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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  • GotThumbs - Friday, March 18, 2011 - link

    Hold out a little longer...599 WIFI only coming March 27th. Hope you didn't buy the Archos yet. Early adopters always pay more $$$. If you just wait a little while...the prices always adjust after buying slows down at higher price. Thats just the economics of it. Apple is able to sell at higher prices, so why would they lower them.
  • GotThumbs - Friday, March 18, 2011 - link

    Coming out Mrch 27th. Hold on a little longer for a better tablet. My boss offered to buy me the new IPAD2 the other day. I told him 'no thanks, its either an ADAM or a Xoom or nothing" The ADAM is still developing their production and having growing pains.....the product is excellent and will be a great addition to the tablet market when it arrives in stores...for now...its Xoom. Now with the WIFI version coming out...it will boost sales for those consumers who did not want the 3g option and high cost.
  • Android_Blogger - Monday, March 21, 2011 - link

    Apparantly, the 3G version costs 600 GBP in the UK at least. Source: <a href="http://www.motorola-xoom.co.uk/">UK Xoom Tablet blog</a>
  • Android_Blogger - Monday, March 21, 2011 - link

  • spambonk - Sunday, April 10, 2011 - link

    What I don't get are the specs on Amazon which says this device also has a 2.1 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo Mobile inside??? What, it has both a tegra and a intel core 2??? What is this madness.
  • fentleson - Friday, April 15, 2011 - link

    Better screens. Resolution isnt as important as screen quality.
  • vtx1300 - Friday, April 15, 2011 - link

    HD front and rear cameras - USB2/3, GigE and E-SATA connections and a Free (commercial sponsored?) Data Plan
  • Dixon Butz - Sunday, April 17, 2011 - link

    I want to see a slide out keyboard. Or a mini removable keyboard.
  • 911dude - Wednesday, April 20, 2011 - link

    I'm wondering about the effect that the pending ATT buyout of T-Mobile will have on the future of Xoom.
  • ANDROCELES - Friday, April 22, 2011 - link


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