Posts tagged motorola

Android 3.1 update for Motorola Xoom available from today

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Existing users of Motorola Xoom and Xoom WiFi in India will receive an update from Android 3.0 to Android 3.1 over the air on July 29, the handset manufacturer has announced. The announcement concurs with an earlier report of The Mobile Indian.

The most notable of the new features, the 3.1 update activates the SD card slot so users can expand the memory of their Motorola Xoom up to 64GB, with the addition of a 32GB SD card. This update also includes improved multi-tasking, providing instant visual access to a large number of applications as well as resizable home screen widgets for Gmail, Calendar and Browser. Android 3.1 BrowserQuick Controls UI

Android 3.1 improves UI transitions, both within the system and across standard apps, says Google. Examples include an optimized  transition between the Launcher and the Apps list. Color, positioning, and text have all been tweaked for ease of use, and there is now a consistent audible feedback throughout the UI,

In addition, users are now said to be able to customize the touch-hold interval.

On the hardware front, Android 3.1 adds USB host support, as well as automatic hardware detection to support more USB accessories. Users can now attach "almost any type of external keyboard or mouse," and support has been added for PC joysticks and gamepads that are connected over USB or Bluetooth, says the company.

It will also bring, to the Motorola Xoom, support for most PC joysticks and gamepads that connect over USB or Bluetooth.

The Android 3.1 update will also enable the users to transfer picture directly from camera, so users can connect their cameras over USB and import their pictures to the gallery with a single touch.

Android 3.1 adds a WiFi lock feature that enables a continuous WiFi connection even when the device the screen is turned off. This enables users "to play continuous streamed music, video, and voice services for long periods, even when the device is otherwise idle." Besides, the Android 3.1 upgrade promises to bring Adobe Flash Player, as well as File Manager to the Xoom.

Google also announced it is adding movie rentals to Android Market. Starting today, thousands of movies starting at $2 a pop will be available, says the company. Users can rent a movie on their home computers, and then view it on their tablet or phone. Xoom users will get the feature today, and the update will roll out to Android 2.2 and above devices in the coming weeks.

The upgrade will be available over-the-air upgrade, which will trigger a notification window with the option for users to download the update immediately or at a later date. It can thereafter be downloaded manually by going to "Settings > About Tablet > System Updates". The upgrade is about 40MB in size. However, users must note here one thing that service providers do not provide over-the-air update. Hence, users may to upgrade their devices manually through Motorola’s website.

Other countries in Asia Pacific that will receive the same update include Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, Singapore, Australia and New Zealand.

Motorola Asks Everyone What Cool Android Apps They’d Like to See, Gets Over 10,000 Votes for an Unlocked Bootloader

unlocked-bootloader-long1 In a poll that has clearly taken a turn for the worst (for Motorola, anyway), Motorola has asked their Facebook fans what types of new apps they’d like to see from developers. Unfortunately for them, they left the poll open to custom responses – you know who showed up for this juicy occasion. Rooters and developers the world over flocked to this opportunity to fight for their devices’ freedom and to let Motorola know that they want — nay, they need an unlocked bootloader. Over a dozen of these responses were left with subsequent votes on them totaling up to over 10,000. Doesn’t exactly fit Motorola’s original question, but the message has been sent. Let’s see how or if Motorola responds to the outcry.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Motorola and Huawei settle all pending lawsuits

In a joint statement issued on Tuesday, Motorola Solutions and Huawei have announced an agreement to settle all pending litigation between the two companies. Motorola filed a suit against Huawei in July 2010 alleging theft of trade secrets, and Huawei responded in January of this year with a suit alleging Motorola was illegally transferring Huawei’s intellectual property to Nokia Siemens Networks (NSN). Motorola solutions has now agreed to withdraw all claims related to Motorola v. Lemko, et al., and Huawei will withdraw its claims against Motorola Solutions and NSN. In addition, Huawei has agreed to allow Motorola to transfer intellectual property and other agreements with Huawei to NSN for an undisclosed sum. “We regret that these disputes have occurred between our two companies,” Motorola Solutions CEO Greg Brown said in a statement. “Motorola Solutions values the long-standing relationship we have had with Huawei. After reviewing the facts, we decided to resolve these matters and return to our traditional relationship of confidence and trust. I am pleased that we can again focus on having a cooperative and productive relationship.” Hit the jump for the full pres release.

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Motorola Solutions and Huawei Issue Joint Statement

CHICAGO, Ill. – April 13, 2011 Motorola Solutions, Inc. (NYSE: MSI) and Huawei Technologies Co., Ltd. announced today that they have entered into an agreement to settle all pending litigation between the two parties pending the satisfaction of certain conditions. For its part, after further review of the matter, Motorola Solutions has agreed to withdraw its claims and dismiss, with prejudice, Huawei as a defendant in the Motorola v. Lemko, et al. litigation pending in the Chicago federal district court. For its part, Huawei has agreed to withdraw its claims and dismiss, with prejudice, its lawsuit against Motorola Solutions and Nokia Siemens Networks (NSN) in the Chicago federal district court and to resolve its claims against Motorola Solutions and NSN by entering into an agreement that allows Motorola Solutions to transfer its commercial agreements with Huawei to NSN for a fee, and allows NSN to receive and use Huawei confidential information to service the networks Motorola deployed worldwide using Huawei’s products and technologies.

In 2000, Motorola and Huawei entered into an important, successful commercial relationship during which Motorola resold certain Huawei products under the Motorola name. Over the next ten years, Motorola purchased $880 million in technology from Huawei that covered core networks and radio access networks.

“We regret that these disputes have occurred between our two companies. Motorola Solutions values the long-standing relationship we have had with Huawei. After reviewing the facts, we decided to resolve these matters and return to our traditional relationship of confidence and trust. I am pleased that we can again focus on having a cooperative and productive relationship,” said Greg Brown, President & CEO of Motorola Solutions.

“Throughout our decade long relationship with Motorola Solutions, Huawei has contributed cutting edge technology to Motorola Solutions for use around the globe. Huawei provided Motorola’s experts and counsel with source code and millions of documents. Huawei acted properly and above board at all times and developed its products independently and without the use of any Motorola trade secrets. With the resolution of these cases, and the misunderstandings put to rest, Huawei is pleased to move forward with its efforts to provide innovative solutions to its customers,” said Guo Ping, Vice Chairman of the Board and Executive Vice President of Huawei.

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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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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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Petitioners Pressure Motorola to Change Bootloader Encryption Practices

Motorola-Mobility-Launches-as-Independent-Company-550x385

A group of power users have gotten just about peeved with Motorola and their bootloader encryption for many of their MOTOBLUR phones. (In fact, I think the only Android phone of theirs that remains unencrypted is the original Motorola Droid on Verizon. Please feel free to correct me if I’m wrong.) Anywho, they’ve taken to Groubal – an online petition service – to collect virtual signatures and to spread the word.

As of the time of this posting they’ve gathered over 3,800 signatures and more are sure to be added. It’s a noble cause, but I have doubts about Motorola’s response, if any – 3,800 people is small compared to the amount of users who probably don’t care for this kind of low-level access. Still, perhaps outlets like us shining some light on the petition could help a bit.

It’s worthy to note that Motorola has already reached out to the development community and have publicly stated their intent to look at several different solutions that’ll allow both sides to meet halfway. Many of you wrote it off as PR fluff to keep the negative press and word-of-mouth at bay, though. The description on Groubal acknowledges Motorola’s previous statement and essentially serves as fire under Motorola’s figurative butt to get things moving with an official announcement about their plans.

The petition on Groubal is the biggest the site has ever seen and has featured the cause on their front page. I chose not to put too much stock into that fact, though, considering there are only 580+ petitions on the site making up for 12k+ signatures overall.

I’m also not going to hold my breath for Motorola to give in as online petitions – even those with tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of signatures – rarely work these days. (Physical petitions have all but gone the way of the dodo, too.) I do want to see Motorola live up to their word, of course, but I’m not sure a petition is going to change anything in their timeline.

We’ll be monitoring the situation closely from here on out and will be sure to let you folks know if any interesting developments unfold. Be sure to let your concerns be known over at Groubal if this is something that’s of great importance to you. [Thanks to all who sent this in!]

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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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WiFi–only Xoom gets its own root method(About Motorola smartphone)

WiFi-android Root access is now available on the just-released Wifi-only Motorola Xoom, thanks to some enterprising XDA members. The rooting process involves using the Android SDK, as well as a fair amount of command-line wizardry, so it’s certainly not for the feint-hearted. You’ll also be on your own if something goes wrong, as rooting will almost certainly void your warranty.

Still, if you think the prospect of owning a rooted Honeycomb tablet is worth the risk of potentially owning a bricked Honeycomb tablet, then hit the source link to find a complete list of files, along with rooting instructions.

If you’re interested in rooting your Verizon-branded Xoom, be sure to check our earlier post for instructions. [XDA]

Wifi-only Xoom gets its own root method posted originally by Android Central

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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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