A couple of days ago I excitedly received in the mail my Motorola Xoom wifi tablet. In the box itself is the tablet, a charger, and a USB cable, along with the usual paperwork. The tablet came fully charged, and I was immediately able to upgrade to Android 3.1.
The tablet itself seems well built, feeling solid and slick – the specs say a lot, with plenty of storage (also further expandable with a micro SD card), two cameras, and an HDMI output amongst other things. The sound quality is quite good for a portable device using the built in speakers. The only complaints on the hardware side are the cameras need good lighting to make the most of them, the USB interface is data only (no charging), and the charger can easily come out with a slight bump. On the plus side the battery life seems very good indeed. The screen works nicely, though occassionally feels imprecise – I have hit the wrong key quite a bit in typing this post.
The OS (Android Honeycomb) and bundled software:
Again very slick. Google have clearly put a lot of work into Honeycomb – it is my first Android experience, but I am adapting to it quickly, and I definitely prefer it to Apple’s offering, though I admit to being more than a little anti-Apple. There is much integration with Google accounts for things – for instance I didn’t even have to log in to post this as my Google account details are kept in memory, and this blog service is part of the Google family. Youtube is beautifully presented on the first screen, but unfortunately the remaining screens look (whilst very tidy and usable) somewhat old fashioned by comparison.
Despite the overall feeling of slickness though, the bundled software and features are still a little rough around the edges. Icons are present for Google Books and Movie Studio though trying to run either gets you a message that they are not installed. Movie Studio can be found under apps but is somewhat unintuitive to use – you also need to keep the screen on whilst exporting, which is a hassle if working with a video if more than a few minutes. Similarly uploading to youtube requires the screen to be on.
I used a third party app (Funamol) to sync my contacts from my aging iphone to the web, and then the web to the Xoom – worked well. I then could easily merge Skype and other contacts into existing ones, though which name remained as the main name seemed somewhat random. Sadly attempting to edit any contacts now results in the contacts ‘app’ crashing.
Another gripe is in writing this blog entry, each time I press enter to try and start a new paragraph, the keyboard disappears – a minor thing, but the sort of refinement Google needs to make Honeycomb a truely awesome OS.
Extra note – I had to complete this entry on the PC, as I could not select the correct words to fix spelling mistakes – it would instead jump multiple lines up. Could be the blog, or the Android browser – either way, something Google need to fix.
Third party software:
The price of being an early adopter, third party Android software on the Xoom is a bit hit and miss. The Google Market selection is obviously less than Apple’s app store, and some apps will be missed when I switch to an Android phone in a month or so. Tablet specific problems arise when many apps are made for smaller phone screens – they either don’t make proper use of the bigger screen, or auto-rotate to a portrait view when a tablet is usually best used in landscape – some apps sadly suffer both these problems. A classic example is Tweetdeck – I love it on the PC with its multiple colums, but it is clearly a phone app here with one ultra big column, and a need to sweep left and right to view the other columns – the bigger screen could comfortably hold two or three columns.
Another surprise was Skype – no video chat. Yahoo messenger for Android allegedly does, however won’t show in the marketplace as it’s apparently not compatibe with Honeycomb. As said before, the price of being an early adopter …Flash 10.3 seems to work ok, though some sites are still a bit iffy. Facebook photos (not sure if it is flash or not) is dodgy as, and even managed to crash the Xoom outright (it rebooted itself). Still, dodgy flash is better than no flash, something Apple will never convince me otherwise.
Am I happy I got the Xoom instead of an iPad? Yes as it feels less restricted, and that it will have more to offer in the future, but Google still have a bit of work to do to make it a no-brainer for most people.