto your pages or change the wallpaper, everything is new here.
Unlike Apple and it’s single-minded iOS, however, Android is still filled with variables and choices which make general navigation a learning process, and even though Honeycomb has made huge inroads to making that process simpler, it’s not 100 percent there. The general vibe of Android is still present here – you have a series of homescreens which are scrollable, and can be loaded up with a variety of application shortcuts, folders, shortcuts, and widgets. Unlike most mobile OSs, Honeycomb places the status bar along the bottom of the device, and then fills the left side of that bar with the constant pieces of navigation you’ll use to get around the OS.
Yes, gone are the hardware buttons of yesteryear – 3.0 replaces the familiar home and back buttons with virtual incarnations, then adds a couple of extra pieces for good measure. Along with those two main buttons, Honeycomb introduces a multitasking icon which pops open a list of recently used apps along with a snapshot of their saved state. The back button is also a little more dynamic in 3.0, shifting between a straightforward back key, and a keyboard-hider when necessary. If your app utilizes the menu key on Android phones, you get an icon for that as well. The home button will take you back to your main views, but it can’t get you to your apps. Instead, Honeycomb introduces a new (and somewhat confusing) button – an "apps" icon which lives in the upper right hand corner of your device. You might think that comes in handy, but you can only access your app pages from the homescreen of the tablet, meaning that you have to use a two step process to get to your app list. We’re not totally clear on why this isn’t another button that lives along the bottom of the device with the rest of the navigation, and frankly it proved confusing when we were trying to get around the Xoom quickly.
On the right side of that status bar are your battery and time indicators, along with a pop-up area for notifications. The whole structure of the status bar feels weirdly like Windows. When you get a new email or Twitter mention, you’re alerted in that righthand corner with an almost Growl-like box, which fades away quickly. When you tap on that space, you’re given a time and battery window where you’re also able to manage notifications (though strangely there’s no option to clear all notifications). A settings button present there will also allow you to change your brightness and wireless settings, orientation lock, or jump to the full settings of the device. In all, it’s a tremendously convenient piece of this new OS, but not a new OS trick by any means. The desktop feels alive and well in Honeycomb.
In applications like the browser – which is now far more like a desktop version of Chrome (with proper tabs and all) – you also get the sense that Google is taking a lot of cues from familiar places. Besides just offering bigger views and more real estate, there are drop down menus (located in the upper-right hand corner) and far more of the navigational items exposed. In fact, in all of the new native applications, there is no menu button present. All of the key elements of navigation are front and center, usually along the top of the app’s display, which should make for an easier time when it comes to getting things done, but can create confusing situations. For instance, in Gmail, your items in the upper right of the app change based on the context; that’s good for managing messages in one view, but creates some head-scratching moments in others. Worse, the back button (which you use frequently) is in the exact opposite corner, meaning that your gaze is constantly shifting between two places on the tablet – two places that are furthest apart. The experience encourages a lot of eye-darting, which makes quickly managing tasks somewhat of a chore. We wish that Google had somehow combined the app navigation and tablet navigation into a more closely related space, so that instead of jumping from corner to corner, you were able to focusing on one place for operation of the app, and another for its content. We found ourselves having this same experience all over the Xoom.
On the plus side (and it is a big plus), the Xoom feels much more like a real netbook or laptop replacement. Being able to multitask in the manner Google has devised, having properly running background tasks, and real, unobtrusive notifications feels really, really good in the tablet form factor. Additionally, the fact that Google has included active widgets that plug right into things like Gmail makes monitoring and dealing with work (or play) much more fluid than on the iPad.
One other big note: a lot of the new software feels like it isn’t quite out of beta (surprise surprise). We had our fair share of force closes and bizarre freezes, particularly in the Market app and Movie Studio. Most applications were fine, but there definitely some moments where we felt like the whole device was teetering on the brink of a total crash.
That said, there are some significant changes to stock applications and new additions to the family that we thought were worth a slightly deeper look, so here’s a breakdown of what you can expect — both old and new — when you open the Xoom box.
We loved the browsing experience on the Xoom. The included app is (as we said) far more like a desktop version of Chrome, and if you’re already using the software on your laptop or desktop, you’ll feel right at home. Pages displayed quickly and cleanly on the tablet, though we have to admit that we’re more than a little miffed that Flash support isn’t present out of the box with the Xoom. Strange considering this is one of the real advantages Android devices have over Apple’s offerings.
Despite our enjoyment, there were some maddening issues, like the fact that the browser still identifies as an Android phone, meaning most sites with a mobile view end up on your big, beautiful browser tab. Given how close this version is to the real Chrome, we’re surprised Google wasn’t a little more proactive about this.
Gmail has been completely redesigned for Honeycomb, and it’s a big upgrade. We’d love to say that it’s all rainbows and butterflies, but there are some nagging problems that come along with the changes, and we’re hoping Google will clean it up a bit moving forward. The application seems to generally suffer from UI overload; there have always been a lot of hidden features in Gmail for Android, and now that those hidden elements are brought to the surface, it creates a feeling that you’re never in a single place. As with other parts of the OS, we found ourselves jumping to and fro trying to locate UI elements and get work done. Adding confusion to this new layout is the fact that menus now change contextually based on what you’ve selected, which means that not only are you dealing with scattered navigational items, but those items can change on the fly while you’re working.
Maybe we’re just too addicted to Gmail as it is now, but this incarnation feels splintered to us.
The battery is amazing. The battery is slick, works amazing, and can basically sit around working forever. The longest we’ve had it working with HEAVY use was over 14 hours – while I’m writing this review, the unit has been on almost 20 hours with no charging and moderate usage, and the battery appears to only be a half-empty. A full recharge take a total of around 3 hours – that’s starting at zero and ending up at completely full.
Connectivity and Price
You’ll be attaching to the rest of the world via EVDO Rev.A, WiFi a/b/g/n, Bluetooth 2.1+EDR and USB 2.0. You wont be able to make voice call out of box, and your plan with Verizon won’t be including voice calls, thusly if you’d like to call someone up you’ll want to hook yourself up with a voice over IP (VoIP) client or something along the lines of Skype. I’m sure you know the situation you’ll be in here as it’ll be very similar to what you’re doing with your desktop or laptop for calls.
You’re working with a 3G connection here for at least a couple of weeks if you purchase one at the same moment I write this review, and ith that you’ll be able to activate a mobile hotspot to connect the rest of your devices. Currently you’re able to purchase the XOOM direct from Verizon for $599 just so long as you attach it to a 2-year plan that starts at $20 per GB and $20 per additional GB, after which it’s $10 per additional GB on higher plans: 3GB for $35, $50 for 5GB, or $80 for 10GB — none of these has any sign of an additional fee for the hotspot, which means you’ll just be paying for the data no matter which way you’re utilizing it.
It’s about time… isn’t it? The music app in Honeycomb has been completely, mercifully rethought, and it is stunning. As you can see in the above photo, gone is the amateurish and drab Android player. It’s now been replaced with a dimensional, 3D interface that isn’t just good looking, it’s actually useful. There are 2D views when you jump into albums and playlists, but the flipbook navigation is actually not bad for finding your music. Unfortunately, the Xoom seemed to have trouble recognizing all of our album art, and there were some issues with album art doubling up (our Engadget podcast logo seemed to get glued to another album). Minor issues aside, we’re impressed with the work Google has done here.
Like the Music app, YouTube has gotten a revamp here. Keeping in line with the 3D feel of the Honeycomb interface, you’re presented with a wall of videos which you can pan through — kind of like your own wall of TVs (if TV had nothing but clips of people dancing and / or injuring themselves). If you’ve always wanted to feel like Ozymandias from the final pages of Watchmen, here’s your chance.
Playing videos was pretty much a standard YouTube experience… which unfortunately these days seems to mean watching for stuff to buffer. A lot.
We love the version of Google Talk present in Honeycomb. Not only does it provide clear, seamless integration with accounts you already use, but the way it utilizes both voice and video conversations is terrific.
The app itself is fairly straightforward, but it did take a little bit of head scratching before we figured out exactly how to move between voice, chat, and video. Our callers on the other end of the line said video quality was a bit on the low res side (see the photo above – Xoom up top, MacBook Pro camera in the corner) even on WiFi. We’re not sure why that would be the case, but hopefully it can be cleared up with some software tweaking.
Overall, however, the new Google Talk works in perfect harmony with the Xoom.
I’m not sure how much better an Android tablet can get right now – and this is the first one we’ve reviewed here at BGR. The Motorola XOOM packs a serious punch, and doesn’t have room to store an ice pack. I love that Motorola has been pushing forward with innovate ideas and concepts, most notably with the ATRIX 4G, and the XOOM isn’t an exception. It features great hardware, impressive specifications, and the latest Android OS designed just for tablets. There are many things to rave about with the XOOM, though there were some annoyances and frustrations that stemmed from Google’s OS for the most part and not from Motorola’s hardware.
Tablets are the new craze, and while they are selling, I personally still don’t see a huge need to have a tablet. As a toy used to discover new and incredible apps, and to use for 20 or 30 minutes a day to read and catch up on Twitter or do some emailing, sure. But the XOOM definitely can’t replace a laptop. I think that the Motorola XOOM is a great product, I’m just not 100% sold on Honeycomb at this point as an operating system. I don’t believe it’s very innovative, and I don’t find it to be any better than alternatives in terms of ease of use, intuitiveness, or wide availability of apps. With that said, the Motorola XOOM goes on sale tomorrow in the U.S. for $599 with a two-year service agreement, and I’m sure plenty of people will thoroughly enjoy it despite the aforementioned shortcomings.
Only days after a leaked Staples document showed the Motorola Xoom WiFi version hitting Staples in late March with a $599 price tag comes a long line of other tablets set to hit the US retailer. In the latest leaked document from stable we see mention of the BlackBerry PlayBook (April), Dell Streak 7 (April and upgradeable to Honeycomb), Samsung 8.9, a quattro of 10-inch Android Honeycomb tablets from Dell, HTC, Toshiba and Acer, as well as two webOS tablets (10-inch and 7-inch).
10-inch Android Honeycomb tablets by HTC, Dell, Toshiba & Acer
While not much is known about the 10-inch HTC tablet, it may very well be the Android Honeycomb tablet the Taiwanese company was tipped to be working on since CES early this year. As for the Toshiba, Acer and Dell 10-inch tablets, there are no surprises here. Expect to see these quattro of Android Honeycomb tablets at CTIA Wireless at the end of the month.
Motorola Xoom not alone to take on iPad 2 much longer
At the moment, the reigning Android Honeycomb tablet on the market is the 10-inch Motorola Xoom. It will be interesting to see if an army of Honeycomb tablets will be able to take on the iPad 2 or not.
A new flier has surfaced which may finally have the launch details of the WiFi Samsung Galaxy Tab. According to the document, the WiFi-only version of the Samsung Galaxy Tab will launch on April 4th for $399. We’ve known about the WiFi Tab for months now, but this is the first launch update to come through since before CES.
At $399, the WiFi Samsung Galaxy Tab certainly sounds like a decent deal, but since it’s still running on Android 2.2 and a slower Hummingbird processor, most hardcore Android fans will probably opt to pay a little more for the WiFi version of the Motorola XOOM that’s expected to hit store shelves within the next few weeks. While we all want the newest product with the latest version of Android, is the WiFi Galaxy Tab still appealing if is costs $200 less than the WiFi XOOM?
Android 3.0 Honeycomb offers a refreshing interface and many people are not aware the improvements it has over the older smart phone OS. For those of you who have yet to get their hands on one of these tablets, I decided demo five new features that makes the fresh out of the oven Honeycomb OS great for the tablet form factor:
Home Screen Interface
The new Android 3.0 code-name Honeycomb OS features five home screens for widgets and application icons. It starts out on the center home screen and users can swipe to either the left or right to access the others. A new space themed Tron inspired interface is apparent throughout the entire system, not just the home screen. Google has hinted that the next Android upgrade for smart phones will inherit the new look. A handful of interactive widgets come pre-installed. Organizing items on the home screens is easy and intuitive with great visuals.
Google may have initially introduced this feature about a year ago at their I/O 2010 conference, but the feature still impresses. Without having to program or train your device, the cloud-based Voice Actions perform tasks based on your command. Users can initiate music playback, start GPS navigation, send emails, set alarms, visit webpages, or search the internet with simple commands.
New Bundled Apps
The new tablet-optimized Honeycomb OS also brings a set of quality pre-installed application that take advantage of the large screen size. Most of these offered more features and were more responsive than the iOS 4.x counterparts on the original iPad in my opinion.
- Google Books – 3D carousel view, two side-by-side page view
- Web Browser – tabbed interface, Adobe Flash support soon
- Calendar – flexible and supports multiple calendars
- Camera – a new layout for easy access to settings
- Clock – a full screen clock which also shows set alarm time
- Contacts – a convenient two-pane view
- Gallery – stacks represent folders of photos and videos
- Gmail – two-panes, snippets show previews of messages
- Google Maps – 3D buildings and two finger zoom and rotate
- Movie Studio – edit and publish videos on the go
- Music – cover flow interface and views for Albums/Artists
- Settings – reorganized layout for easy customizing
- Talk – supports video chat and multiple conversations
- YouTube – 3D wall for featured content
Multitasking and Notifications
Switching between apps is easier than ever. While users generally had to hold down the home key on smart phones, there is now a dedicated app switching icon at the lower left of Android 3.0. It displays the five most recent used applications. Notifications now appear in the lower right task bar by the clock. It is easy to dismiss or react to a notification. A quick settings panel is also within reach at all times for access to WiFi, brightness, screen lock, and other options.
Web Marketplace and Chrome to Phone
The new web-based Android Marketplace is compatible with Honeycomb tablets. It is easy to install new apps to your tablet even if you are not in the same room. Of course, no cable required. It works as long as your tablet is online with either 3G, 4G, or WiFi. The Chrome to Phone extension also works perfectly with the Motorola Xoom tablet. I pushed webpages, maps, videos, and other content over to the tablet with a single click from my laptop.
It’s been a few days since Sprint sent out invitations to their press event at CTIA. While we certainly have our own ideas as to what Sprint will announce, an anonymous tipster has come forward, possibly revealing Sprint’s big announcement agenda.
The source claims that Sprint has three Android devices waiting to be unveiled at CTIA. Two phones and one tablet. The first phone will be the Nexus S which will be equipped with WiMax capabilities. As you may recall Sprint did have plans to launch the original Nexus One last year, but changed their mind since the handset wouldn’t offer anything unique over the T-Mobile and AT&T versions that were being sold by Google.
The second handset Sprint will unveil at CTIA with be the HTC EVO 3D. As the name implies, the HTC EVO 3D will feature 3D capabilities (though we’re not sure what those are at this moment) and we’re pretty sure it’ll support Sprint’s 4G WiMax network. We do not know the specs of the HTC EVO 3D, but the hope is that the handset will be similar to the rumored HTC Pyramid (dual-core 1.2 GHz Snapdragon processor [MSM8260] and a 4.3 inch qHD display) which should be heading to T-Mobile later this spring.
Since Verizon has the XOOM and T-Mobile has the G-Slate, Sprint has decided to offer up their own Android tablet: the HTC EVO View. The only detail we have right now is the tablet’s name, but we’re assuming that it will be pretty similar to the HTC Flyer which is running a 1.5 GHz Qualcomm processor, with a 7-inch display, Android 2.3, and HTC’s new Scribe technology.
While everything above may sound feasible, we’re still labeling it all as rumors until we can get some concrete evidence. But that doesn’t mean we’re not excited! If the report does turn out to be true, which of three devices will you be picking up?
Apple has sold 15 million iPads in nine months and has over 90% market share. Reports suggest the manufacturer is hoping to ship 40 million of the devices this year.
However, Apple will eventually be overturned by Android tablets, some analysts are predicting. Meanwhile, Phones 4u’s Russell Braterman today predicted that RIM and Samsung will take share from Apple.
CCS Insight analyst Ben Wood said that Apple had set a new benchmark for existing tablets with the launch of its iPad 2 today.
He said: ‘You have 65,000 apps tailored to the iPad while there are around 100 on Android Honeycomb at present – but that will grow quickly.’
Wood said the RIM’s BlackBerry Playbook will pose a real threat to Apple when it launches in the summer. He added: ‘The Playbook is very interesting as RIM has a clear, addressable market. There are those that have a BlackBerry and want something a bit more or like BBM. However, the price is critical.’
‘The Palm Touchpad is also a very interesting device,’ he said. ‘HP has done a good job with WebOS and it has a similar quality to Apple in that it’s a high tier device. However, it has no content or apps yet.’
Meanwhile, other industry experts hailed Motorola’s Xoom as also a real competitor to the iPad. While the iPad 2 has had no changes made to the viewing surface, the Xoom’s 10-inch LCD display has a resolution of 1280×800 as well as a 16:9 aspect ratio for widescreen viewing.
The Samsung Galaxy Tab has also been cited as a threat to the iPad’s dominance. Its large 10-inch LCD screen has IPS like the iPad 2 as well as a 16:9 aspect ratio like the Xoom.
But Wood added: ‘I think it will all come down to pricing. If you are a competitor you have to price against the iPad 2. Android Honeycomb is about price.’
Google has followed through by continuing to place huge statues on their front lawn. Android 3.0 is named Honeycomb and it now joins Gingerbread, Cupcake, Donut, Éclair and Froyo. Google stated on Twitter that “The Android team continues to be committed to placing large dessert statues on lawns. Honeycomb is no exception.” Looks nice… unfortunately for us Canadians there has yet to be a carriers to officially confirm a device with this tablet-friendly OS will be released.
The Android team at Google celebrates each new version of the operating system by placing a giant statue in front of their building at Google Headquarters in Mountain View, California.
Since Android Honeycomb was announced we haven’t heard much about its statue. Google had the following comment on the matter:
“The Android team continues to be committed to placing large dessert statues on lawns. Honeycomb is no exception.”
Apparently they covertly brought it in and installed it while we weren’t looking. So if you were wondering what the latest statue was going to look like, look no further!
The Motorola XOOM has landed! For those who have been waiting for an Android tablet running on Android 3.0 (designed specifically for tablets), the Motorola XOOM may be the tablet you have been waiting for. The Honeycomb tablet can be found on Verizon’s website or Verizon stores across the country for $599.99 with a two year data contract or for $799 if you simply want the Motorola XOOM without being tied down.
Though the Motorola XOOM is the most feature-rich Android tablet to date, new users will need to wait a bit in order to take advantage of Verizon’s 4G LTE network and Adobe Flash. Motorola is claiming that the XOOM’s LTE upgrade should be available within 90 days while Adobe is hoping to have Flash 10.2 ready for the XOOM within the coming weeks.
Thanks to our friends at Verizon, we’ve managed to get our hands on the Motorola XOOM. After some hands-on time with the Honeycomb tablet, we’re hoping to share our initial thoughts and impressions.
Now that Honeycomb has arrived, we’re wondering how many of you are going to be picking up a new Android tablet. Is the Motorola XOOM what you’ve been waiting for or are you planning to wait a bit to see how the T-Mobile G-Slate and Galaxy Tab 10.1 turn out?