Google will be holding an event Feb. 2 to really give us a deep dive into Android 3.0 Honeycomb, the version of the mobile platform that’s optimized for tablets. We’ll definitely be there giving you the latest news and impressions but we though we could dig through the SDK to let you know what to expect.
It should be noted that all of these screenshots were taken off an emulator and the experience is just not the same as using Android 3.0 Honeycomb on a dual-core powered Motorola Xoom with a nice 10-inch touchscreen. Additionally, the emulator was pretty slow and a bit buggy, so we couldn’t get to all the goodies.
The interface: Android grown up
This isn’t your father’s Android, as the Honeycomb tablet retains many of the elements that we’re familiar with but includes layout decisions which make it far more suited for a large screen. It’s still a very app-centric, icons-in-a-grid interaction metaphor, so picking it up should be intuitive for anyone who has used a smartphone in the last couple years.
The unlock screen is a little different, as hitting the unlock icon brings up a circle which resonates around the icon and you have to drag it past the perimeter. It’s neat but just an unlock screen.
The need for the standard hardware buttons are done, as the back, home, menu/app switcher reside on the bottom panel. A search function is embedded on the top left of the home screen but I’m not sure if you can get rid of it. The bottom right shows off the time, your Internet connection and the battery life of the device.
As we’ve seen before, Android 3.0 Honeycomb will let you customize your homescreen with apps, wallpapers, new widgets and more. Currently, this is done by hitting a button that’s on the upper right corner. It then zooms you out to see a smaller view of the five home screens you’re given and access to all the customizable options.
From there, you just drag and drop apps and widgets onto the screen you want them on. It looks like it will be easy to organize your apps and widgets once this is fully running on some good hardware.
App, app and away
With Android 3.0 Honeycomb, you’ll probably have a lot of your apps on the five home screens but if you want to dive into more, the app menu button is on the top right. From there, you dive into a familiar grid of app icons. Apps launch in full screen modes and programs that have been written correctly should scale up.
Google is promising desktop-like browsing with Android 3.0 Honeycomb and I was very, very happy to see this browser actually has tabs. The Apple iPad has a good touchscreen browser with mobile Safari but I absolutely hate having to dive into a menu to switch tabs. The Honeycomb browser force closed on me a bunch of times but that doesn’t mean anything. We’ll have to get our hands on this thing to fully judge it.
Devices like the LG G-Slate and Motorola Xoom will have multiple cameras, so how will you take your pics? The standard Android 3.0 Honeycomb camera UI looks to be fine enough. The shutter, settings, zoom and camera switcher appear to be on the right side while the left is dedicated to the viewfinder. I don’t know how comfortable it will be holding a 10-inch device for taking pictures but you never know when it could come in handy.
Speaking of apps, if you want to quickly hop into another one without going to the home screen, you can hit the menu button to bring up a window of running apps. It’s unclear how much control this actually gives of those apps (I would love to be able to kill apps through a long press) but the effect looks pretty cool.
That’s about it for now, as the rest of the emulator is filled with stuff that doesn’t quite work or isn’t too interesting. It’s obviously tough to judge software made for a touchscreen tablet in this fashion, so I won’t yet. I do think there are a lot of smart, logical choices made in how users can manage apps and I’m hoping all the pieces come together when this hits the streets.
Check out a few more pictures below and keep it tuned here for the latest on Android 3.0 Honeycomb, as we’ll be dropping the latest news, demos and impressions.