Archive for the ‘android 3.0’ tag
Today Sony officially confirmed that it is working on a couple of Android 3 tablets that are expected to be released by this fall. Both models of the Sony Tablet, dubbed the S1 and S2, will feature Wi-Fi and WAN (3G/4G).
The S1 will have a 9.4-inch display and will feature an off-center of gravity to make it more comfortable to hold. The S2 will sport two 5.5-inch displays in a folding design. The individual screens of the S2 can be configured to operate together as one larger display or as two separate screens with differing functions — for example one screen could show a keyboard with the second displaying the document being worked on. No mention as to whether an ebook will be able to display a separate page on each screen.
Both tablets will feature integration with other Sony products. They can be used as remote controls for Sony Bravia AV products; connect with the Sony Reader Store to purchase and download ebooks; output content to DLNA Certified televisions and wireless speakers; play PlayStation titles via PlayStationSuite (to be launched later this year – will bring PS games to Android); and subscribe to streaming music and video on demand services through Sony’s Qriocity platform.
We will have to wait for more detailed specs and pricing. Sony has released the promotional video below for the new tablets. Don’t know about functionality yet, but aesthetically both tablets appear to be well designed.
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I have had my Motorola Xoom tablet for several weeks now and I am liking it very much. The Honeycomb-powered Moto Xoom is a major improvement over past Android tablets. If you want an alternative to the Apple Way, the Xoom is worth looking at — I certainly have no reservations about recommending it.
First of all — the unboxing. Packaging is simple and easy to open, while providing adequate protection to the tablet inside — this could probably qualify for Amazon’s hassle-free packaging. Inside, besides the usual warrantee info and a quick-start guide you will find an AC charger and USB cable. The batteries on my Xoom were fully charged when I unpacked it.
The Xoom is about a quarter of an inch taller and almost an inch narrower than the iPad. Even though the weight is very similar to my first gen iPad, the Xoom somehow feels more portable to me.
Motorola’s new tablet seems sturdy and well-built. The body is metal with a nonslip coating on the back and edges. The Xoom has an accelerometer and orientation changes quickly and smoothly, but by the contours of the back and the lettering on the bezel it is obviously meant to be held in landscape mode with both hands. It is quite comfortable in my hands in this position but, as with the original iPad, I wish it didn’t weigh quite so much.
Android 3 (Honeycomb) replaces the familiar hard keys on the bezel with virtual keys to go to Home, Back, scroll through recently opened apps and Search. This means the keys are always in the same position regardless of the orientation.
There is a microphone icon you can tap on for voice input. This will let you search or perform other actions by voice. I personally have not had the greatest luck in the past with Google’s voice input (voice dialing on my Android phone, for example), but the feature seems to work much more reliably for me and my voice on the Xoom.
The LCD display of the Xoom is 1200 x 800. The display looks very good and the angle of view is also quite good. But the iPad’s display, even with its lower resolution (1024 x 768), has a more contrasty and somewhat more vivid display when viewed side by side. Motorola could probably improve the Xoom’s display by adding a contrast control. The default auto-brightness on the Xoom is rather dim — I turned it off and manually set the brightness at about 65 percent, which makes for a better display in my opinion.
The Xoom does suffer from glare (perhaps a bit more than the iPad) and seems to be an even worse fingerprint magnet than the iPad — you will want to keep a microfiber cloth handy. A glare-reducing screen protector may be a good idea; I have not tried this yet. As is typical of LCD displays, it is possible to read the screen of the Xoom outdoors in bright sunlight, but it is not at all comfortable doing so.
I have had no problems with the touchscreen, which seems very responsive, smooth and fast. The NVIDIA Tegra 2 chipset is put to good use in the Xoom. This should be a great tablet for gaming. There don’t seem to be too many HD titles yet, but Samurai II Vengeance is optimized for Tegra-based tablets and is a fun time waster. Gameplay is fast and fluid with no hesitation.
If you are interested in gaming you might want to get the free NVIDIA TegraZone app. This magazine-like app showcases games that are optimized for the Tegra 2 processor. Other than Angry Birds and the pinball games I have not played many games on the iPad — I suspect I will be playing more games with the Xoom.
The virtual keyboard on the Xoom works quite well. The large screen provides enough room for key spacing so that it is easy to type without constantly hitting the wrong keys. I do prefer using the Thumb Keyboard from Beansoft however. This third-party split keyboard for Android phones and tablets gives you number and arrow keys without having to switch back and forth in addition to some other nice features.
The speakers on the Xoom are better than the average tablet speakers I’ve seen. They are muffled a bit when you lay the Xoom on a flat surface, but are still quite audible. Sound is also good over earphones, though I would wish for a little more bass.
I’ve been happy with the Web browsing experience on the Xoom. One complaint is that the Xoom loads the mobile version rather than the desktop version of webpages. I imagine that giving users control over this will be in a future update. Pinch and zoom works smoothly and quickly. You can open additional tabs and incognito tabs. The latter let you browse without being recorded in the browser’s history and download history. Also, cookies created while in incognito mode are deleted when you close the incognito tab.
Adobe Flash Player 10.2 is now available in the Android Market. While the current version is a “production quality release for Android 2.2 and 2.3,” it is still beta for Honeycomb. My experience with Flash games on the Xoom has been mixed — usually any problems I had seemed to result from the game not working well with the touchscreen. I have been able to watch a few Flash videos with no problems. I tried one Amazon Instant Video download, which worked very well.
I mostly use the Wi-Fi connection, but Verizon’s 3G connection has performed well for me when needed. The Xoom will get a free 4G candy coating from Verizon soon. This will entail a hardware fix, which Verizon says should involve a 6-day turnaround. The 4G upgrade will likely replace the rectangular black board in the upper left corner as shown in the photo of the Xoom with back panel removed above.
The Xoom has the ability to generate a Wi-Fi hotspot, and there is no additional charge for using this. Thanks to this feature, I was able to cancel the hotspot feature on my phone. This feature comes in handy if you have Wi-Fi only ereaders and other devices you need to connect when you are out and about.
As with other Android devices, the Xoom syncs with your Gmail account. I was also able to easily and quickly set up my MSN and Yahoo accounts. I have often had problems getting Yahoo email set up on mobile devices, but so far it seems to work fine on the Xoom.
You can view your email accounts separately or view all accounts together in one unified inbox. The way the email is presented is very easy to work with: All of your messages are displayed in a large box on the right, with your folders to the left. When you tap a message, it is displayed in the large viewing window and other messages from that folder are listed to the left. This makes it very easy to read and navigate back and forth between multiple messages quickly. For help in setting up the Xoom’s email see Verizon’s support pages.
By the way, I was told by a Verizon tech support rep that Verizon is working on a texting app for the Xoom. He could not give me an ETA, but at some point you should be able to text from the Moto tablet as well.
One of the great things about the iPad that other tablet makers have not been able to duplicate is the battery life. The Xoom does come quite close. Motorola claims 9-10 hours, depending on use. I have not actually timed it, but this seems to fit well with my experience. Many of the tablets on the market will deplete the batteries if you put them down and let them go to sleep and then pick them up a day or two later. Not the Xoom, which Motorola claims up to 14 days of standby for.
The included AC wall wart does a quick job of charging the Xoom, but you do have to use the adaptor, as the Xoom will not charge over the USB port.
The Xoom has both a front-facing web cam and a rear-facing 5MP camera with LED flash. The camera app is easy to use, but I did have some problems capturing moving subjects due to the way focusing is handled. Almost the entire screen serves as the viewfinder, which makes it very easy to frame your shot. All of the camera controls are readily available (on the right side of the screen in the photo above). Photos taken with the Xoom are not going to be as good as with a good dedicated digital camera, but they do compare favorably to those taken with cell phones and other tablet cameras.
When taking photos outdoors in bright sunlight there are times when you can not see anything on the Xoom’s LCD screen except the shutter release button, which makes a guessing game of getting your shot framed the way you want to. This is a problem LCD displays suffer from in general when used outdoors though and not just the Xoom’s problem.
Honeycomb has added a “Books” icon to the home screen. This, of course, goes to the Google Books stall at the Android Market. Besides this, you can easily find and install other ereading apps such as Kindle, Nookbook, Kobo, Wattpad, etc. from the Android Market. Most of the Android versions of the popular reading apps do not seem to have had quite as much love lavished upon them as the iPad apps, but I expect that to change as Android becomes ever more popular. While I do prefer reading on e-ink screens rather than a backlit LCD display, tablets like the Xoom do offer the ability to access ebooks from all of the major sellers on one device.
The YouTube widget is very nice, although I did have my Xoom lock up once while using it, requiring a reboot. This is not the first time I’ve seen YouTube force the reboot of a tablet. For more on the YouTube app see my video review of the Motorola Xoom below.
Update: After using the Xoom for another six weeks, I have had the occasional force close, and I have had to reboot my Xoom once in awhile. But the same thing could be said of my iPad — I have to reboot it occasionally and sometimes iPad apps close unexpectedly as well. I think many of the problems being reported with Android 3 are due to the fact that a lot of apps have still not been updated to work with it and the Tegra 2 chipset. This seems to be borne out by the fact that I seem to be having less issues as time goes on and more apps are updated.
Motorola Xoom vs iPad and iPad 2
Wouldn’t you know it — just as there is finally an Android-based tablet that is a very viable alternative to the iPad, that tricky Apple Corp launches a new faster version with a thinner profile that will make an even harder-to-hit target for its competitors.
The iPad 2 went on sale a week and a half ago and I have had a few minutes with a demo. Yes, the thinner and lighter body is nice. But I am sticking with my decision to get the Xoom rather than upgrade from my first gen iPad to the iPad 2. Android is just a much more compelling story for me at the moment.
So, my thoughts on iPad 2 vs the Motorola Xoom. In terms of speed, both should be similar, at least as far as most users are concerned. The A5 processor that Apple designed for the iPad 2 is most likely based on the same dual-core ARM Cortex-A9 core technology as the NVIDIA Tegra 2 processor the Xoom is based on.
With the iPad 2 you get a somewhat better display housed in a case that weighs a few ounces less. You also get the affirmation of buying the same thing as everyone else.
With the Xoom you get Flash support, expandable storage when the microSD card is supported in a firmware update; and 4G — again when support arrives. Some would also say that you get less restrictions and more freedom with an Android device.
The Xoom, probably because of its narrower shape, does feel more portable to me. This still felt true when I handled the iPad 2, in spite of the latter’s lower weight. I do carry my Xoom around with me; my iPad has pretty much always been a homebody. The Xoom somehow seems to me to be more productive, while the iPad still seems to me more about consuming content. I have to say that everyone I’ve shown the Xoom to has been impressed — including those who have the first gen iPad. One of my friends who was planning on upgrading to the iPad 2 is now rethinking that move.
Both tablets have their pros and cons; probably the main difference when comparing the Xoom and the iPad 2 is the Apple App Store vs the Android Market. Currently the App Store has three times as many apps as the Android Market and features better curation and quality control. The Android Market is, however, reportedly growing three times faster than the App Store of late. If this pace continues, the Android Market should have as many apps as the App Store within a year. The launch of the Amazon Appstore for Androidtoday will also likely give the Android app world a big boost.
A Wi-Fi only version of the Xoom is now available for $599 (£569.99 in the UK). The Wi-Fi + 3G (soon to be 4G) model is $799 at Best Buy or $599 at Verizon with a 2-year contract. The Wi-Fi only version should be available at various resellers — Bordershas started carrying it as well.
In my case the Verizon contract worked out better because it enabled me to cancel the Wi-Fi hotspot generation feature on my mobile phone as this feature comes with the Xoom at no extra cost. This resulted in my Verizon bill actually going down by $10 per month after adding the Xoom, which lowers my cost of owning it over the life of the 2-year contract.
For some reason Motorola reportedly signed a 60-day exclusivity contract with Best Buy and Verizon. By the end of April the Xoom 3G/4G might be available at other retailers. This will hopefully lead to some lower pricing. As much as I am enjoying using my Moto Xoom, I do think that the price has to come down if it is going to seriously compete with the iPad.
Motorola Xoom Covers & Cases
rooCASE has a nice Executive Portfolio Leather Case for the Xoom. Features include a built-in stand, paper and card slots inside the front cover, pen/stylus holder and a dual zipper closure. A detachable (held in place with Velcro) inner sleeve is included for handheld use of the tablet. Available in black, grey or red for $34.95. The rooCASE is also available in several bundleswith a stylus, anti-glare screen protector and other accessories.
Navitech makes a Premium Leather Flip Case with a built-in adjustable stand that only seems to be available at the moment from the UK and is priced at £14.99 (about $24.50).
CaseCrown makes a Faux Suede Zip Sleeve in several colors for the Xoom that is priced at only a little over $7. A soft microsuade lining is used and there is an accessory pocket.
The Slim Cube Case is made of nylon carbon fiber and lined with soft polyester and bubble padding to protect your tablet. Includes a stylus and is priced at $26.99.
The photo below shows the above three covers in order of mention, left to right.
Krusell makes a simple black leather sleeve for the Xoom that is available for $35.01. The interior is padded with memory foam.
Both SkinItand DecalGirlalready have a good selection of skins for the Motorola Xoom. Skinit skins for the Xoom are $29.99 and Decal Girl charges $19.99 (plus $5 for matte/satin finish, which I prefer). Skins include a downloadable wallpaper to match and extend the design onto the display. Both companies have promo codes that will get you a lower price:
- Skinit promo code – skinitsaver15 – will get you a 15% discount (good throughout 2011).
- DecalGirl coupon – Decal10 – will get you a 10% discount (no expiration date mentioned).
For my Xoom I bought the Motorola Portfolio Case ($39.99). This is made of a stiff plastic outer shell with lots of padding to protect the screen. If you like leather goods and traditional style cases you likely will not like this. The Portfolio Case is kind of an industrial tech style that took a bit of getting used to.
Once I did get used to the design I came to like it. There seems to be very adequate protection and the exterior has a textured nonslip finish that feels very comfortable and secure in my hands when carrying my Xoom around. One reason I got this case is because it unfolds into a stand; I plan to get the wireless keyboard for my Xoom at some point and it should work well with this.
My one complaint about this particular Xoom cover is that there are no cutouts for the USB and charging ports. You have to open the cover to access these. With this material it will be very easy to cut my own access holes if their absence really starts to bother me, however this lack of forethought does make one wonder about the people designing this stuff.
This cover receives very mixed reviews at Amazon. As I said, I came to like the cover after using it for awhile; I remember not being impressed when I first unboxed it. Judging by the user reviews and by my initial reaction to it, this case will not be for everyone.
Motorola also makes a Gel Case for the Xoom that is priced at $26 and comes in several colors.
Update: Noreve now makes a cover for the Xoom that appears to be similar in design to the Portfolio Case, but made of leather. It can be ordered direct from Noreve for 84.99€ (about $125 USD).
A couple of other new Xoom cases:
The Slim Leather Folio Case from Acase uses a similar design as the Motorola Portfolio case above, but is covered in premium Litchi grain mark leather. Cutouts in the cover provide access to all ports and buttons. Priced at $31.95.
ZooGue makes the Genius Case for the Xoom. This cover also features a stand, but uses Velcro to hold the tablet in an upright position. Cutouts in the Genius Case provide access to all ports, and adjustable straps allow the Xoom to be hung from a car seat’s headrest or used as a hand strap. Priced at $49.90.
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At an event today Google gave an early look at Android 3 – also known as Honeycomb – and which, as you are no doubt aware by now, will be optimized for tablets. Yes, I would say that the iPad has something to worry about.
The Android Market Webstore is now live as well. Searching the Android market just got a little easier, and you can browse the Webstore on your desktop; purchase apps and they will download to your Android devices.
The video below is of the event. It is almost an hour long but is interesting for the most part.
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Google recently released the SDK for Android 3.0 (Honeycomb), which will be optimized for tablets. The ingenious folks at XDA have already started making progress in getting it to work on the Nook Color.
Interestingly, you can see what Android 3.0 looks like on the Nook Color by using a disk imager to install an image of it on a micro SD card and booting your Nook Color with it. The ereader does not need to be rooted, and once you reboot the Nook Color after removing the SD Card it should revert to normal.
The image is 4GB so you will need an SD card that is larger than that. I only have a 4GB (like an HDD, actual size after formatting is smaller than labeled size) card so I have not yet been able to try this myself. You can find instructions on the XDA forum via the link above. As usual, proceed at your own peril – this should be pretty safe, but you are responsible for your own hardware if it gets bricked!
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Liquavista will be talking at FPD/SEP 2010 next month in Japan about the scalability and versatility of its electrowetting displays.
“We’ve chosen FPD Japan to talk about the scalability of electrowetting technology because now that the technology is on the verge of becoming available we feel that it’s critical to describe what is possible and to share this with the industry.” Said Johan Feenstra, Liquavista’s CTO & Founder. “We’ve already proven in prototype production that we can develop a variety of displays ranging from 1.8” to 8.5” diagonal and believe there is no physical limitation to the size of screen that can be developed using electrowetting technology.”
“Demonstrating the ability to make electrowetting panels for all display applications regardless of their screen size shows the clear vision that Liquavista has of the future.” Added Guy Demuynck, Liquavista’s CEO. “Pairing this flexibility in size with the versatility of the technology brings a compelling proposition for any manufacturer of electronic devices, regardless of the application. We have the manufacturer and consumer at the heart of our roadmap. In support of the commercial delivery of our product next year, we believe it’s important to deliver screens which can be used in any device from small scale mobile displays through to large scale outdoor screens.”
It is likely to be late next year before we begin to see products utilizing a Liquavista display.
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Notion Ink is looking for a new logo and is having a design competition to find the right one. They are offering a $1000 prize and an Adam Pixel Qi tablet (when released) for the winning design. The contest will end soon; for details see the Notion Ink blog.
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Digitimes reports that Google has notified its partners that the Android 3.0 (Gingerbread) OS will soon be ready and that engineering samples including those pertaining to tablets should be going out in December. This means that hopefully in H1 of next year we will see Android-based tablets that can access the Android Market out of the box.
Phandroid has a blurry photo of a phone running Android 3.0 in the wild and reports on some of the new features of the next iteration of the OS. One of the biggest appears to be support for video chat.