Welcome to Honeycomb

The first Android tablets were laughable. Without changes to the UI Android doesn’t scale well to a larger screen, not to mention the lack of tablet specific apps Oh but what’s this? Android’s all grown up:

It doesn’t look like iOS but it surely doesn’t look like any version of Android we’ve seen before. Honeycomb is Google stating plainly that it can tear up blueprints and reinvent itself with the best of them.

Pick up any Android phone and you’ll see four buttons, either capacitive touch or physical switch, along the bottom of the front face: Home, Menu, Back and Search. The order was up to manufacturer interpretation but all four had to be present. Honeycomb nixes two (Search and Menu) and adds one (Tasks). Google also moved the buttons from the screen bezel to on the screen itself - the buttons aren’t just capacitive, they are a part of the OS.

Back, Home, Tasks

The order is fixed: Back, Home and Tasks. As of now there’s no customizing the Honeycomb UI - say goodbye to Motoblur, Sense and TouchWiz. The location is also fixed: bottom left. My biggest complaint here are the icons themselves, they are unnecessarily ambiguous at first sight and do take some getting used to for Android and iOS users alike.

The entire UI motif is Tron meets Robocop. Swipe between home screens and you’ll get a thin blue outline of the previous/next screens as you move. The fonts used for links at the top of the page are more expected, while everything along the bottom of the screen is a bit more 80s sci-fi. I don’t personally believe this is ultimately what Google will settle on for tablet UIs, but it shows a willingness to try something new and different, which is the quickest way to ensure that Android will remain relevant as this market evolves.

I suspect the ideal tablet UI is probably not too far off what modern desktop OSes have become. While a smartphone’s UI must be dramatically different due to the lack of screen real estate, a tablet UI just needs to be more efficient than its desktop counterpart - not necessarily very different.

I believe Google is beginning to realize this as Honeycomb has some very desktop-like elements in its design. What was once a pull down shade at the top of the UI is now a notification bar in the lower right of the screen, eerily reminiscent of the Windows system tray - just not as frustratingly cluttered.


There are also clock, WiFi and battery status indicators down there, but I’ll stop drawing parallels. The point is that this works well and I expect that we’ll continue to see a lot of convergence between the desktop and tablet OS UIs (and eventually the OSes themselves, isn’t evolution fun?).

Overall the UI is amazingly clean and very well done. It's not perfect, but I'm pleasantly surprised - all this time I thought Android was just super functional, who knew it could look great as well?

Charging & The Display Multitasking, Notifications and App Launcher
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  • mrdeez - Monday, February 28, 2011 - link

    I was gona wait for the wifi version but now, I am really thinking of just getting a new lappy for 350...I can still tether to phone and it is cheaper and no stupid data contracts. I am sure we wont see these wifi versions for awhile. It's almost starting to look like google is greedier than apple and thats very scary!
  • IBM650 - Tuesday, March 1, 2011 - link

    Mossburg ran a movie loop, IPAD was about 11 hours, Xoom about 7. So a big difference
  • prtech - Thursday, March 3, 2011 - link

    AS per my understanding 'ADAM' is already out and hoping you got one. Can you give us Benchmarks and in depth review like you did for other products.
  • mmullany - Friday, March 4, 2011 - link

    Iin order to pass ACID, the 100/100 has to match the reference image and the animation has to be smoooth. The Xoom fails in three ways - it has a rendering artifact in the top right, the animation isn't smooth and the colors don't match exactly. In addition, many of the HTML5 features that the Xoom self-reports as having, do not actually operate correctly.
  • AnnonymousCoward - Saturday, March 5, 2011 - link

    Great to see some timed tests! Real-world loading time is directly understandable and relevant. Now please do the same in your SSD reviews :)
  • JefTek - Sunday, March 6, 2011 - link

    I ran the Sunspider tests multiple times on my Xoom and never seem to have received a number higher than 2100.

    Without doing a full on average, my results were closer to the 2050ms mark.


    I wonder what was different?
  • Hrel - Sunday, March 13, 2011 - link

    I'd really like to see a 24" 1080p touch screen with smartphone innards. Instead of using desktop or even laptop parts just cause it'd cost WAY less. Or better yet have a 24" 1080p touch screen with an empty slot so you can just insert your tablet/smartphone (would require a universal port or cable) and have that power the display. The display should also incorperate a hdd bay or two. Cause really, who wants to go around buying a tablet for each room in the house?

    I just think it'd be really nice to have a much larger touch screen in the kitchen on the stand where you can stream music, watch a youtube video, look at recipes while cooking. Or out on the deck grilling. 6-10" screens are great if you want something larger than a smartphone/archos tablet to carry around with you and get great battery life where you can basically just surf the web. But for in home use, anywhere a stationary device can be placed, a larger screen is almost always better.
  • turbobutton - Tuesday, March 15, 2011 - link

    Apparently "Corning Glass" is one part of that equation that can make it happen, although clearly more technology needs to be developed for this to be feasible. You will really enjoy this video:

  • Hrel - Sunday, March 13, 2011 - link

    "Google lets you "blank" if you want". That whole idea, giving YOU the choice of how you want it to work. I don't just want that, I NEED it. If Apple will never open up and give configuration options to users, then I will never use Apple anything. I will never recommend it and I will always fight their market penetration.
  • Hrel - Sunday, March 13, 2011 - link

    Wow, I was hoping for 400 bucks. I was thinking they'd probably jew us out and charge 500 though. 800?! That's just stupid, Archos it is then.

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