Honeycomb OS Features on the Xoom
Hitting the Sweet Spot for Tablets with HoneyComb
As mentioned earlier, the main highlight of the Motorola Xoom is the Honeycomb OS, specially for tablet usage by Google. Previous Android tablets run the same OS as Android smartphones, which made these tablets feel and look like "oversized" phones. With the launch of Honeycomb for tablets, we see a revamped user interface complete with tablet-friendly widgets and apps that are optimized for the larger screens.
When we power on the Motorola Xoom, it greets us with a lock screen that shows the time and date. Swiping the lock icon any direction out of the circle reveals the home screen. Existing Android users will be surprised at how different the interface looks from their smart phones or tablets which have earlier Android versions.
Another notable feature of Honeycomb is the App Launcher. It can either be activated by the + icon on the top right corner of the screen or a long press on the screen. It allows you to preview the five home screen panels and a list of customization options such as widgets, app shortcuts and wallpapers.
Honeycomb comes with five home screen panels, which gives you plenty of space to place your apps and widgets. There are also new widgets designed specifically for tablets . This is a key advantage over the iPads, as you can customize the screens any way you want them to be. For example, the Bookmarks widget is an interactive tool that allows you to browse your favorite websites by tapping on the thumbnails of websites. The thumbnails contain screenshots of the websites. Google, Picasa and Facebook are default bookmarks.
You will be glad to see 3D-like thumbnails views of video clips in the YouTube app. Search results will be shown in grids.
The virtual keyboard has also undergoes a face-lift. The keys are much bigger and better spaced out, giving your fingers more room to type on. This makes the typing experience more comfortable and faster. It also has a distinct yet cool addition on the layout - an emoticon key, which comes in handy during instant messaging with your peers.
The Internet browser in Honeycomb is refined to make better use of the bigger screen estate. It bears some resemblance to the Chrome browser. It supports multi-tab browsing, which you can open several tabs simultaneously within the same window. Moreover, you can open an incognito tab for private browsing. This means that there will be no record of your browsing and download history in that mode.
Despite the vast improvements seen from the overhaul of the Android OS, there is still room for improvement. The number of Android apps available specifically for Honeycomb is quite miserable compared to the iPads, which have access to over 65,000 apps. This may put off potential buyers as the functionality of the Xoom will be limited to the limited apps available at the moment. However, given the rate of Android's growth, we are confident that there will be more apps being created for Android tablets in the coming months.
Android also needs to standardize the icon sizes of the apps. Such irregularities, when compared to the uniformity in iOS, do not put Honeycomb in such a good light.
The multitasking feature is innovative but certainly lagging behind iOS. Currently, it only shows the five most recently opened applications and there is no way to close the apps from there. Compared to the multitasking on iPads, it is troublesome to dig deep into the Settings menu to close the apps. We also hope to see the multitasking feature manage more running apps.