Posts tagged motorola xoom

News Phones Carriers Apps Games Calendar Podcast Video: Which tablet breaks easier – Galaxy Tab, Motorola Xoom, or iPad 2?

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Those device-breaking videos show up online from time to time, bringing a hefty amount of gut-wrenching entertainment to all of us who choose to watch them. Well, today we have a rugged competition between the 7-inch Samsung Galaxy Tab, the Motorola Xoom, and the iPad 2. Though as a gadget lover it still hurts to watch the video, today’s video is a bit more beneficial to the consumer since it promotes the purchase of warranties/insurance (SquareTrade Warranties).

How many times have we thought that purchasing device insurance isn’t necessary? The factory warranty is there after all, right? Well, I can tell you that I have regretted this decision, sometimes less than a month after the purchase. These little guys are not like our old Nokias which seemed like they were built for Superman (I remember one lasted me like 3 years and more than 100 drops).

Well, for those that want to see just how delicate our Android devices can be, the guys at ElectronicsBreak have put these 3 tablets to the test. The video consists of dropping these from waist level, to what seems to be marble or concrete (whatever it is, it is definitely very hard!). We can clearly see that the Galaxy Tab suffered the least battle wounds, and the iPad 2 seems to be the most damaged (I can see your smiles!).

After seeing this video, how do you guys feel? Are you never opting out on that insurance again? Who else has had a bad experience with breaking a device shortly after purchasing it? Share your opinions with us and check out the video after the break.

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News Phones Carriers Apps Games Calendar Podcast Is Verizon’s “Droid” branding helping or hurting?

Whether you are aware of it or not, and completely regardless of whether or not you believe it, the Motorola Droid on Verizon Wireless saved Android. More accurately, it saved Andy Rubin, or at least his job, after the G1 underwhelmed and failed to impress many. It’s release, coupled with the release of Android 2.0, launched Android into the foreground of the tech community, encouraging manufacturers, developers, and eventually users to flock to the OS. I can’t help, despite how important a contribution the Droid moniker and device was to “the cause” if it’s still necessary. Android has seen explosive growth since the Droid, and not just on Verizon. Carriers all over the world can lay claim to a sizeable Android army on their networks, yet easily 45% of the time I explain to a new user that I have an Android phone, the response is similar. “Oh, so that’s a Droid phone?”

droid-wallpaper-general-image

Don’t get me wrong, it was brilliant on behalf of Verizon’s then brand new marketing company to come up with the idea. The “Anti-iPhone” vibe that really took root after that was really something to watch grow. Plus, like it or not, the “Droid Does” campaign carried a fanatical wave of loyalty to all devices. During a recent interview, actor David Della Rocco was heard talking about his “Fender Phone”, a MyTouch Fender edition, lead him into the quote “Fender DOES” during the interview. There’s no arguing it’s effectiveness not just for Verizon, but for the entire Android ecosystem. I am starting to think, however, that it might be time to hang that particular bit of culture up for the betterment of the platform.

Over the last couple of months I have seen an incredible increase in Android marketing that includes the little green guy. Sprint, who has consistently used a 3D Andy in their commercials, has been routinely using him as the focal point to their commercials. Sony, during the SuperBowl, stitched thumbs onto him in the basement of some third world city for the Xperia Play. Kyocera and Motorola both have put employees in Android costumes for their device launches, and let’s not forget the Motorola Xoom. The initial activation of a Xoom is simply covered in wireframe Andy iconography. When you hear a Droid commercial, Android is listed as a feature, as though at some point there would be a Droid that isn’t running an Android OS. When you look at the marketing, it’s difficult for consumers to tell that these devices are supposed to be similar.

It’s obvious that Verizon has no plans to retire the Droid franchise. In fact, there is quite the wave of Android phones with the Droid brand headed to Big Red, including a first ever Samsung phone. While it’s not entirely a bad thing, especially considering Verizon’s plan to not include Bing on their Droid branded phones, there’s no doubt that there are plenty of consumers who see Android phones and Droid phones as being completely different. Is Verizon the only guilty party here? Of course not. In many ways the same could be said of T-Mobile’s MyTouch line, and at least Verizon doesn’t go as far as to include a special button on their phones. There’s little comparison in terms of popularity between the two brands, as obviously the Droid line has seen a much larger number of activations. It may be that Verizon is simply the biggest kid on the playground when it comes to branding Android, but no matter how fair you think it may be the biggest kid in this case is also getting the most attention.

So, is the attention good for Android? In terms of activations, it’s terrific. I am more than sure that Verizon contributes quite a bit to the 350,000 handsets that are activated each day across the world. However, as things start to even out, as the Smartphone market begins to cool down, and it will eventually cool down, it’s lines in the sand like Droid that will blur the landscape for users considering leaving another platform.

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Nvidia Android 3.0 Driver Support In Doubt For Select Tegra 2 Tablets

A new report claims that NVIDIA has announced they will not offer the necessary Android 3.0 Honeycomb driver update to earlier versions of the companies popular Tegra 2 SoC processor. Lots of Android tablets currently being offered could be endanger.

The Tegra 2 chip which is a pretty old chip (by industry standards) and it has been offered in three versions thus far. Now only the two oldest versions are not getting Android 3.0 driver support Betelgeuse and Harmony (both codenames). The third and newest version of Tegra 2 named Ventana will get the updated Android 3.0 drivers.

Nvidia-Tegra-2-on-board

Newer tablets like the Motorola XOOM are using the Ventana version of Tegra 2 chips. However older but still relatively popular tablets like the Advent Vega, Notion Ink Adam, Toshiba Folio 100 and ViewSonic G-Tablet all use the two older version of Tegra 2 named above.

Not getting the update means even if Android 3.0 gets ported to those older Tegra 2 tablets system optimization and performance won’t be the best it can be. You see Android 3.0 offers hardware video acceleration which the Tegra 2 can benefit greatly from given the GeForce GPU and dual 1GHz ARM Cortex A9 cores installed on the SoC.

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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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Google Holding Onto Android Honeycomb Source Code Indefinitely

honeycomb-450x298 To the dismay of Android developers everywhere, Google’s Android team has announced that they will withhold the tablet OS Honeycomb’s, source code for an indefinite period of time. The move has prompted some criticism, since Android is supposed to be an open platform. The decision, however, is both a blessing and a curse. Hackers, rooters, home brewers and enthusiasts will have to wait for an official Honeycomb version to flash to their rooted tablets, but when that day arrives it will mean we have a much more stable version to play with than the preview version 4 making the rounds on the net right now.

The reasons behind this latest decision are at least solid and understandable. The Motorola Xoom – our first look at a Honeycomb tablet – showed that the tablet OS was not quite ready for primetime. Motorola, in a move to lead the marketplace, pushed the Xoom out before it was really ready. While the tablet itself had other issues, Honeycomb itself is full of holes at this point. Google’s decision also comes ahead of rumors that LG in partnership with Google, will be releasing an official Google tablet in the summer.

We are all crossing our fingers, waiting to see if the source code will be available afterward. When it does happen we can be sure that a stable Honeycomb will not only give iOS a run for its money, but come out stronger as the open community gets to work customizing it.

Update: The news originates from WSJ and flies into our den through CNet. Got it Russel? Sorry, we somehow failed/forgot to add the reference earlier.

 

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Motorola XOOM (Verizon) Android 3.0 tablet review

xoom_thumb The Motorola Xoom, is the first android 3.0 tablet to hit the market, we already gone through our first hardware impression of the device, you can read it here. But I can tell you I do like the hardware is solid overall and worth complement to the OS. So what makes the Xoom different from other tablet and what sets it apart. Two things, its the first Android 3.0 Tablet, so it sets the standard for other to follow, and a good one at that . A solid camera hardware finish feel good, device as a sturdy feel in the hands, the ability to stream video out via a HDMI out port. Secondly Android 3.0 has really taken a big step into the Tablet arena.

Overview:

They say specs aren’t everything, but the XOOM’s hardware is powerful enough to make any tech geek drool:

  • 10.1-inch 16:10 WXGA (1280×800) LCD display
  • 2MP webcam
  • 5MP rear cam capable of recording 720p HD video
  • 1GHz dual-core NVIDIA Tegra 2 processor
  • Stock Android 3.0 (Honeycomb)
  • 1GB DDR2 RAM
  • 32GB internal storage
  • 3250 mAh 24.1 watt-hour lithium ion polymer battery
  • WiFi 802.11b/g/n
  • EVDO Rev. A radio upgradeable to LTE

And now that your interest has been piqued, I present to you the short, "in a nutshell" version of the review:

Pros & Cons

Pros:

  • Honeycomb’s UI is stunning. Stunning.
  • Honeycomb apps are miles ahead of their mobile counterparts in terms of both functionality and interface
  • Full HDMI capabilities
  • Powerful dual-core CPU and 1 GB of RAM provide all the power you could ever want (and then some) 
  • Beautiful 10.1-inch display

Cons:

  • Steep $600 on-contract / $800 off-contract price tag
  • No Flash at launch
  • No LTE out of the gate; upgrade won’t be available for about 90 days and will take 6 business days to complete
  • SD card functionality not yet available
  • Honeycomb apps are few and far between (at least for now)

Overall: As the first Honeycomb tablet, the XOOM contains oodles of potential, but its lack of apps and sky-high price tag prevent it from being a mainstream device.

Hardware

Motorola’s XOOM is a large tablet with a wide-screen 10.1-inch touchscreen display. The display offers a 16:10 aspect ratio and 1280 x 800 pixel resolution, which is great, but it lacks the brightness, color saturation, and overall visual appeal of the display found on its arch-rival, the iPad. It is entirely passable, but it just doesn’t offer much in terms of wow factor.

The rest of the hardware, however, is pretty solid. It is very well constructed and feels comfortable to hold. Some people might complain about the power button that sits on the back of the device, but I find its position to be natural when the XOOM is held in landscape mode. The rear facing speakers, however, are a problem. They don’t sound great to start with and supply sound better to everybody else in the room than to the XOOM’s user. That’s a design error. The 3.5mm headphone jack sits on the top edge of the XOOM, which I also feel is a poor choice.

When viewing the device in landscape mode, the power port, micro-USB data port, and micro-HDMI port are located on the bottom edge, where they can connect to the two different dock accessories that Motorola offers. It’s annoying that the XOOM uses a non-standard charger, but Samsung’s Galaxy Tab is the same way.

The rear cover of the XOOM is not user removable, so there is no access to the battery. It features a matte finish that looks nice, but shows more finger prints than would a more typical soft-touch paint. The 5 megapixel camera and its dual-LED flash sit near the power button and the speakers. The layout works as well as could be expected, but the truth is that a huge tablet is not a good device for snapping photos or videos. The 2 megapixel camera that sits on the front of the device is perfectly placed for video chatting, though.

Apart from the volume keys on the left edge of the device, there are no other external controls. Unlike the smartphone version of Android, the main controls for things like back and home are on-screen, not dedicated hardware or touch sensitive buttons.

There are two as-yet unused hardware features on the Motorola XOOM. Under one cover on the top edge of the device sit the microSD memory card slot and the SIM card slot for LTE 4G data support. The microSD memory card is not usable at this time, but will be enabled in a future OS update. The free upgrade to LTE 4G data support will require a trip back to Motorola, and will take over a week for most people when you include shipping time, but won’t require any change of data plan or additional monthly fees.

Since I have them at my disposal, I’ll touch on the accessories that can be bought to work with the XOOM. There are two docks available, as I alluded to earlier. The smaller dock offers charging and an auxiliary 3.5mm audio jack, the larger features a built-in speaker, charging, and a micro-HDMI cable pass-through. The larger model also requires a different charger for some unfathomable reason. The built-in speakers in the HDMI model are not great, but better than those in the XOOM itself. The last accessory is the Bluetooth keyboard that I am using to type this review. It has great key feel, and I can’t imagine not using it now, but it (or the OS) often suffers from a stuck key problem during prolonged use.

Display

Though it may not  have the viewing angles of the iPad’s IPS display, the XOOM definitely holds its own when it comes to the all-important screen. As can be seen from the photo above, the 10.1-inch LCD’s 1280×800 WXGA resolution looks really crisp, and colors are vibrant and bright, just the way I like it.

I’d argue that the real story with the XOOM’s display isn’t its quality, however; what’s most important here is the 16:10 aspect ratio. And I, for one, found the widescreen form factor much more comfortable to use (as opposed to the 4:3 ratio found on tablets like the iPad) – as a result of this ratio, the keyboard is a lot broader, allowing for a much more pleasant typing experience. Similarly, HD movies look marvelous on the XOOM – unlike Apple’s slate, the bars across the top and bottom of the screen are nearly nonexistent. And games? Well, have a look:

wm_IMG_3892_thumb

The one downside of the super-wide shape is that it makes the XOOM look even worse in portrait mode. I suspect this is why Steve Jobs and co. decided to go with the rather squarish design of the iPad – when you turn the XOOM on its side, you find a strangely and ridiculously tall device.

Aspect ratios aside, I think the XOOM’s display is among the best you’ll find on any tablet, and I wouldn’t hesitate to call 10 inches the perfect size for a tablet (though I’m sure some of you will beg to differ).

Usability

When it comes to the new Android 3.0 Honeycomb OS, you can forget most everything you know about Android’s user experience. Having been designed from the ground up for tablets, almost nothing in Honeycomb is the same as on smartphones. In my opinion Google did a good job of designing the basic user interface in Honeycomb, on a macro scale, but failed to get a lot of the finer points right.

Let’s start with the new home screen, which I like. Users can swipe from one screen to the next with ease, and each screen can be configured with shortcuts, widgets, and wallpapers. That works. The main menu leaves me unimpressed, though. Sure there are multiple panels that users can swipe between, but you can’t re-order them or group them. Google had the chance to step up here, and once again failed to do so, leaving the task to the manufacturers to implement in future models that will have customized UIs. I do like that there is a separate tab that shows only user-installed apps, and appreciate that apps can be uninstalled by dragging them from the main menu to the trashcan. Newly installed will automatically show up on the home screen as a shortcut, too. That much is progress, at least.

Now on to the main navigation controls. The back, home, task-switcher, and (sometimes) menu buttons sit in the lower left hand corner of the display. The icons could have been better designed, in my opinion, but once you know what they are, they work. I dislike the fact that the menu button only appears some of the time, depending on the app. Some apps built for tablets use only a new control in the upper right hand corner of the screen (which is easy to reach), some use both, and older smartphone apps only use the menu button. That inconsistency bothers me. Google could have handled that better.

I mostly like the new notification area, which is found in the bottom right hand corner of the screen. The curtain is gone, replaced with a list of notifications that are accessed by tapping on the digital clock. Doing so lists all of the notifications and some quick access functions. My complaints are that there is no way to clear all notifications at once (clearing a list of 20 can be torture) and that some of the quick access buttons require too many taps. You can adjust screen brightness or disable notifications easily enough, but turning Wi-Fi on or off requires 5 screen taps (if you count the required back button press). Samsung and others already handle this type of functionality better on smartphones, so Google should have known better.

When it comes to applications, though, things get really awkward. Part of the problem is that there are very few apps that have been optimized for Honeycomb tablets. Very few, indeed. Most smartphone apps run in full screen mode (but not all), but when they do, font sizes are often too small, input boxes and list items too wide, and things just generally feel out of proportion. When you do find a good tablet optimized application, though, you start to understand the platform’s potential. Unfortunately, that potential has yet to be realized, and probably won’t be for some time to come.

Another real issue with apps is that the XOOM’s Honeycomb OS is just doesn’t appear to provide a stable enough platform. Apps that run perfectly fine on any of the 100+ Android smartphone models that exist can be hugely unstable when running on Honeycomb. Even Google’s own apps like YouTube, Android Market, and the new Browser have crashed on me multiple times. I should also report that the home button has failed to work a few times (blank screen) and the task switcher button will sometimes show no running apps, only to change its mind when you tap on it again. Don’t let the 3.0 designation fool you, folks. This is very much a 1.0 operating system release, and you will be reminded of that often.

Apps / App Store

The real downfall of Android 3.0 Honeycomb so far is application support. Not only are there fewer than two dozen tablet specific titles available from the Android Market as I write this, but compatibility with older titles is somewhat spotty. While most of the over 100,000 applications found in the Android market will work in full screen mode, some do not, and those that do are often less than optimal, offering small on-screen controls and fonts, and overly large text input boxes. Then there is the issue with many of the applications crashing, which is likely part of the "1.0" effect of Honeycomb being, in many ways, a brand new OS.

Since the Motorola XOOM runs a stock install of Android 3.0, there are few non-Google apps pre-loaded on the tablet apart from standard personal organizer apps like the Calendar (which syncs with Exchange and Gmail accounts). Google Maps, Navigation, Places, and Books are all there, and a pair of games are pre-loaded as well (Corby and Dungeon Defenders). The games show off the XOOM’s dual-core processor’s abilities and are cool to watch, too. While new titles are being added daily, any early adopters expecting to have access to a wide assortment of tablet-specific apps are going to be sorely disappointed.

Messaging

Considering the size of its ow-screen keyboard and of the screen in general, it is no real surprise that the Motorola XOOM is a pretty good messaging platform. There is no support for text or picture messaging, though. There is also no built-in support for social networking sites like Facebook or Twitter, but there is no shortage of free third party applications available to fill that void. The only instant messaging client loaded on the XOOM is Gtalk, which can be used not only for instant messaging but also for video chatting using the forward-facing camera. The quality, even over Wi-Fi, isn’t fantastic, but it is acceptable.

There are two pre-installed email applications on the XOOM. The first, Gmail, is a new multi-pane version of the popular and fully featured Gmail application seen on Android smartphones. Users are presented with nice views of the folders, message lists, and messages in a very organized and intuitive manner. On top of that, the Gmail client offers the features like Priority Inbox and threaded conversation views that users have come to expect from Gmail. The regular email app offers the same paned view as Gmail, and is equally nice to use, though it lacks some of the Gmail specific features I mentioned. Both offer full HTML email support with multi-touch zooming, which is a handy feature when you are working with a large, high-res display.

Browser

The web browser that ships with Android Honeycomb is quite different from the browser we find in Android smartphones. For starters, it offers true tabbed browsing, just as you would find on Google Chrome on the desktop. The Honeycomb browser even supports Chrome’s Incognito mode (for leaving no cookies or history of your browsing sessions) and will synchronize with Chrome’s bookmarks – even supporting bookmark folders. The new features are quite nice.

The browsing itself is generally quite fast and very accurate, but there are some glitches from time to time. Nothing huge, just some visual quirks during panning or zooming occasionally that clear themselves up. In the Labs section of the browsers settings you can enable an advanced UI mode that lets you drag browser controls onto the screen by swiping from the display’s edge – it’s pretty slick. The only real issue with the browser is that there is no Adobe Flash support yet. Adobe has said that we can expect proper Adobe Flash 10.2 support in a few weeks, though.

Keyboard

wm_IMG_3780_thumb As mentioned in the ‘Display’ section, the XOOM’s widescreen display makes using the software keyboard a hell of a lot easier. But that’s not the only reason typing is such a pleasant experience on the tablet; Honeycomb’s keyboard is excellent in and of itself.

It provides squarish keys that closely mimic the ones on a physical keyboard, and you can long press any of them to bring up additional options like accented letters. The whole thing has a blue, Tron-ish theme that I quite appreciated, and I think even non-techie consumers will like it.

Of course, all the good looks in the world won’t help you if the keyboard isn’t easy to use, but I’m happy to report that Google’s really done a nice job here and made it very usable – in landscape mode, that is.

In portrait mode, typing is a nearly impossible task – it literally requires the slow and antiquated hunt-and-peck technique. Suffice to say, serious typists will either end up using the XOOM in landscape mode all the time or downloading a third-party keyboard from the Market.

Google has also made significant improvements on the cut-and-paste front. To bring up the menu seen in the photo above, simply double tap on some text. From there, you can drag the markers around to select the specific sentence, word, or paragraph you wish to cut / copy.

To paste, tap once in a text field, then tap on the marker that appears. This should bring up a ‘Paste’ button. Alternatively, you could follow the method for copying text, and if you already have something in the clipboard, you can simply tap the ‘Paste’ button next to ‘Copy.’

One other nice touch is that if you select text in the browser, you also have the option to share it, search the web for it, or find other uses of the word(s) on the page.

It’s all very well done, and I especially like how while selecting text, you can use multitouch to move both markers simultaneously.

Music

Android 3.0 Honeycomb offers users an all-new music application. Navigation can be a little non-obvious at first, as is the case with many new tablet apps, but once you mess around with it for a short while, you understand what is going on. The app offers a very cool looking 3D rendered scrolling flow of album covers in the New and Recent section of the device, which I love, but offers nothing similarly interesting for the album, artist, playlist and other views that it offers. I don’t see why the cool interface should be restricted to that one section, especially one that I really have no use for.

At least the audio quality that the app and the XOOM put out is good. Good as long as you are using a decent pair of headphones, that is. The rear facing stereo speakers do an inadequate job of pushing out music to a room, as they sound very tinny and are facing the wrong way. Plugging the XOOM into the HDMI-capable speaker dock accessory changes the situation quite a bit for the better, though. I also want to mention that it is pretty easy to build playlists directly on the XOOM, and tracks can be rearranged with a simple drag of the finger.

Battery

Motorola doesn’t list the mAh rating for the battery in the XOOM, instead only offering that it is a 24.5 Watt-hour battery. Assuming that it uses the same voltage as Android smartphones (3.7v), then we can guess that the battery offers just over 6600mAh of power. In any case, Motorola claims the XOOM’s battery should be good for up to 9 hours of 3G web browsing, 10 hours of Wi-Fi web browsing, 3.3 days of music playback, 10 hours of video playback, or about 14 days of standby time.

In my experience, I can get a couple of days out of a full charge with my normal use, which involves mostly email and web browsing, but also some gaming. That’s good eough for me.

Alas, the XOOM and Android 3.0 still contain plenty of untapped potential, and until said potential is utilized, I can’t see an average consumer walking into a store and spending $799 for Moto’s tablet when he / she could pick up an equivalent iPad for $70 less. And honestly, I can’t see myself doing that either, as I’m confident that the XOOM’s price will soon drop (or other manufacturers will produce more affordable Honeycomb tablets), and it’s hard to find a compelling reason to spend $800 on a product purely because of its potential.

That said, Honeycomb is a great platform, and I can’t wait to see what developers will have done with it in a few months. Because in the long run, open always wins the race… even if it has a bit of a slow start.

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Wi-Fi only XOOM on sale March 27 for $599

xoom wifi

Motorola Mobility Holdings Inc. (MMI) announced this week that its XOOM will now have a Wi-Fi edition in the U.S. beginning March 27. Some of the retailers offering the 10.1-inch HD tablet powered by Android 3.0 Honeycomb include Amazon, Best Buy, RadioShack, Costco, Staples, Walmart, and some Sam’s Club locations. The 32 GB tablet has an MSRP of $599.

“Motorola XOOM is a truly innovative tablet – its design, coupled with being the first tablet to have Android 3.0, results in a user experience that is one-of-a-kind,” said Dan Papalia, vice president of retail sales for Motorola Mobility. “We are now continuing to expand the choices available to consumers with the Motorola XOOM Wi-Fi to be available soon from numerous leading retailers in the United States.”

See top stories in the WDM Content Network:
• Tablets, iPhones, 3D TV Screens
• Top Ten Biggest Brands
• Click here to read the latest edition of Business Review USA

Motorola fans are all kinds of excited for the XOOM when it was released February 24 and now that the tablet will be partnered with a Wi-Fi connection, they’re even giddier. The XOOM is still the only tablet to work off of the Honeycomb OS.

According to a statement, the XOOM showcases the innovations of the Honeycomb user experience – including widgets, true multi-tasking, browsing, notifications and customization – on a 10.1-inch widescreen HD display, enabling video content that’s richer and clearer than ever before. With a 1GHz dual-core processor and 1 GB of RAM, Motorola XOOM delivers exceptionally fast web-browsing performance.

The latest Google Mobile services include Google Maps 5.0™ with 3D interaction and access to more than 3 million Google eBooks and apps from Android Market™. The XOOM also supports a Beta of Adobe® Flash® Player 10.2 downloadable from Android Market, enabling the delivery of rich Flash based web content including videos, casual games and rich Internet applications.

 

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Android Gingerbread HTC Flyer UK Pre-order Available

If you reside in the United Kingdom and have a hankering to own the new Android Gingerbread tablet out of the HTC stable, the HTC Flyer, which is reportedly due release sometime in April, you might like to know you can now pre-order the device.

According to an article over on T3, the first retailer to offer the Android HTC Flyer for pre-order in the UK is Clove although the tablet does come with quite a hefty price in tow, 600 quid inclusive of VAT.

HTC_Flyer_610_w500

However that £600 is not an official price from HTC so apparently that hefty asking price will be altered once HTC confirms the final pricing for the HTC Flyer.

The HTC Flyer is a 7-inch slate sporting a 5 megapixel auto-focus camera and 1.3 megapixel front facing camera, 1.5Ghz processor, 1GB RAM, WiFi, Bluetooth, microSD expansion up to 32GB, GPS, Evernote sync, smart stylus, digital compass and ambient light sensor.

However, with the HTC Flyer coming out to play sporting that Android Gingerbread OS rather than Google’s tablet specific OS Android 3.0 Honeycomb, the HTC Flyer may have a battle on its hands against the likes of the Motorola Xoom and LG Optimus Pad.

 

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MOTOROLA XOOM Wi-Fi is available for sale to the U.S. market

Motorola has announced sales of its Tablet PC, MOTOROLA XOOM Wi-Fi edition in the U.S. on 27 March at an MSRP of $ 599 for 32 GB version.

XOOM_Dyns_composite

recall the technical specs:

  • Operating System: Android 3.0 (Honeycomb)
  • Dimensions: 249.1 h167, 8h12, 9 mm
  • Weight: 730 gr.
  • Display: 10.1-inch, a resolution of 1280×800 pixels
  • 1 GHz dual-core processor NVIDIA Tegra 2
  • Communication: 3.5 mm, micro USB 2.0 HS, Corporate Sync, Wi-Fi 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz 802.11b/g/n, Bluetooth 2.1 + EDR + HID
  • Supported audio formats: AAC, AAC +, AMR NB, AMR WB, MP3, XMF
  • Supported video formats: 720p zapis/1080p playback (including streaming video), H.263, H.264, MPEG4
  • Main camera: 5 megapixel with dual LED backlight
  • Front camera: 2 MP
  • Memory: 32 GB Flash, microSD slot for memory card, 1 GB DDR2 RAM

 

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