The world finally got a glimpse of Android 3.0 (Honeycomb) at CES, earlier this month on the Motorola Xoom. What was previewed was Android on steroids; Google reinvented the platform with this release. Almost all of the promises and plans that they have had for the future of the platform and for the tablet market are in place. We have seen one hands-on use of the platform, but for the most part only videos of Honeycomb's abilities.
Today all that has changed as Google has released a preview of the Android 3.0 SDK (Software Development Kit). Also released was a detailed preview of Honeycomb and everything it brings with it. We are going to lay it all out in this article so you have a detailed explanation of what is to come.
New UI Designed from the Ground Up for Tablets
While Google has not officially stated that Honeycomb will not eventually make it to phones, they have expressed that it is explicitly designed for devices with larger screen sizes.
As of right now Android 2.3 (Gingerbread) is the newest smartphone OS, and considering no phone besides the Nexus S even has that version, let's not get ahead of ourselves. For now if you want the Honeycomb goodness, you're going to need to get into the tablet game.
The New Holographic UI thats has been previewed is nothing short of gorgeous. Now let's examine the individual aspects.
System Bar, for global status and notifications
As hardware buttons have been done away with in this new version, the System Bar will remain present at the bottom of your home screens and applications at all times. It features the navigation buttons Home and Back, along with the new Recent App button.
Action Bar, for application control
The Action Bar is another new addition, and it will appear at the top of the screen whenever an application is open. The extra screen real estate gives way to a more desktop-like approach with app-specific options and settings available without the need for menu after menu. Each app controls its Action Bar, including what it displays and its theme.
Recent Apps, for easy visual multitasking
The Recent App button on the system bar displays a visual preview of the state of the app when you left it. This eliminates the need to continually cycle through the back button. This addition is one that directly improves your multitasking ability.
Android 3.0 is designed to be the most usable tablet interface in the market, and touches like this build on Android's core strength of true multitasking.
Customizable Home screens
The five home screens are still present, with an added bonus of a dedicated visual layout mode. It allows you to preview your screens along with your available widgets and shortcuts all at once. This makes the customization process much easier by using this streamlined interface element.
This is a necessary addition as its not simply a matter of porting the keyboard to a larger screen. The ergonomics are completely different. Expect to see third-party attempts to accompany the stock keyboard, just as we have currently.
Improved text selection, copy and paste
This appears to be the enhancement that made its way to to Android in Gingerbread. Text selection options appear in the Action Bar on top of the screen.
Updated set of Standard Apps
The Android 3.0 platform includes an updated set of standard applications that are designed for use on larger screen devices.
The new browser has also been greatly enhanced and has adopted many of the features available in Google Chrome. The new features include tabbed browsing and incognito mode. In addition to that you now have the ability to have the browser automatically sign you in to any site that has Google sign-in ability. If you have the Chrome desktop browser, you can now also have your bookmarks automatically synced to your Honeycomb device.
The browser is now designed for viewing the desktop version of websites instead of cut-down mobile versions. Java and Flash apps have now gained multitouch support. Overall you can expect an experience that is almost identical to that of a desktop computer's Chrome Browser.
Camera and Photo Gallery
The new camera interface, just like the other apps, enjoys the benefits of the larger screen. Access to the exposure, focus, flash, zoom, and the front-facing camera are all present immediately on-screen for quick access, along with a thumbnail preview to the Gallery.
We have seen in the preview video of the new Gmail app that multiple panes are now visible simultaneously. In the contact app your contact list is to the left, and when selecting a contact you can view their information in a business card-like format to the right of your list.
Once again multiple panes are used and just like everything else in Android 3.0, it is super user-friendly. All the information is available on one screen; no more switching back and forth when managing your mail. The updates speed up the process, allowing you to take care of more business simpler and faster.
Other Key Enhancements
Google calls the separate panes inside apps Fragments. They have given developers the ability to design and use the separate fragments in ways that they see fit, and users will have the ability to use Fragments independently of one another. Apps designed in this fashion will work across the board on Android devices, with smaller screen devices seeing each separate Fragment as different screens within the app.
Redesigned UI Widgets
Widgets have been improved and now have the ability to interact in more ways. You can now navigate through your widgets' content by scrolling through 3D stacks, grids, or lists. The approach is much more elegant then the widgets currently available, and they mostly appear as much more visually appealing ways to have easy access to your chosen content. Gone are the stagnant text-filled boxes of older versions.
Support for Multicore Processors and Much Improved 2D/3D Performance
Android 3.0 will be the first version of the OS that takes advantage of multi-threaded processing. The enhancements made to the software also improve single core performance, so improvement will be across the board. In terms of graphic rendering a new OpenGL renderer has been implemented that will speed up 2D performance. There is another render script present for 3D that allows for high performance 3D effects for applications, wallpapers, carousels, and more.
There you have it: a detailed walk-through of Android 3.0 Honeycomb. There are countless improvements in this new approach to Android and to the tablet market as a whole. This is the way tablet computing should be and this should put all the other tablet software designers on notice that Google is coming with something that has capabilities beyond anything else on the horizon. They have taken great care in their design of the UI and kept to their promise of eliminating the need for manufacturers to create their own UI.
This is as good as it gets until the Motorola Xoom, the first Honeycomb device, ships in the next month or two. Hopefully the preview has given you a great understanding of the new platform, its goals, and abilities. I for one can not wait to get my hands on the Xoom and all this tablet goodness. Tell us what you think of Honeycomb so far in the comment section below.
The Android 3.0 Honeycomb Logo
Source: Android Central