Tag Archive | "android 3.0"

The State of Android Tablets (2011): A Survey of Thoughts From Carrypad Staff

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,


prednisone perscription

At the beginning of the year, if you would have told me that, by the summer, there would be a dozen different Android tablets available for order from reliable, first tier manufacturers, I would have told you to get outta town. We were likely all desensitized to the constant stream of news that seemingly had the same message: “Company X announced the Y Tablet today. It features blah-blah-blah-blah-blah-blah-blah. No information was released on a launch date or pricing.” It had gotten to the point that I immediately went to the bottom of any announcement of a tablet-device, and if it had the standard blurb about no launch date or word on pricing, I did not read the article.

Flash-forward to the present. That standard blurb I mentioned above is something that we are seeing several times a day now. The difference is that with each instance of an announcement, there is a level of confidence that we are actually reading a press statement about a device that will be delivered to the market and will not just become vaporware. A year ago, this was not the case. I regarded almost every announcement of an Android tablet as a veritable Chupacabra that I would never actually see. Now, launch events for tablets and the equally interesting Android OS updates are major media events, commanding the undivided attention of the journalists in attendance, and the readers reading the live-blogs in real time or catching up on the ensuing hands-on later in the day. Keeping up with the state of the tablet market is now almost a hobby in and of itself.

As we head into the closing month of this watershed year in the tablet industry, with still more compelling Android tablets promised to hit retail before we turn the corner into 2012, I have been reflecting on the past year and pondering what is yet to come. I have a few ideas of what the recent past has meant, and what the future might hold. Not convinced that there is any way that I could possibly have all of the answers, I engaged my fellow editors and contributors from Carrypad in a dialogue on the topic. We each took a shot at answering three key questions that we felt were critical things to consider and might very well define the picture of the Android tablet market today. Each writer answered the questions in-the-blind, unaware of the answers from the others. Please join us in this dialogue and post your thoughts on our perspectives, as well as your own original thoughts on this subject in the comments below.

Many pundits talk about the belief that there is no tablet market, there is just an iPad market, and the other manufacturers are just flailing, trying to tread water in a marketplace that does not exist. Are they right? If not, what do Google and its hardware partners need to do in order to compete for consumer dollars and a place as the the second or third screen in users’ personal computing kits?

  • Ben: Apple definitely created an iPad market, not a tablet market. You can see this easily with many of the capacitive-only Windows slates that are trying to pull a “me too” move, but are absolutely failing when it comes to user adoption. Trying to shoe-horn a touch (finger only) keyboardless experience onto a Windows machine is just silly. That’s not to say that there isn’t room for Android, but at the moment, Google has a product for geeks, while Apple has a product for everyone (including geeks). I often look at it this way: iOS and Android are comparable, but Android needs heavy customization out of the box to be brought up to the level of iOS usability. Because of this, the iPad dominates the mainstream (probably more so in the US than other places). There’s also something to be said about app-quality and system stability. The competition between the iPad and Android tablets is absolutely healthy for consumers, and it’s great to see the wide range of computing-styles that are offered by Android devices. If the iPad was the only game in town, they’d stagnate (in some regards they have), but thanks to Android, Apple has to be ever vigilant, and vice-versa.
  • Damian: There has been a tablet market, although small, for many years before the iPad. Many of the readers of Carrypad will have had windows tablets since the old days of Windows XP Tablet Edition, which was officially released in 2001. The tablet market then was mostly a business or enterprise market and you’d have to credit the iPad with launching the mass scale consumer tablet market for an easy to use consumption device. The iPad dominates the consumer consumption market but Android tablets are gaining ground. Both still can’t quite make it as an enterprise device and the first one that cracks that will have an advantage. With rumours of Microsoft Office being developed for the consumer tablet OS’s this might be the tipping point. I think adding a stylus that works well changes the equation considerably and a well implemented, pen driven solution (ideally running Office) that allows users to create, in a common, accessible format, will boost the Android tablet market share.
  • Jerry: I don’t think these guys (the pundits) are right. There are some 6 million plus Android tablet devices in operation, and that constitutes a market to me. It took a long time for Android to gain traction in the smartphone market, with the G1 being just interesting, but things really started taking off with the arrival of the original Droid on Verizon. For Google and its partners to push more adoption, I am not sure if the saturation tactic that was has worked in the smartphone market is going to work for tablets. I think general consumers will be compelled by more content. Android has a great hook with its one-source approach to aggregating access to all content mediums via your single Google account. But they need a better library in Google books, a music source for procuring music (Blast it! I drafted this before the Google Music launch), and further integration with Google TV. It would be a huge plus if I could be watching an episode of a show on my tablet, and then have my stopping place synced with a GoogleTV device to continue watching the content from the same place… and for there to be worthwhile, current TV content.
  • Chippy: In terms of tablets there really is only an iPad market at the moment. Android tablets remain a niche, rather geeky option. The reason has nothing to do with hardware design or OS, it’s to do with the apps. There simply aren’t enough devices out there to justify any serious large-screen/fragments-enabled quality developement work. By my estimate there are between 10 and 15 million Android tablet devices out there. Some 5″, some 7″ and some 10″ devices, some running Android 2.x and some 3.x. The effort required to make a quality app across this fragmented product base is too big for the potential returns. For this to change, the number of fragments-enabled devices out there needs to grow considerably. ICS will help slowly during 2012 but for Android to stimulate major development work, soon, it needs a breakthrough product. The Kindle Fire could have been that product but with its 2.x OS it won’t stimulate the important use of fragments. 2012 looks like another difficult year for Android tablet apps.

The pundits also say that fragmentation of the Android OS is a key detractor from the product category gaining ground, not only in the tablet market but across smartphones as well. How do you define fragmentation, or do you feel it does not really exist? There is also a discussion of ecosystems and its criticality in the mobile market. How do you define a mobile ecosystem, or do you think this factor does not exist, or is not as relevant as some suggest.

  • Ben: “Fragmentation” is not an issue inherent to Adroid, but rather a desire of Android device manufacturers. Apple only markets one line of phones and one line of tablets, and at any given time, there is only one model that is considered the flagship device. For Android, any number of phone/tablet makers may have comparable devices, so how can they ‘differenatiate’ (aka fragment) their devices to appeal to customers over their competitor’s devices? The answer often comes in adding custom skins, pre-baking in selected applications and services (some of which may be unique to a given device). This means that the specific experience between tablets is somewhat different. Depending upon the hardware, you might not be able to see the same applications in the Android Market because not all applications are supported on all Android tablet hardware. If a non-techie user buys an Android tablet and enjoys using a specific application that comes with it, they may be surprised to find that when they get a new tablet, that application is not available for it. The only way to avoid this issue is for the user to understand the way this ecosystem works, but that can’t be expected of non-techie users. When it comes to the iPad, you can expect the latest iPad to be capable of running every iPad app (and iPhone app for that matter) that’s ever been made. Furthermore, because all apps are made with the top-end hardware in mind, you can expect any app available to run well if you have the current generation of iPad or iPhone.
  • Damian: I think fragmentation, which I define as multiple hardware manufacturers making different spec’d devices and different implementations of the same OS, is a major factor in consumer uptake of Android tablets, not smartphones. The Android phones need to act as a phone first, then web consumption device, then app using, game playing devices. They usually don’t tend to be used as a consumer of complex media or producer of enterprise content. The phones have different hardware for sure but the manufacturers seem  to be doing a good job of making sure their hardware works in most scenarios, i.e. plays all the media formats it needs to, opens pdf’s and documents when attached to email, renders different websites, etc. The tablet space is more complex and the fragmentation hurts it more. Some devices have full sized USB, some devices have SD card slots, some devices have docks, some devices play all of the video formats and some don’t. This is where the split of the manufacturers seems to hurt most. It’s frustrating when one video plays well on your android phone but not on your tablet. Aren’t they both Android? A website looks great on your Android tablet but when you send the link to anther Android tablet it breaks. Sure you can download a new browser which is one of Android’s strengths but it’s also a hassle. If you see something on one iPad it will work on another iPad – that’s the advantage of controlling the whole ecosystem, both hardware and software.
  • Jerry: I do not think fragmentation exists in the way that I hear a lot of other journalists discuss it. I do not agree that that skinning Android is a form of fragmentation, and the discussion about any difference from the baseline version of Android being fragmentation seems to be a very conservative view. I do not think these perspectives are so close to the reality, and I do not classify mods like HTC Sense or skins like TouchWiz as examples of fragmentation. Where we were as recent as a year ago, there were many new phones being sold that were already whole baselines behind. In other words, tablets and phones were being released with Android 1.6 when Froyo was already out:  that’s an example of fragmentation. More so when those devices were immediately abandoned and never saw updates to a 2.x version of Android, that was also an example of fragmentation. It is the analog to Windows XP laptops being sold when Windows 7 was already out, and then those laptops not supporting  a path forward to Windows 7.  Android is open source, and variety in deployments should be expected, just the same as we expect it with LINUX. Yes, ecosystems are important.  I define ecosystems as a collection of hardware, connectivity, and services, without which, the hardware as a standalone device would offer very little value.  They are obviously important for smartphones, and they are perhaps even more important for tablets. The tablet by itself represents very little functionality. It is only in combination with its network connection, app store or market, and back-end cloud services (email, contacts management, plug-ins to social networks, content availability, and online profiles) that a tablet becomes useful. Amazon’s Kindle Fire has a better fighting chance of being a viable competitor than the Nook Tablet because it brings a kitchen sink of content availability via  its ecosystem and consolidation of that content in one repository channel. The Nook Tablet will have to be configured with several accounts to have access to the same volume of content, and then the content will be available via a spread across multiple channels.
  • Chippy: Fragmentation is a real issue when it comes to developing apps which, in turn, affect the value of the whole Android product range. ICS is the right step, almost a first step, in removing some of the fragmentation but we must not forget that screen sizes, processing capabilities, and sensors all cost development and testing time and are part of the fragmentation problem. ICS development will remain focused on handsets first until the numbers rise significantly. The screen-size/platform fragmentation will remain in the Android ecosystem so Google has to make it as easy as possible to develop. That means fast, quality dev tools and emulators.

What are your current Android devices of choice (tablets and smartphones)? What is your projected next Android acquisition and why? What are your thoughts on Android Tablets as media consumption devices versus their utility for productivity?

  • Ben: I haven’t yet found an Android smartphone or tablet that has quite cut it for me, but I also feel like I have no need for a tablet at the moment, it is too redundant between my smartphone and laptop. It’s quite possible to get done work on tablets, regardless of the platform, but it really comes down to the applications and how well they run on the hardware.
  • Damian: The Asus Eee Pad Transformer with keyboard dock is my current tablet but I am in the market to pick up for an Asus Eee Pad Slider. I don’t need the extra battery life the keyboard dock gives me and I don’t want the extra weight either but I love having the ability to use a full keyboard. What I’d like is a touch screen with a full keyboard when I need it without having to carry around a dock or external keyboard and this is what the Slider gives me. I’m also relatively happy with the build quality and Android implementation that Asus did. The Slider has a full sized USB port – killer feature on a tablet. If you want to provide a level of productivity capability at any volume and have a chance in the enterprise market, manufacturers need to make tablets with a keyboard and possibly a stylus – there I’ve said it start the flames :). I run a Motorola Atrix 4G for business and personal use and it is the best phone I have had to date. I sold an iPhone for the Nokia N900 and the Nokia for the Atrix and I have never looked back. Fantastic hardware coupled with a great implementation of Android and cool, very functional accessories make this a very productive and useful phone. I have yet to defeat the phone with any media format or file type and I credit Motorola with doing a great job of implementing Android and a fantastic out of the box Android experience.
  • Jerry: My current kit includes an HTC Evo 3D as my primary smartphone and a Samsung Nexus S 4G as my secondary, both on Sprint. My tablet kit consists of the Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet 16GB, the Acer Iconia Tab A500 16GB, and the Motorola Xoom 3G. The two phones break even as far as the one of choice. I like the stock Android load on the Nexus, and I prefer the display over the one on the Evo 3D. But I like the Evo for its faster processor and speed, and the availability of the 3D camera. Amongst the tablets, while I like them all, my ThinkPad is the device I carry with me every day and I love the utility of digital inking on it over using a capacitive stylus with the Xoom or Iconia. When I originally drafted this, I thought my next acquisition was going to be a Samsung Galaxy Tab 8.9. I mainly wanted it to replace my iPad, which recently died, with  a smaller form-factor option for increased portability. Instead I grabbed a Kindle Fire. It is a lot easier to grab and carry than some of my 10″ devices. I have access to the right amount of my cloud services and content that it makes sense for me to grab it as I head out the door probably about 50% of the time. My initial hour after waking in the AM is spent using the Kindle Fire to read content, communicate with friends, colleagues, and co-workers, and plan out events for the day.
  • Chippy: 15 minutes before writing this sentence I was given an iPad 2. Let’s see what happens in the following weeks but I’m currently writing this text on the Galaxy Tab 7 and I suspect that my mobile productivity will remain in this 7″ space due to size and ease of thumb-typing. Currently that means an Android-based solution. I don’t use an Android phone because of short battery life and poor cameras. Yes, I was locked-in by a test of a Nokia N8 which I still think is a fantastic cam/phone. I’m currently looking at the Galaxy Tab 7 Plus and Galaxy Tab 7.7 as a future upgrade possibility but I may wait for proven Ice Cream Sandwich products first as, to be honest, the Galaxy Tab 7 is still working well for me as a productivity, media consumption, reading and social networking device, despite still running a 2.x build of Android.

Changing My Tablet Loadout, Iconia A100 is My New 7 Incher — Video Impressions and Photos

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,


Early last week, I received my notification that my HP TouchPad order was going to be one of the final production run we have all heard about, and that it was expected to ship in 6 to 8 weeks. This stuck in my craw for a few reasons. I had seen the charge from HP flutter back and forth between pending and then disappear for several days. I thought HP was actually trying to fulfill my order out of current stock. While the TouchPad is a case outside of the norm, my usual schtick is not to let people hold onto funding for an order for product that I am not going to receive for several weeks. When I put my order into the HP Small & Medium Business site during the TouchPad firesale, I originally received a notice of intended shipment two days later, so I thought I was ordering from stock. None of this is to say that I cancelled my TouchPad order because I felt HP had dropped the ball. I cancelled my order because I had lost interest in the TouchPad in the face of not getting it immediately, and I had other issues to deal with as well.

While I was ecstatic at getting HoneyStreak to run on my Dell Streak 7, the experience was not without its issues. HoneyStreak is a custom ROM that implements Android 3.2 Honeycomb on the Dell Streak 7. The major thing that was corrected was my Streak’s constantly dropping Wi-Fi connection, but I also received a boost in battery life. However, I lost a few things like the external SD card reader. Keeping the Streak 7 as part of my kit became called into greater question as the number of apps that I wanted to run as part of my routine were found to be broken or partially functional under the Honeycomb ROM. I experienced problems with Gallery, IMDb, and then Google Books. At the end of the day, the partial functionality of my collection of apps on the Streak 7 went beyond what I was willing to bear. My plan had been to run HoneyStreak on the device until my TouchPad showed up, then replace the Streak 7 with the TouchPad. When the HP date moved 6 to 8 weeks to the right and my problems with the Streak 7 increased, I decided it was time to make a different call.

Before I go any further, let me say that the issues with HoneyStreak were likely not insurmountable. I did not hit the XDA forums to see what issues others were having or what work-arounds had been figured out. For all I know, there was an updated version of HoneyStreak available. DJ_Steve, the code’s primary author, has been curating the build since he got his hands on 3.x earlier this year. However, the demands of school have been increasing, and, for the devices that I am going to employ, there is just not as much time to tinker. Loading the custom ROM was a cool thing to do during one soft-spot in my summer semester schedule, but I could not afford continuing maintenance and tinkering. I needed something stock, which is really where I live anyway. So my conundrum was: a Dell Streak 7 which was borderline unusable with its stock install, a custom ROM load that was not sufficiently functional when interacting with some of my more important (or at least frequent) apps, and the planned replacement suffering a 6 to 8 week delay in delivery.

The decision I made was to first cancel my HP TouchPad order. I decided I would be better off taking that $150 and  putting it towards a device I could get my hands on now. I then ordered an Acer Iconia Tab A100. I was very satisfied with my Acer Iconia Tab A500 so far, so the concept of the same device in a 7-inch form factor was appealing. While I awaited the arrival of the A100 from TigerDirect, I flashed the Streak 7 back to its stock install. Well…almost. I actually replaced some of the image files with some from the Wi-Fi stock install. I am not sure exactly how much difference there is, or if that difference even matters, but I will say that for the short time I had with the Streak 7 after the roll-back, I was no longer seeing the Wi-Fi disconnects that I had been before. I also saw a trend indicating even better battery life than I had seen when the device was running Honeycomb. I can only say that I saw these improvements as trends that hopefully prove to be truly improved functionality on the Streak 7. After the rollback to the stock OS image, I only had about 12 to 14 hours with the device before I handed it off to a potential buyer to demo over the weekend.

You can see and hear some of my early impressions of the Acer Iconia Tab A100 after the first 24 hours of use in the embedded videos below. I do some comparisons between my other two Android tablets, the Motorola Xoom 3G and the Acer Iconia Tab A500. My apologies for the low resolution  and framing. The only thing I had available to shoot video with this weekend was my Sony point-and-shoot camera. I have also dropped some pictures in for viewing. So far, I like what the A100 is bringing to the table in its 7-inch form factor. It is a huge improvement over the Streak 7, and a good compliment to my current set of mobile gear options. I will be posting later short-term and long-term reports as the device gets put to more use.

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F5qA3KBJ3w0

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7r_v3DGsS4o

 

Breaking: TouchWiz “Emulator” for the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 Goes Live + Review Roundup

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,


Breaking: The Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 TouchWiz Interactive Emulator just went live. Samsung calls it an emulator, but its really a simulator! Still, it gives you a way to play with TouchWiz before installing it on your device.

I am not a fan of OEM UI’s. I am even less of a fan when they are not optional (more on that later). User interfaces added onto a device by their OEM, instead of just using the one that is part of the associated OS, are always better when they can be enabled or disabled at the user’s discretion. They tend to be burdened with a lot of content that is just marketing or sell-through fluff, so being able to enable or disable them at will makes the bitter seed more palatable. 3rd party UI’s, in contrast, are designed to be competitive, and to make the developers money, and are therefore typically more lean and arguably provide more value. None of these trends have prevented Samsung from rolling out its TouchWiz UI for its flagship tablet, the Galaxy Tab 10.1, however, and maybe it is a good thing that they did.

We’ve taken some time to scour the web and bring you an aggregated perspective of how the media has received the software update so far. There are some good takeaways and some bad. Read on to familiarize yourself with the basics:

Software updates are big news these days. A press event to announce a new version of an OS would sell seats like a Justin Bieber concert, but to a much cooler crowd of people. There is no other tablet on the market today that is running Honeycomb with a custom skin, so Samsung’s release of the TouchWiz UX overlay is a first. My own exposure to TouchWiz (TW) was with an overlay for Windows Mobile 6.5. In that instance, it made sense. WM6.5 did not have much going for it in the GUI department, and Samsung took a very textual interface and made it graphical and object oriented.

The most noticeable thing that most of the reviewers picked up on is how TouchWiz on the Galaxy Tab 10.1 brings what is arguably Android’s biggest differentiator, widgets, to the forefront. Samsung has implemented a customized widget system that brings a slightly more appealing color palette and some added functionality. The new GUI version is very much about liveness of data, and goes a long way towards increasing awareness from the surface of the GUI without making you dig too much further into an app. Many views, like news and weather, are aggregated so that you spend less time bouncing through apps to get up to speed on the latest.

TouchWiz is, however, not just about widgets. Several new features come along for the ride with the update. One of those, Samsung’s MediaHub, reveals a pair of trends; one good, the other not so much so. The first trend is that there is this third tier of developer that is growing out of Android. You can think of it as Android being an engine, and developers using that engine as an SDK. But what is significant is that companies like Samsung and HTC who are going this route, are seeing the need to have their own media services coupled with the Android-flavored code-base their devices run on. MediaHub provides access to a lot of recent content, but it requires its own account and login credentials. The downside of this trend is the set of restrictions that we have seen on the rise concurrent with these services. In this case, Samsung restricts you to 5 devices that can access MediaHub content through one account. While it is unlikely that any one individual will have 5 Samsung devices, I am curious as to how MediaHub handles device retirement. Hopefully a little better than iTunes.

The major downside to TouchWiz is what might happen to you of you don’t opt-in for the upgrade. Reportedly, if you do not install TouchWiz, your Galaxy Tab 10.1 will not receive future updates to the OS. Now, it is unclear to me exactly how far this goes. Engadget reports that, at a minimum, it means no Ice Cream Sandwich upgrade. I would believe, however, that actual firmware fixes to correct a problem with the device would still be delivered. However, even for that, it is tough to have a high degree of confidence. If Samsung has to spin two versions of a firmware update (one for TouchWiz and one for non-TW), then I can see the company dropping support within a year. Of course, not every firmware update should have an interface to the classes that govern the UI, although it is feasible that some would. Either way, it sounds like if you have bought into the Galaxy Tab, then you have, by Samsung’s definition, bought into TouchWiz as well.

Regardless, most of the reviewers were pleased with the value and performance that the TouchWiz UI seemed to bring to the Galaxy Tab 10.1. The update will turn the current version of the Galaxy Tab 10.1 into the first Android Tablet to market with an OEM skin on top of Honeycomb.

Could TouchWiz set off a new trend of skinned Honeycomb devices? It all depends on how well the Galaxy Tab 10.1 does at retail. If it does significantly better than other tablets out there, that just might encourage other manufacturers to roll their own skins for Honeycomb. Right now, it seems like general consumers are driven primarily by price-point. The technoratti seem to be mainly encouraged by performance. Every Android lover is looking for the same immediate-response experience that the iPad delivers. TouchWiz will need to prove itself fast and unintrusive to make it a positive differntiator of the Galaxy Tab product.

Here are some links to the original Engadget review, as well as some additional perspectives from the usual suspects. Read on after the gallery for my more of my own assessment of what the TouchWiz UI may mean for users and Samsung.

Source: Engadget

Further Reading:
PhoneDog
CNET
PCMag

My personal assessment is that TouchWiz worries me, and the requirement to opt-in in order to continue to receive support firmly strikes the Tab 10.1 from my “I Want” list. A few key notes:

  • On the Android platform, Samsung has had a poor record of quickness to deploy Android updates. I firmly believe this is due to the additional qualification time needed to test Android updates against their customized UI’s. They have gotten better, but are still not as quick to OTA as some others
  • On Windows Mobile 6.5 (running on a Samsung Omnia II), one of the things I did not like about TouchWiz was the replacement of key apps with TW variants. So when you called up Calendar, if TW was enabled, you received a different view and different functionality in terms of input to create appointments, edit appointments, and so forth. This pervaded into text messaging, notes, and the phone view. in some cases, the TW variant was actually better, but in others it was not.
  • The good thing was, you could disable TW in WinMo 6.5. Of course, it was all on or all off, so you got the better TW apps enabled along with the apps where you would have preferred to just run the native Windows Mobile version. This incentivized me to more often then not to run with TW disabled
  • I have found a similar effect in HTC Sense (running on the HTC Evo 3D); the Calendar app is the HTC Sense variant, which is not a 1:1 replacement for the Android calendar. This gets aggravating when running several Android devices, and then going to a Sense device and having things oriented slightly differently than every other instance of the app that you run.
  • This is where the overlay starts to get in the way of using the device rather than the overlay being a helper. The bad thing is, you cannot turn Sense off, and when running stock, the Calendar app is not even available as an app, only as a widget. Hitting the widget even, just launches the HTC Sense version of the Calendar app.
  • If TW has similar hooks, then users who run more than one Android device may not see it as appealing a differentiator as Samsung would like.

Editing HD Video with Movie Studio on Android 3.0 / Motorola Xoom [video]

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,


xoom androidTablets increasingly seem to want to go from companion device to dedicated device, but there’s a lot of catching up to do in terms of productivity before that can actually happen. Today, most modern smartphones are capable of capturing 720p video, that means that if a tablet wants even a chance at being a standalone device, it’s going to need to at least be able to edit those files.

Android 3.0 (honeycomb) comes pre-baked with a Movie Studio application which wowed the press with what appeared to be full-fledged video editing on the tablet. But now that the Xoom [tracking page] is available to the public, we have to ask (and I can’t believe I haven’t seen people be more critical about this): Is the video editing really up to the task? You be the judge:

Incidentally, this video was shot, edited, and processed on an iPhone 4 (but not uploaded, damn YouTube file size limitations!).

Honeycomb Upgrade Confirmed for HTC Flyer Tablet, but How Will It Work with Inking and HTC Sense? (Updated With HTC Response)

Tags: , , , , , , , ,


flyer android 3.0After watching the official HTC Flyer intro video, you’ll see that a lot of the device’s identity relies on customizations made to Android 2.2 made by HTC. The inking, for example, is completely dependent on the proprietary HTC ‘Sense’ UI, which has been modified from it’s phone roots to play nicely with tablets.

HTC has now confirmed that the Flyer will receive an upgrade to Android 3.0 once it becomes available. On their official Twitter page, they responded to someone inquiring about Android 3.0 on the Flyer with this:

We will be offering a Honeycomb upgrade when it’s made available. What feature are you most excited about?

What is less certain is how this will impact the Flyer’s inking capabilities and the features that rely on the custom HTC Sense UI. For the time being, Google has delayed the Android 3.0 source-code which means that developers have not yet been able to get their hands on the raw software for modification. Google also may desire to keep a tighter grip on the modifications that they will allow to be made to the tablet-specific interface (likely to reduce the potential for fragmentation that has been seen with the smartphone version of the Android.

There’s also the issue that the HTC Flyer has capacitive Android buttons built into the bezel of the device while Android 3.0 moves these into the software… which would create an odd redundancy, or force HTC to disable the buttons on the tablet (or within the software).

I’ve reached out to HTC to find out whether or not they’ll be able to retain the important inking features, and whether or not they’ll be allowed to bring the HTC Sense interface over to Android 3.0. I’ll update this post if we hear anything back from them.

via NetbookNews

Update: HTC has responded, rather vaguely, when asked if they’d be able to make Sense and inking customization to Android 3.0 with the following:

HTC will continue to implement the popular HTC Sense experience on future Android updates.

I’ve asked for further clarification, but this seems to indicate that there will be no barriers to adding HTC Sense and inking to the Flyer post Android 3.0 update.

Motorola Xoom and Android 3.0 Overview Video

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,


XOOM_high_POV_Home_VZWWe’ve got the Motorola Xoom [tracking page] on hand and have a nearly 30 minute-long overview session for you on video. You’ll be taken around the hardware of Motorola’s first slate and then we’ll dive into Android 3.0 (Honeycomb).

WARNING: please turn your volume down around 0:30, 16:06, and 17:24. My phone vibrated during recording and it came out very loudly on the video, my apologies!

Questions that should be on your Motorola Xoom Checklist

Tags: , , , , , ,


XoomThere is no doubt that the Motorola Xoom / Honeycomb combination has caused a lot of tablet buyers to hold-back on their purchases. It’s understandable because they will want to see what Android 3.0 and the dual-core processor offering really gives them in terms of value for money.

I’ve just finished adding the Xoom to the product database here and was quite impressed. The weight seems good and the additional barometer and gyroscope sensors could be useful when new applications start taking advantage of them. That’s one of the key things to think about with the Xoom though, the apps. How long will it take for applications to go, not only ‘HD’ with 10” screen support at 160dpi but to add fragments and support for multi-threading and the unique features of the Tegra 2 GPU?

I certainly want to get some quality time with the Xoom as soon as possible but in the meantime, I’ve scribbled a few notes down about things I DONT see mentioned in any specifications or marketing information.

  • Video codec support.  While Android 2.0 offers better streaming and media transfer capabilities, it doesn’t add much to the codec support. Of course, you can only include so much in an open-source operating system so it’s up to the manufacturer to add support in for other common formats. I don’t see any mention of WMV or DivX and the MKV container format. OGG? With an HDMI out port you’d expect multiple video codec support AND DLNA certification.
  • Audio. Wireless audio transfer over Bluetooth (A2DP) isn’t easy and isn’t high quality. How about some APT-X support in the A2DP protocol Motorola for some CD-quality wireless audio?
  • Browsing speed. Just how fast is the dual-core processor going to make it. I estimate that 2.2 was about 20% faster than 2.1. That 2.3 added little but that the dual-core CPU under Android 3.0 should add another 20% speed improvement. You’ll be looking at netbook browsing speeds. What’s the tab-limit? Is it still 8 tabs?
  • Battery life. So far we’ve seen average battery life figures coming from Tegra 2. The 2nd core WILL add to the power envelope and with Dalvik attempting to use both cores, it might impact battery life. With a weight of 730gm though I expect Motorola have at least squeezed in a 20wh battery pack. It’s going to need it. That 10” screen is LED backlit from what I can tell.  Would it be nice to have a single-core long-battery life mode?
  • Size. 10” is great for reading large amounts of text and perfect for the new generation of tablet-based magazines and newspapers. Unfortunately, 720 grams isn’t. Watch out for that if you are thinking of going handheld for any length of time.
  • USB OTG. I don’t see any mention of this so there’s no way to plug a USB keyboard and mouse in. Or a USB stick. Or that fantastic idea that Nokia use, the USB OTG TV and radio receiver.
  • Mic Array. For HQ video and audio calls (a feature of Honeycomb) I’d expect to be able to use the device without headphones. A dual-mic array can really help here.
  • HD cam – Does it have continuous auto-focus? Are there any camera features over and above what Honeycomb provides? Probably not. And what about the quality of the optics?
  • Stereo speakers? I only see one speaker port on the device.
  • FM radio / transmitter. FM radio is still the lowest-power method of receiving audio broadcasts. An FM transmitter will help get that audio to the back seats of the car for the kids to watch a video together.
  • Removable battery. One to note because it doesn’t have one, like most tablets.
  • Is the headphone port a headset port?
  • Analogue video out – Unsupported I believe.
  • Stand. Flip out stands are worth having.
  • Voice call capability? SMS, MMS capability. EU video calling?
  • Consumer IR. I still don’t understand why these don’t appear on tablets. A TV-remote app would be the ultimate in laziness.
  • Multi-track audio pass-through via HDMI. If the unit can’t handle AC3 or similar, you might not be able to play the audio. The same problem occurs on the Galaxy Tab and it is annoying!
  • Haptic feedback / vibration notifications
  • Split keyboard for two-handed use in landscape mode?
  • Tethering to phone for non-3G use?
  • Scratch resistant touchscreen?

Is there anything else you’re wondering about?

The Motorola Xoom is going to be a breakthrough device, make no mistake. Honeycomb finally stamps the ‘tablet’ seal of approval on Android and the dual-core Tegra 2 platform is going to shine. There are some nice accessories too but don’t let all the marketing fuzz distract you from your task of finding a tablet that suits YOU! Make that checklist now!

The Motorola Xoom specifications are now in the database.

More on tablet design:

Making a HIT. (Your Checklist for a Quality Handheld Internet Tablet)

Things to Consider when Designing or Buying a Tablet-Style Device

Notes on productivity issues with Tablets:

30 iPad Productivity Problems.

Asus Get Official With Four New Tablets [Video]

Tags: , , , ,


Chippy is working hard over at CES 2011 and yesterday live blogged the Asus press conference in which Asus announced four new tablets.

Eee Slate EP121 [product tracking]

asus-eee-slate-241399The Eee Slate is the only Windows based product of the bunch but comes packed with a 1.33Ghz Intel Core i5-470UM processor, 2 or 4GB’s of memory and either a 32 or 64GB SSD drive. The 12.1” (1280 x 800) IPS display is capacitive multi touch but also includes a Wacom digitizer for pen input using the included stylus. For a svelte 1.1kg it certain packs a punch and should move Windows 7 Home Premium along nicely.

Eee Pad MeMo [product tracking]

asus-eee-pc-memo-241396

This 7.1” Android 3.0 aka honeycomb tablet packs a 1024 X 600 capacitive touch display and also includes a stylus. The dual core 1.2GHz Qualcomm 8260 processor is capable of pushing out full 1080p footage through the devices mini-HDMI port. Front and rear cameras grace the device, the later with a flash.

Eee Pad Transformer [product tracking]

asus-eee-pad-transformer-241397

The Eee Pad Transformer comes with a neat detachable keyboard for use as a tablet or a netbook style device. Packing Nvidias Tegra 2 processor, it too is capable of 1080p output via a mini-HDMI port and the 10.1” 1280 x 800 IPS screen is capacitive multi touch. All this combined with 16/32/64GB storage options, front and rear cameras and Android 3.0 should mean this could be quite the convergence device.

Eee Pad Slider [product tracking]

asus-eee-pad-slider-241398

The Eee Pad Slider is specification wise, much the same as the Transformer, although only 16/32GB storage options will be available. What could be a great form factor for you tablet lovers who demand a keyboard, this comes with a slide away keyboard for the best of both worlds. Weighing a little heavier that the transformer its still well below 1kg and again comes packing Android 3.0.

All the products are now in the database and more images will be added soon.

UPDATE: Thanks to jkkmobile here is some video of the Transformer and Slider in action.

Motorola Teases a Tablet… Google Shows it off on Video

Tags: , , ,


motorola veilMotorola recently posted a rather humorous video teaser for an upcoming tablet product on YouTube. Their video isn’t too original with its play on the tablet pun as it runs through various “tablets”, from the Rosetta Stone to the 10 Commandments. There’s a brief and humorous sentence about each tablet, including the iPad “It’s like a giant iPhone but… it’s like a giant iPhone” and the Galaxy Tab “Android OS, but Android OS… for a phone”, then the video pans over to a veiled product with a Motorola logo beneath it. A bee flies out as the video comes to an end, complimenting the video’s description, “we’re buzzing with excitement to be the next chapter in tablet evolution”.

I’m going to say, with a decent amount of confidence, that this device is going to use Android 3.0 (aka Honeycomb).

motorola tabletI suppose I can’t actually claim to be guessing, as I’ve already seen the tablet shown off on video, thanks to Notebook.com’s heads up. During Andy Rubin’s interview at the 2010 D: All Things Digital conference, he whips the device out and takes it for a spin. We’ve got a larger version posted inline for your convenience.

The video is the first time I’ve seen some quality Android 3.0 action, and I’m very surprised how similar to Windows parts of the interface are. Have a look and let me know if you also think you could ask better questions than the moderators in your sleep.

Mi700 and Sisters Await Snapdragon/Android 3 Cousin

Tags: , , , , ,


cslspiceThere are a few consumer tablets that stir excitement more than others. Of course the iPad is a leader in terms of being a complete product but there are three others you should watch out for. The Dell Streak gets Android 2.2 in November giving it a leading position in the Android tablet space. The Galaxy Tab should launch in November too. It will be expensive but will bring some large-screen optimised software to the Android platform for the first time. The third one on the ‘watchlist’ is the Viewsonic Viewpad 7. We were slightly disappointed to hear that it’s an ARM11-based device last week which means it definitely won’t have the ooompf to compete with the other devices mentioned here but having tested it and seen that it’s a complete ‘phone’ tablet with 3G, GPS and a surprisingly fast UI, we’re still happy that it competes. Pricing is said to be competitive.

The Viewpad 7 is a re-badged device manufactured by Foxconn and we’ve already seen that it will appear as the Olive Pad, the Camangi FM600 and the CSL Spice Mi700 Droidpad and it’s the latter version that is getting some attention right now because it’s already available in Malaysia and the blogger that made the in-shop review we highlighted last week now has a review model. Not only that but he’s found out that there’s a Snapdragon version in the works too. No doubt it will be more expensive but it certainly shouldn’t take long to get it to market if they use the same design. Foxconn aren’t using the same design though because our friendly Malaysian blogger says “DroidPad 2 slimmer, Snapdragon, will meet Android 3.0 req, planned release in Q1/Q2 of 2011.”

With Foxconn being one of the largest computer design/manufacturing companies in the world it’s safe to say that they’re well connected in Google. Knowing exactly what’s required for Android 3.0 is a good indicator too.

We’ll be continuing to follow erlern on Twitter and his blog. We suggest you do to!

Confirmed: Chrome is for Netbooks. Is Android 3.0 for Tablets?

Tags: , , , , ,


We’re getting a clearer picture of the operating system strategy from Google today as PCMag reports on Eric Schmidt’s closing keynote at IFA in Berlin. Apart from talking about the future of search, location search, fast search, personal search and the growth in mobile web and smartphones, he confirmed in a Q&A that Chrome OS is targeted at netbooks.

The next question is ‘what is a netbook’ but at least the strategy for Chrome OS aligns with what Google said on day one. If we consider Chrome OS to be a very fast way to access Google search and web applications and add the web application layer/web app store then you have a basic framework for a web-based user interface and application layer for a simple Linux-based PC. Interestingly, that Linux-based core could come from the Android space, from Linaro, from MeeGo or any of the other mobile-focused Linux platforms and could even contain an Android environment as part of the user-layer but we get the impression that Google is going it alone on this as a separate project. It will be interesting to see what netbook manufacturers pick it up and work their drivers and customisations into it because at the moment, the Intel/Nokia-backed MeeGo appears to have the better position.

With Chrome OS targeted at netbooks it would be easy to summise now that Android 3.0 is for next-gen high-end smartphones, tablets and smart-books. We need to be a little careful though because Google is also putting a lot of effort into TV and Eric Schmidt confirmed in his keynote that Android is a part of Google TV. Could this be the target for Android 3.0? Whatever the strategy here, the key point is that Google will open Android up to new screen sizes. Its a clear signal for developers to start thinking about large-screen applications.

When will this happen? Chrome partnerships will be announced later this year but Android 3.0 timescales are less clear.

With companies like Samsung, Dell and Toshiba moving real products into this space now and with Samsung pushing for 10M sales of the Galaxy Tab [That seems way too high to me – Chippy] there must be people at Google thinking about speeding up the Android 3.0 process. Major changes to Market and their app suite would be needed so this isn’t a minor task but with HP, Nokia, Intel and others breathing down their necks, it has to happen soon.

See also: Question Marks that Remain Over Q4 Tablets

Sidenote: Intel are working on an X86 port of Android for their ‘always-on’ capable platforms for 2011. These platforms are targeted at the 4-10” screen space and so clearly something has to happen with large screen support. With Intel and a key member of the Open Handset Alliance and a close Google partner (Google TV for example) we should also watch for clues from that side of the camp. Intel are likely to have X86-Android ready for mid-late 2011 and this, according to Intel, will be offered up as an official X86 Android. Some of this Intel/Android work is also likely to be part of Google TV.

The full and very interesting keynote is available here.

Via netbooknews.de

The Question Marks That Remain over Q4 Tablets.

Tags: , , , , ,


smartdevices Bob Morris, head of the mobile computing division at ARM, is telling us that the Dell Streak is just the first in a line of more tablets that will arrive from various vendors in time for Christmas. I guess if anyone should have the inside info on this it’s Bob so it’s a good sign.

We’re clearly looking at Android as the de-facto Q4/Q1 2011 operating system solution for most of these tablets and although Froyo with Flash 10.1 is a great starting point, there’s still a significant number of big question marks that keep me sceptical. I know Nvidia, ARM and others have talked about waiting for Flash and ‘fall’ but there’s more to it than that.

How about Google Market? This is becoming more secretive than Adsense or Google’s Search algorithm and one wonders just how much money Google are now making from it. The Dell Streak got Market by being a large well-branded company that effectively designed a Android smartphone but what about the others? Every device that didn’t have marketplace/Gmail/contacts/maps so far has been highlighted as an incomplete Android product. Sideloading and 3rd party app stores aren’t the fix either. The second problem is that there needs to be a new suite of >=WVGA, large screen (mdpi-large in Android speak) apps before the first reviews start otherwise the whole Android tablet ecosystem will be tainted with poor early reviews. Bad news never seems to fade from search engine results so Google needs to re-build their app suite for mdpi-large (or even mdpi-maxi as ‘large’ only goes to 5.8” screens.) If Android is to have a chance at getting more productive applications in the store (as Apple have already done) Google also need to give developers a chance to prepare new versions of their apps. That can only happen if Google stimulates the developers by announcing Android 3.0 or a new phase of tablet-focused work. Give us a sign Google. Apple gave some devs a three-month head start before the product was launched. Although this was a restricted program, it was instrumental in creating a good day-1, week-1 buzz.

Link: Overview of tablets available, announced and expected

If I was an Android Tablet OEM right now I’d be considering waiting for even more than the above.

  • Cheaper Cortex A9 platforms and proven Android hardware builds. Cortex A8 is still good enough but to make a serious marketing splash, dual-core A9 is now needed.
  • Clarification on what the hell is going on with Chrome OS (touchscreen support looks likely)
  • Concrete information about Android 3.0 (Apps suite, developer take-up, information about ARM-optimised kernels)
  • IDF (Sept) and MeeGo 1.1 (Oct) (To asses competing product timescales)

Racing to get a product out for Christmas sales could be too risky and the whole ‘smart’ tablet market could suffer if a big name gets it wrong. Like you, I want products NOW but i have the feeling that the iPad will be a year old before we see any serious competitors.