Just like every other Android tablet that hit the market this year, the Sony Tablet S ships with the Honeycomb OS. While some tablets come with Android 3.1 OS, you will be glad to know that the Sony Tablet S is powered by Android 3.2 out of the box. While Android 3.2 is not a significant upgrade, it does brings some improvements and new features such as app zooming. To find out more about what Android 3.2 can do, you can check out Android Developers website here.
Sony left much of the Android UI untouched, which is a blessing in disguise. When we reviewed the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1, the user experience was tainted by the slight lags we encountered. We attributed it to the customized user interface (UI), Samsung TouchWiz for consuming unnecessary system resources. Nevertheless, Sony has added some minor tweaks to the UI that did not degrade the user experience.
Sony adds its own SelectApp site to complement the Android Market. The SelectApp site highlights new and unique apps from a wide range of categories that are recommended for the Sony Tablet S. At the point of writing, there are only two apps available - Your Digital Life and Zinio Magazine Reader (which you can use the latter to read your digital HWM subscriptions if you've already signed up for it). More apps will be coming in the future.
It is common among brands to feature their own social feed congregator. For example, we have seen Lenovo's implementation of the SocialTouch app on the IdeaPad Tablet K1. Sony has its own Social Feed Reader, which is considered simple. While Samsung's Social Hub allows you to combine email, instant messaging and social networking sites into one central location, you can only add Twitter and Facebook accounts on Sony's Social Feed Reader.
One aggravating issue with Honeycomb OS is its inability to close apps from the multitasking menu. While Lenovo and Samsung thoughtfully added this feature to their tablets, Sony apparently omitted it on the Tablet S. Since Sony was one of the last brands to enter the tablet market and could have possibly taken an extra step in adding this feature, we're a bit disappointed that its missing on the Tablet S. This not only put the Sony Tablet S at a disadvantage against some of its Android counterparts (Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 and Lenovo IdeaPad Tablet K1), it also lost a chance to be on par with the Apple iPad 2 in terms of app management.
Overall, we felt that Sony's limited tweaking of the Android UI benefits the user experience on the Tablet S. The tablet felt smooth and fluid in its operation. Sideway swipes were snappy too. This is mainly due to Sony's inclusion of the Quick Touch feature, which allows the tablet to respond instantly and accurately to every touch, drag, zoom or twist of the fingers. The minor tweaks improved the user experience slightly, but we guess that they are merely simple ways that Sony came up with to differentiate itself from the rest of the Android tablets.