Google Android 3.0 Honeycomb
Free of Apple’s restrictions; runs Flash and widgets; excellent notifications
Limited integration with iTunes ecosystem; doesn’t always ‘just work’
Motorola Zoom $840; Acer A500 from $579
As the iPad underwent dramatic weight-loss, Android was getting a major facelift. Don’t panic, Apple fans, we’re just playing Devil’s Advocate to see how the other half lives.
The release of Motorola’s Xoom and Acer’s A500 offer the first tastes of Android 3.0 ‘Honeycomb’ and they’re a major improvement on last year’s clunky and expensive Android 2.x tablets.
Both the A500 and Xoom feature similar spec sheets – a 10.1in 1280
x 800 LCD display, dual-core 1GHz processor and 1GB of RAM, along with front and rear cameras. They have the grunt to run Flash admirably.
Both tablets feature a micro-SD slot, micro-HDMI output and micro- USB port (slave), but the A500’s killer feature is a full-size USB host port – making it easy to plug in a USB stick.
The A500 is available in Wi-Fi-only and Wi-Fi /3G models, with 16GB or 32GB of storage – making the entry level A500 cheaper than the one-size- fits-all Xoom (32GB with Wi-Fi /3G).
Both the A500 and the Xoom weigh in at 730gm, obviously beefy compared to the petite iPad 2.
So what of Honeycomb? It finally feels like a tablet OS rather than an overgrown phone. Google has even stripped out the ability to make calls.
Honeycomb replaces Android 2.x’s pull-down notification tab with a Status Bar which remains in place when you open apps. Also new is an app-switching button which displays thumbnails of all your open apps.
The Status Bar also offers detailed pop-up alerts for system events and incoming messages including email, Facebook, Twitter and Skype. Tap it twice for easy access to settings such as airplane mode, Wi-Fi and brightness.
Widgets are another strength – letting you turn multiple home screens into Mac-like live dashboards.
Honeycomb is designed to support multi-tasking – embracing the best bits of desktop computing without forgetting it’s a touchscreen tablet. iOS 4’s multi-tasking and notifications feel tacked on in comparison – something iOS 5 addresses.
If you’re looking for a productivity tool which lets you work on several things at once while staying in touch with the world around you, Honeycomb might still outshine iOS.
Macworld Australia’s buying advice
Why stick with the iPad? The superior interface? Not really.Superior app store? Not any more. Integration with your iTunes-centric lifestyle? Perhaps, but Android apps can replicate most of this functionality (including AirPlay). More content and accessories? Yes, but probably not for long. Of course the iPad’s key strength
is that it ‘just works’ – the benefit of living under a benevolent dictatorship which trades liberty for convenience. Android’s greater freedom means it can require more tweaking – but this is a price some people are prepared to pay.
Rome can’t ignore the growing Android horde at the gates. Android is innovating faster the iOS, but that’s to be expected because iOS is a more mature platform with more restrictions.
Apple had painted itself into a corner with iOS, whereas Android isn’t afraid to completely reinvent itself to move with the times. iOS 5 proves that Apple isn’t afraid to address shortcomings, but Cupertino must remain open to change to keep pace with Android.