Honeycomb Xooms In

Carl Weinschenk
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10 Cutting-edge Mobile Application Trends for 2012

Mobile applications will increasingly define the user experience on high-end devices.

Motorola's Xoom-the first tablet to use the Android 3.0 operating system, also is known as "Honeycomb"-is available from Verizon beginning this week.

The device release marks an important step in the increasingly competitive and fun race between OSes in general, and Apple's iOS and Android in particular. PCMag.com says that Honeycomb enables a high-resolution screen bigger than three- or four-inch screens that could be handled by previous versions of Android. The story gives a nice rundown of the new features in Honeycomb, which include a useful Gmail widget and Google Talk that the story says is the response to Apple FaceTime.

GigaOm's Kevin Tofel writes that Honeycomb feels like it was rushed to market. He outlines all the new things in the OS, but says that it wasn't quite ready for primetime:

Instead, on my first day of Xoom usage, the Android Market - central to getting apps on the device - crashed several times. To Google's credit, the Market app was updated for me last night and appears to run better today. But the problem screams "rush job" to me, especially since using Honeycomb in portrait and opening the Market kicks you into landscape mode only.

He added that there aren't many apps in the Market that take advantage of the bigger screen size and that the microSD memory expansion slot will not be viable until a later software upgrade. Another intriguing feature of Xoom-the fact that it can be upgraded for free from 3G to Long Term Evolution (LTE) 4G-is tempered by the fact that the device must be sent back to Motorola for as long as six days to do so.

Operating systems from Google, Apple, RIM and others constantly are changing. At this point, Android's repertoire features discrete OSes for tablets and phones. These are Honeycomb and Gingerbread, respectively. The next item on the agenda, according to comments by CEO Eric Schmidt at the Mobile World Congress last week in Barcelona, will be an effort to blend the two into a single operating system, which is rumored to be called "Ice Cream."

This is easier said than done. In this piece, CNET's writer shows curiosity, which hasn't yet grown to skepticism:

As you might expect, not everything will be the same on phones and tablets. After all, scaling up a phone experience to a larger screen hasn't worked all that well for Android so far. Likewise, I can't imagine cramming a tablet experience into a 4-inch screen. Yet, Honeycomb feels like a natural evolution of Android, and the OS will broaden the platform's general appeal.

The moves and countermoves are likely to get more interesting. The complex and highly competitive world of mobile operating systems won't clear up anytime soon. The confusion, clearly, will be worthwhile as the world of mobile devices continues its rapid expansion.

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