At CES, Google showcased the much awaited Android version 3.0 which is designed specifically to support tablets. We’ve already seen some manufacturers like Samsung introduce the Galaxy Tab without Google support. The issue is that without official Google support, future updates support becomes a huge question mark. The other issue is that without an OS designed specifically for tablets, hit areas on UI may not be large enough to work correctly.
Main features of Honeycomb will be home screen with widgets to quickly access your mail, calendar and more.
The user interface of Honeycomb looks great, at least the default one does. If this is the starting point, Google are on to a winner. It’ll be interesting to see what happens when we load Google Tablets with hundreds of apps. Hopefully there’s some kind of foldering or organisation system.
Multitasking / Fast app switching
Most of the time tablets do one thing at a time (background music exception), this means getting from one task to another requires switching out of one app to another. The video shows Android 3.0 has a very slick solution to this problem. Switching applications looks very fast and features nice animations. Google has clearly been hiring designers.
Android 3.0’s rocking a full desktop-like tabbed browser ! While there are 3rd party tabbed browsers on iOS, it’s great to see Google bring their clean Chrome browser UI to tablets.
Despite having a full desktop-like browser, there’s still a tablet optimised email app. This makes everything nice and large to be more conducive to touch input. The video labels this as ‘Tablet optimized Gmail’ I’d hope other email providers are also supported. While you can import other mail accounts into gmail, not everyone will want to do this.
Google’s bringing Google Talk to tablets, allowing video conferencing to occur. This means Android 3.0 tablets will need to have front facing cameras, audio will be another challenge. Plugging in a headset with in-line microphone may be a solution to reducing background noise. Expect Skype and other 3rd party video call apps to also be available and take advantage of the camera.
Google maps will include 3D view and Street view compatibility. At the top of the UI we can see seach, location and pins, so expect all the common Google Maps features. What would be nice is a sync between Google maps on the mobile device or desktop and your tablet, even better would be to your vehicle’s GPS.
Clearly Google are playing to their strengths and making their own experiences work really well. The biggest question is when will developers get access to the Honeycomb SDK, how easy is to use and what kind of unique experiences can a Android-powered tablet offer over competitors. Despite multiple tablets at CES announcing they will run Android 3.0, currently there’s no release date for Honeycomb.