Posts tagged google

Quick Settings Android App Review

icon There are a number of various connectivity and functionality options available in Android devices. But that also gives to the user the not-so-easy task of having to manage them all. For example, toggling with WiFi, 3G and Bluetooth might become an essential task while using it, but it requires you to dig deep into the phone settings repeatedly. Quick Settings app attempts to alleviate your troubles when it comes to toggling between multiple functionalities of your Android gadget. You’re no more required to clog up your home screen with shortcuts to multiple functionalities on your phone. The app is free.

Pros:

  • Quick access to most system settings
  • Customizable to fit usage and workflow
  • Easy overview of battery and system memory
  • Low/No memory use when in tray
  • Replaces numerous apps (all-in-one)

Cons:

  • LED flashlight limited to Motorola Droid
  • Theme doesn’t match stock Android UI fully

User Review

By Corey

Great app. All needed settings in one condensed area. LED returned two updates ago but the most recent update again kills it on the DX
By WinFirewall

Good App. Would be nice to toggle easier for 3G/Edge. This App seems to change my screen brightness settings for some unknown reason. Please fix. SGS

Read more comments on the market

124012 The main page of this app is very customizable, allowing you to add the settings you need to change most often while removing those you do not (Menu > Customize).  All of your settings are now located in one location and are accessed with just one click.  Everyone knows that when changing your settings (i.e. enabling WiFi or GPS), you want to get there as fast as possible.  Nothing is more frustrating than clicking through 5 pages of options to get to what you want.

Additionally, the app offers you information about the free space left on your phone as well as your SD card.  It also displays your current battery percentage if you’re worried about your phone dying too soon.  Great to have this information conveniently displayed along with your settings options.

A couple more great features of this app are located in the Menu > Preference page.  For even faster access to your own settings, you can choose to add a status bar shortcut.  You can choose an icon that is permanently displayed, or if you’re like us, you can add an icon that only shows up when you pull down the notification window.  The streamlined design really makes this app extremely user friendly

This handy app allows access to almost every possible setting you would need to change, all from the status bar. No need to switch to your desktop to change the screen timeout or notification volume. A quick swipe of the finger from inside almost any app will bring up a dashboard giving you full control over your device.

There are already a number of “toggle” programs available on the Market to accomplish this same feat. Most are limited to desktop widgets, buttons that take up space, or static menus that do not match your workflow. Quick Settings rectifies these problems and more.

You can easily customize which settings are available to toggle and in what order. A quick tap on any setting, rather than the toggle button itself, jumps you straight to the system menu for easy and in-depth changes. It also provides a quick overview of your phone and SD Card’s available memory, your battery statistics and settings, and a flashlight.

The developer is very responsive to suggestions and questions, and has some small upgrades in store for the app. One of the upcoming features is a small battery widget that allows access to the Quick Settings dialog.

Overall, Quick Settings rivals Toggle Settings because of it’s polished look, 1 click settings adjustments, and customizability.  Unfortunately, there aren’t any saved settings profiles, but this app is so easy to use it’s a moot point.  We highly suggest you try this one out!  Scan the QR code with Barcode Scanner or click the QR code (if you’re on your Android phone) for the direct link to Quick Settings in the Android Market.

 

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Android Chief: We’re Still Open?

IMG_0433-660x495 Android chief Andy Rubin took to the blogs Wednesday evening to combat recent reports of Google clamping down on Android’s openness.

“We continue to be an open source platform and will continue releasing source code when it is ready,” wrote Rubin on the Android Developer Blog. “As I write this the Android team is still hard at work to bring all the new Honeycomb features to phones. As soon as this work is completed, we’ll publish the code. This temporary delay does not represent a change in strategy.”

Google has championed its platform as the open alternative to Apple’s closed iOS system. That openness has been called into question recently, as Google has yet to release the Honeycomb source code to all developers and manufacturers.

Honeycomb is Android’s first tablet-optimized software release. Rubin cites the difference in form factor between tablets and phones as the reason Google hasn’t released Honeycomb’s source code to device manufacturers and developers.

Motorola is the exception: The company’s Honeycomb-fueled Xoom tablet has been on the market for more than a month, which makes Google’s decision to hold the code from wide release a bit mystifying.

Members of the Android industry showed faith in Google, however.

“They say they’re going to release it, I’m not gonna call them liars,” Linux Foundation executive director Jim Zemlin told Wired.com in an interview. The Android OS is based on a version of the Linux OS, which has been an open source, collaborative platform since its release decades ago.

Rubin’s post also addressed questions raised in a recent Bloomberg story about Android’s level of control over its partners. Bloomberg wrote:

Over the past few months, according to several people familiar with the matter, Google has been demanding that Android licensees abide by “non-fragmentation clauses” that give Google the final say on how they can tweak the Android code — to make new interfaces and add services — and in some cases whom they can partner with.

Rubin combats this claim directly, stating Google’s so-called “anti-fragmentation program has been in place since Android 1.0,” citing a list of compatibility requirements manufacturers must adhere to in order to market a device as “Android-compatible.”

He’s referring to Android’s compatibility test suite, or CTS, an automated litmus test to measure whether or not a piece of hardware can claim to run Android.

“Our approach remains unchanged: There are no lock-downs or restrictions against customizing UIs,” wrote Rubin.

Motorola vouches for Rubin’s statement.

“In the time since we’ve started working with Google, our relationship has matured, but it isn’t any more limiting than it ever has been,” Christy Wyatt, Motorola’s VP of mobile software development, told Wired.com. “I don’t believe that anything has changed in the CTS since the beginning.”

Finally, Rubin emphatically denied other rumors of ARM-chipset standardization in the platform, much of which arose in the wake of an anonymously sourced DigiTimes story.

“There are not, and never have been, any efforts to standardize the platform on any single chipset architecture,” Rubin wrote. With the Nexus One, Google’s first flagship phone, the company worked with Qualcomm to install its 1-GHz Snapdragon ARM processors in the HTC-manufactured handsets. The subsequent Nexus S came equipped with Samsung’s 1-GHz Hummingbird processor, which is also based on ARM architecture.

It’s out of character for Rubin and Android to post such a defensive update. Usually, rumors circulating in the media are usually given a brusque “no comment” by Google’s communications team.

But the title of Rubin’s post — “I think I’m having a Gene Amdahl moment” — explains it all. Amdahl coined the acronym FUD (fear, uncertainty and doubt) in 1975. After leaving IBM to form his own IT company, Amdahl claimed he suffered attacks by IBM sales staff attempting to undermine his new venture.

All of this negative attention isn’t good for Android’s “open” image, and maybe that’s what overcame Rubin’s reluctance to speak: too much FUD about Android’s future.

Whether or not this FUD is warranted, however, remains to be seen.

 

 

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Samsung Galaxy S To Get Android 2.3 Gingerbread Within Weeks

samsung_galaxy_s_smartphone_display The popular Samsung Galaxy S smartphone will receive the latest Gingerbread update according to Three’s Twitter feed where a post mentions that the update is expected to come within the next couple of weeks but that they cannot yet confirm a date.

We saw Android OS 2.3.4 popping in our Google Analytics logs, aversion which was also powering the Sprint Nexus S 4G (the successor of the Nexus One and build by Samsung) towards the end of March 2011.

The Galaxy S, like the HTC Desire, can be purchased for as little as £18 per month on a two year contract on Talkmobile with 300 minutes, 1000 texts and an unlimited data allowance (subject to fair usage).

For those looking for an uber-cheap package, there’s an 18-month contract with 100 minutes, 100 texts and unlimited data allowance for £20.42 per month (or just over £360 for the duration of the contract) via Buymobilephones.

Given that the phone itself costs around £320, it is a smashing deal. Unfortunately, the cheapest such deal from 3 was a £28 per month on a two year contract with 900 minutes, 5000 minutes and a mere 1GB data.

As for the phone, it is just like the Samsung Galaxy Tab but only smaller, with less onboard memory and a better camera. There’s a 1GHz processor, 512MB RAM, a 4-inch WVGA AMOLED capacitive touchscreen, a 5-megapixel camera, HD video recording capabilities, DLNA support and weighing only 118g.

 

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Google Maps 5.3 released for Android

Google-Maps-5.3-Location-History-189x300 Google has just launched a new version of their Maps app for the Android operating system. Bringing the version up to 5.3, Google Maps for Android packs some new features that would make any check-in fanatic happy. Google Maps now has a Google Location History dashboard, the ability to check in at “home” and the function to add your own aspects for places when rating them. The Location History dashboard basically records where you’ve been over the past few weeks – so you can keep tabs on where you’ve been in case you’ve had an exciting week you wanted to right about, but you forgot some spots at the end of the trip. The history is only for you to see, and will not be shared with anyone else, plus you have the ability to delete it anytime. Users can now mark a location as their “home”, which Google Latitude will record how long you spend at home, and if you choose to, it can also alert your friends that you’re back at home. And as for the improvement to the rating system, you’ll be able to add your own aspects when rating a spot – i.e. if there’s no rating for music at a place, you can easily add music, rate it and share it with the world. If you’d like to update Google Maps on your Android device, just head to the Android Market and grab it from there for free.

  • See your location history for Latitude (which includes things like how much time spent at home, work, out, etc. if you set those locations up).
  • Check in at home, work, etc.
  • Add your own aspects about places you rate (so you can add “service quality” to a restaurant and then rate that specifically).

Here’s the original link to the Google post: http://googlemobile.blogspot.com/201…board-and.html

 

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Android 2.3 Gingerbread Update

android-gingerbread-update1 Although some lucky Android smartphone users have already received an update to the Android 2.3 Gingerbread operating system, many more are eagerly waiting for the upgrade. There are so many reports about Gingerbread coming to various handsets that it can be difficult to keep up with news for your own smartphone but now you will be able to see easily if your phone is on the Android 2.3 Gingerbread upgrade list.

The Android 2.3 Gingerbread OS gives better speed, enhanced battery life, an improved interface along with an improved keyboard. The 2.3 upgrade has already been received for the HTC Nexus One and the Samsung Nexus S and now a really useful article by J R Raphael on Computerworld has rounded up all the Android 2.3 Gingerbread news for many different Android smartphones. The list will give you your phone’s current status if you’re waiting for Gingerbread and is split into categories. Not only that but the list will be regularly updated so you can keep informed about how much longer you may have to wait.

First on the list is phones that have already received the Gingerbread upgrade and those are followed by phones expected to get the new OS, giving launch dates where known, estimated times from rumors and the latest information. For example an upgrade to 2.3 Gingerbread for the HTC Thunderbolt is expected in the second quarter while an upgrade is expected for the LG Optimus 2X but with no specific date yet. Another category lists phones for which the upgrade looks ‘iffy’ and then there’s another category for those handsets that won’t be getting the upgrade.

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Finally if your phone is not listed at all that’s because there’s no clear information available yet but we can really recommend this article, which has been thoughtfully put together to make life simpler for you. For the full article head to the earlier Computerworld link and remember the list will be regularly updated with the latest info available.

Also if you want to find out more about Android 2.3 Gingerbread, another useful article over on MarketNews gives a lot of details and information about new features. Is your phone on the Android 2.3 upgrade list? Let us have your comments about this.

 

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Motorola XOOM Review

motorola_xoom_android_community07-540x304thumb_ 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.

Software

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.

Browser

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

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.

Battery

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.

Music

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.

YouTube

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.

Google Talk

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.

Conclusion

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.

 

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Android Honeycomb and apps: Win or fail?

Android 3.0 tablets are set to hit the UK left, right and centre in 2011 but there’s one glaring issue affecting all of them at the moment.

Google may have done a lot of work with Android 3.0 Honeycomb. It certainly looks good, has everything you’d expect from a tablet operating system, in terms of features, and has taken centre stage on some of the most exciting tablets we’ve ever seen – the Motorola Xoom, LG Optimus Pad and the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1.

Thing is, there’s one big stinking elephant in the room when it comes to Android 3.0. So what is it? Simple: there’s hardly any dedicated Android 3.0 apps currently available. Not even 100, and when you compare this to Apple’s 60,000+ for the iPad, it starts to look like quite a big problem.

As you might have noticed, so far the only Android 3.0-powered tablet to hit the market is Motorola’s Xoom. Both Samsung and LG have yet to confirm when their respective Android 3.0-powered tablets will be arriving – although it will be sometime this year.

Motorola has yet to release any official figures relating to Xoom sales, but early indicators suggest that it’s not doing as well as Motorola has hoped it would – and this is bad news for both Motorola and Google.

And if all of the above wasn’t enough, Apple launched the iPad 2 – a device so popular across the globe that Apple is struggling to keep up with orders.

So – just how bad is the apps situation? It’s not good. Thankfully, most Android smartphone apps will work on Android 3.0 – albeit with a little tweaking:

‘Android 3.0 brings a new UI designed for tablets and other larger screen devices, but it also is fully compatible with applications developed for earlier versions of the platform, or for smaller screen sizes. Existing applications can seamlessly participate in the new holographic UI theme without code changes, by adding a single attribute in their manifest files.’

But if you’re forking out £500 or so, you’d expect there to be more than a few dedicated Android 3.0 tablet-only applications ready for you to download wouldn’t you? Well, there isn’t – so prepare to be disappointed.

According to Wired Magazine, who tested the Motorola Xoom extensively, there are about 50 dedicated Android 3.0 applications on Google’s newly designed tablet-centric Android Market.

However, of those 50 uncovered by Wired only 14 are said to be native Android 3.0 applications. The rest, according to HTLounge, are phone applications that’ll size up on the tablet display.

Information Week’s Eric Zeman claims to have only found 38 whilst he was testing the Motorola Xoom towards the end of March. Zeman wasn’t pleased either, commenting: ‘Had I actually purchased the Xoom with my own money, I’d be pretty annoyed at the paltry app selection.’

Android 3.0 is now closed source

Google officially made matters a lot worse by delaying the release of the Android 3.0 source code. Only a ‘trusted few’ were granted access to the Android 3.0 source code – namely OEMs and a handful of developers.

According to Geek with a Laptop, ‘While the details are still sketchy, Google says it will delay the distribution of Android 3.0 (Honeycomb) source code for the foreseeable future – whatever that means.  Google says it is not yet ready for the outside world.’

So what’s the official line from Google?

“Android is an open-source project. We have not changed our strategy,” is the mantra espoused by Andy Rubin, vice-president for engineering at Google.

Maybe so, but the delay of the source code and blatant pandering to OEMs on Google’s part has caused quite a ruckus in the open source community. Google has suddenly started behaving like RIM and Apple, and people don’t like it.

Here’s what Paula Rooney of ZD Net made of the decision:

“Transparency is paramount in the open source community. The tablet market is going to be huge. It’s not fair to lead the entire open source developer community along, enjoy massive success and then pull the plug on its open source commitment as the market wave is poised to peak.”

No one – even with all of the above fumbles – doubts Android 3.0, though. It will be huge, just like Android for smartphones. It’s just going to take a while for the applications to start rolling in.

After all, Google only released the official Android 3.0 SDK a couple of days (February 22) before the Xoom launched.

And once these apps start appearing, which they will, everyone will forget about Android 3.0’s sticky start and begin to enjoy having a nice iPad alternative.

Still though, launching a new platform with less than 100 native applications is a serious error and one that Apple, understandably, made light of at its recent iPad 2 launch event.

And who can blame Steve Jobs? Apple has 60,000 dedicated iPad applications on its App Store and can’t keep up with current demand for its latest tablet – talk about winning!

Within this context then, Google has quite literally brought a knife to a gunfight – even HP’s brand new webOS platform has more than 100 native apps.

Nevertheless, Android 3.0 will undoubtedly win out in the end – it’s all just a matter of time.

 

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Motorola XOOM and Honeycomb Review

Motorola Xoom Review: The First Android Honeycomb Tablet Is Expensive, But Is It Worth It? [We Test Out The Xoom And Its Tegra 1GHz Processor, 10-inch Screen and Android 3.0 Goodness.

There’s been a lot of talk about the Motorola Xoom lately. The 10-inch widescreen tablet is the first to carry the tablet-ready Android 3.0 and the rest of its technical specs read like a wish list, but more recently, its high price has drawn attention and headlines to the device. So, after spending some time with the device, is the Motorola Xoom worth the high price that it’ll cost you?

Technical Specificationsxoom350
  • Price: $599 with a 2 year data plan ($799 without a plan).
  • CDMA 800/1900 and with a free upgrade to LTE later this year
  • Android 3.0 (Honeycomb)
  • 5 MP camera and 2 MP front camera with flash, focus & digital zoom. Pictures and Video’s
  • Media enabled, Music & Video on the device or streaming
  • close to 9 hrs battery life over 3G and 10 hrs over wifi, standby time is close to 14 days
  • Email, Google mail, corporate, pop3/imap
  • Google talk
  • Bluetooth 2.1
  • Wifi 802.11 a/b/g/n
  • Data sync via Micro USB port to USB (no Charging)
  • GPS
  • Headset jack
  • Adobe Flash player
  • Android Market place (limited in applications optimized for tablets)
  • Googl Services, Maps, Talk, Ebooks, YouTube
  • Multi touch screen
  • Voice Commands
  • Live wallpapers
  • 10.1 inch WXGA 1280×800 px screen.
  • HD 720p
  • 730 grams
  • 32 GB memory expandable with micro sd card
  • 1 GHZ Dual core processor
  • Accelerometer, Gyroscope, proximity, ambient light, barometer

Hardware and Performance

This is a machine that has been released with its hardware ready and raring to go. Isn’t that supposed to be something that goes without saying? Yes, of course! You might find that the same cannot entirely be said about the software, though, thus the pre-mention here – more on that in the next section. What we’ve got to speak about here first is the loveliness in the physical bits.

This device is black. It’s very clearly supposed to be a blank canvas on which you’re meant to paint your first tablet experience. Because this tablet is being released in a world where one slate’s dominated the market for the first full year of the market being a reality, there’s two situations the vast majority of consumers are in. The first possible situation consumers are in whilst thinking about the XOOM is one where they’ve had an iPad – the second is one where they’ve never had a tablet at all. Thusly, the hardware choice is more than likely one where a consumer has been holding a tablet that’s basically the exact same size and weight as the XOOM, or they’ve had a much smaller smartphone and will be what they see as moving upward.

When one handles the 10.1-inch WXGA display with 160dpi, 1280 x 800 resolution, they instantly must consider the .8 x 6.61 x 0.51 inch device holding it, one that weighs in at 25.75oz (1.61lbs,) as it’s not especially realistic to be holding the device with one hand for more than a few minutes at a time. Then there’s the glossy, glossy screen. It’s so very glossy, it’s basically impossible to use anywhere near sunlight or a lamp. On the other hand, if you’re going to be using this device on your couch at home, at your desk in school, or for odd events like using it to show the 4D-sonogram doctor some 2D-sonogram pictures in a gallery. For that it works exceedingly well, indeed.

It doesn’t seem to our fingers that the screen’s response time and touch sensitivity could possibly be any better, and the monster motor inside is more than ready to back this situation up. You’ll find the NVIDIA Tegra 2 inside, a dual-core 1GHz SoC paired with 1GB of DDR2 RAM and 32GB of integrated storage. If that’s not enough to flip your lid, connections include EVDO Rev.A, WiFi a/b/g/n and Bluetooth 2.1+EDR, along with USB 2.0 and mini HDMI ports. In the future you’ll be able to have the following instead and/or as well: a functional LTE SIM slot, a functional microSD card slot, and a whole separate Wifi-only version of the device.

What’s the web saying about Honeycomb?

Engadget (Joshua Topolsky): “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.”

CrunchGear (John Biggs): “if you open too many apps, it slows down to a crawl. The horrors that Apple seems to have avoided in iOS are readily apparent here. I had quite a few app crashes and many apps designed for 2.x devices crashed. Google Body, remade for Honeycomb, crashed every other try”.

WSJ ( Walt Mossberg): “I’ve always felt that Android had a rough-around-the edges, geeky feel, with too many steps to do things and too much reliance on menus. But Honeycomb eliminates much of that”. He went on to point out: “I found numerous apps in the Android Market that wouldn’t work with the Xoom”.

GigaOM (Kevin Tofel): “Honeycomb still has bugs to be worked out. Aside from some third-party apps crashing, the Android Market has crashed on me twice in a short time. And after Facebook crashed, the Facebook widget became completely non-responsive.” There’s good stuff too as Tofel also points out “Notifications are excellent, and competitors should take note.”

Slashgear (Vincent Nguyen): “The first batch of Honeycomb slates may have some wrinkles – the missing Flash and paucity of video codec support being two examples – but 2011 definitely looks to be the year that Android tablets will come of age.”

Cameras and Multimedia

There are two cameras on the XOOM, one on the back for photos and video, and another on the from primarily for video, but also for not-quite-great photos if that’s what you’d like to use it for. The back-facing camera is a 5-megapixel unit with auto-focus and dual-LED flash. The front-facing camera is 2-megapixels strong, has a fixed-focus, and can be switched to at the tap of a button. What you’re about to see here is a video example from both the front and the back cameras filmed by yours truly.

The back-facing camera is capable of capturing 720p HD video at 30fps, while a 1080p upgrade is promised for the future, while the front-facing camera’s recording capabilities really aren’t worth pecking about. Allow the video above to speak for itself as far as how this all translates to the web. As far as how well it plays back on the device, you’ve got the capability currently of displaying 1080p video on either the device’s screen or via the HDMI 1.4 output which you’ll be shooting out with the cable bundled with the tablet.

If you want to play any video you didn’t film with the device outside the web, it’ll need to be MP4, WebM, 3GP, or H.264/H.263. You could, on the other hand, download a third-party media player and roll with whatever format you can get working on your own. You’ll be rolling strong plopping videos on the device if you’re working with Mac OS X by working with the brand new Android File Transfer, which, if I may be so bold, makes the whole process of accessing the files on your Android device a WHOLE lot easier. Hopefully it works on all versions here on out (currently it works with Android 3.0 only.)

Of course, there’s the lack of Flash player. You’ll need to wait at least another week or two(?), or so, to be sent the update for this and the other things you’ll need to have a “fully” functional device. The ability to work with and watch movies with Flash player has been a big fat point of contention on devices over the past year or so – it’s no less a situation here. But it’s on the way!

Battery

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.

Conclusion

The purpose of this overview is not to bash Honeycomb; there are lots of great features that Google has produced in this first tablet version. But that’s the problem: I’m not sure Google has the luxury of time to get the tablet experience nailed down to the point it is ready for consumer adoption. The recurring mention of crashes in early reviews is not something we should be hearing about a shipping product, and with the XOOM Honeycomb is indeed now shipping. Honeycomb needed to come out swinging for the fence, but it’s still in batting practice.

I suspect the state of Honeycomb had a lot to do with HTC choosing to go with an earlier version of Android for its upcoming Flyer tablet. It would not product a tablet with a glitchy OS. I also believe that what I’ve seen (in person) of webOS on the HP TouchPad is a better and more solid experience on a tablet. Google has its work cut out for Honeycomb, and better move quickly.

 

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LG behind official Google Nexus tablet?

lg-nexus-pad_1 LG may be Google’s OEM of choice for developing a Nexus-branded tablet, and this device could run on the upcoming Ice Cream platform.

Russian blogger Eldan Murtazin is predicting a US summer release for the mystery tablet, a prediction in line with the assumption that Google will announce the product at its annual Google I/O conference in the second week of May. This could also be when Google unveils its Ice Cream Android OS, a system pundits believe will reunite Android’s smartphone and tablet platforms.

Interestingly, Murtazin reports that LG might not have been Google’s first choice – however, competing OEMs Samsung, HTC and Motorola are not interested in developing a product that would eat into the profits of their own devices. This is a great opportunity to grab some mind-share for LG, which also has its own Optimus Pad Android tablet coming out mid-year.

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Google closes Android 3.0 Honeycomb source to prevent use on smartphones

thumb_550_Honeycomb_closed Google has closed availability of the source code to Android 3.0 Honeycomb, explaining that the tablet-oriented software was not ready for use on smartphones and that the company didn’t want outside developers or enthusiasts experimenting with it in unauthorized ways.
Google redefines open source as closed
Google’s Android 3.0 Honeycomb platform was designed exclusively for tablet devices, running initially on Motorola’s Xoom and later this summer on Samsung’s redesigned Galaxy Tab and similar offerings from Toshiba and Acer. New Honeycomb tablets compete not just against Apple’s iPad 2 but also RIM’s Playbook and HP’s webOS TouchPad.
Honeycomb tablets’ key advantage over the iPad 2, Playbook and TouchPad is often cited to be the "openness" of Android, yet Google has decided to suspend open access to Android 3.0 source code for "the foreseeable future," explaining that it "is not yet ready to be altered by outside programmers and customized for other devices, such as phones," according to a report by BusinessWeek.
Google’s Andy Rubin still maintains that "Android is an open-source project," saying, "we have not changed our strategy," while also saying that the company "took a shortcut" in deciding that it should prevent developers from putting the software on phones "and creating a really bad user experience. We have no idea if it will even work on phones."
Of course, the primary allure of open source is that other companies can do things that the vendor has "no idea" about, such as when Apple took the KHTML source and created the Safari browser, or when Nokia, RIM and Google took Apple’s resulting WebKit browser engine and created subsequent, unanticipated new products based on it.
Google closes open source as needed
Google has regularly taken the leading edge of Android development offline to work exclusively with select partners, leaving the larger community to wait until after a release to observe or contribute to the project. This was done at the original release of Android, again with the release of Android 2.0 (in conjunction with Motorola), and at the release of Android 3.0, which surprised the "community" with software that was developed internally, not in the manner of an community led open source project like Mozilla or Linux.
Apple has similarly delayed releases to its Darwin open source kernel project as it prepares major reference releases of Mac OS X, but Apple doesn’t pretend that Darwin is a collaborative, community driven project. Instead, Apple is largely sharing its code with developers so they can better understand how it works and provide feedback.
At the same time, Apple also runs more collaborative open source projects such as the aforementioned WebKit, CUPS, and its Address Book, Calendar and Wiki Severs, which are all openly maintained by a development community larger than Apple itself. Apple does not close down WebKit development to prevent the community from doing things whenever it has "no idea if it will even work."
Rubin’s "definition of open" doesn’t apply to Android 3.0
Rubin’s defense of taking the "open source" Android 3.0 offline is particularly comical given his previous definition of "open," a tweet directed at Apple’s chief executive Steve Jobs that said "the definition of open: ‘mkdir android ; cd android ; repo init -u git://android.git.kernel.org/platform/manifest.git ; repo sync ; make’ meaning that "open" explicitly meant being able to download the source code and freely do anything with it.
Jobs had pointed out that "Google loves to characterize Android as ‘open’ and iOS and iPhone as ‘closed.’ We find this a bit disingenuous and clouding the real difference between our two approaches."
He added that "many Android OEMs, including the two largest, HTC and Motorola, install proprietary user interfaces to differentiate themselves from the commodity Android experience. The user’s left to figure it all out. Compare this with iPhone, where every handset works the same."
Jobs also described various Android app stores as "a mess for both users and developers" and noted that "many Android apps work only on selected handsets, or selected Android versions," alluding to the fact that most Android phones still run an OS release roughly a year old, and often can’t be updated for 3 to 6 months after Google makes an update available.
Honeycomb tablets shut off before opening up
The flagship Honeycomb tablet, Motorola’s Xoom, hasn’t generated much interest in the premise of Android 3.0 being open, instead being ridiculed for its price, incomplete software and missing features it was advertised to have.
The company is reported to be sharply reducing manufacturing orders for the new tablet, with sources blaming its tapered off production on "the unclear market status of iPad-like tablet PCs."
Meanwhile, Motorola is also reported to be working on its own Android OS alternative, motivated by problems related to Android’s platform fragmentation, issues with product differentiation and "issues related to Google’s support for its partners."
Samsung has delayed its own plans to release a Honeycomb tablet after deciding that its original design was "inadequate" compared to the new iPad 2. It hopes to have its thinner models available by June.

 

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