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tech.talk

Feb 3 '12
"To understand your parents’ love you must raise children yourself."
Chinese Proverb
Apr 21 '11
"T and G are too close together on a keyboard. This is why I’ll never be ending an e-mail with the phrase “Regards” ever again"
Apr 16 '11
"The four stages of man: Infancy, Childhood, Adolescence and Obsolescence."
Apr 13 '11
"The difference between this place and yogurt is yogurt has a live culture."
Apr 10 '11
"I before E except after C. Disproved by science."
Apr 3 '11
"Only mothers can think of the future - because they give birth to it in their children."
Apr 1 '11

Quick Xoom Review

Today I had a chance to play with the Motorola Xoom, the first commercially available tablet based on Android Honeycomb. My reference tablet was my iPad (first gen), so I was not comparing it with the new iPad 2.

First, the good:

  1. The screen is absolutely gorgeous. It makes the iPad looks like an old arcade machine. I can’t tell you how clear everything is (especially text!) on that high def display.
  2. One of my biggest pet peeves with iOS (the notification system) is taken care of in Honeycomb. All notifications are clustered in one area of the screen, and the best part - they do not block operations - so if you get an email for example, it doesn’t interrupt what you are doing.
  3. The browser is a huge improvement over Safari. For one, it has actual tabs, which are easy to switch to (one tap), rather than the one, two tap combo. In addition, in Safari I have had instances where reloading a tab refreshes the screen, causing me to lose information (for example, something typed in a box). No such problems on Honeycomb. Plus, everything works as expected; and high def video playback was smooth, but still had problems (this is due to the beta version of Flash that was loaded on the device).
  4. Size wise, the Xoom was a bit more manageable than the iPad. Going back to the iPad it looked too cumbersome. The Xoom is slightly between the Tab and the iPad, in my opinion, perfect in size.
  5. Having live widgets on the screen is a great plus, because you don’t have to keep switching to apps to see what happened. For example, on my iPad I know I have a new email message (I get the badge on Mail), but I don’t know who it was from till I open the app (which means, switching from whatever I was doing). Having a live gmail widget eliminates this problem.
  6. Finally, since Honeycomb is custom designed for tablets, everything works best in landscape mode. This is a plus and a minus - plus is that the interface looks more natural and all apps take great advantage of the screen; but in the rare instances you have to flip to portrait mode, some apps won’t scale correctly.

Now, the bad:

  1. Although the Xoom has great speakers (a lot better than the iPad), they are located on the rear of the device. This is a problem if you have any sort of case on the device as it muffles the sound.
  2. I did have a play with the front facing camera over google talk and it worked great; but still its a bit of a novelty - not sure how practical it would be. Although Skype was installed on the device I didn’t have a chance to check if Skype can utilize the camera.
  3. The interface has no physical buttons whatsoever (its great), but there are somethings that are counter intuitive (well, they need some practice to get used to). For example, home does what you would want, but to get to applications you need to go to home first, then open applications. They are not available anywhere else (the top button can be customized). There is a dedicated application switching button as well (which is a plus).
  4. The apps. Yeah, there are now two app stores for Android (the Xoom had the Amazon store) but still you can’t compare the large variety of apps that are available on iOS. What I can tell you is, all the apps that are available are beautifully designed and take great advantage of the screen and resolution. The biggest application wonder for me was gmail; it is absolutely wonderful on the Xoom, really puts Mail to shame. There are lots of little details that really go to show the attention given to the tablet experience.

That’s it for now - it was a quick summary. I plan to spend some more time with it and give a proper review. Would I trade my iPad for it? Yes, I think I would, and here is why:

  1. The screen - absolutely knock-your-socks-off gorgeous.
  2. The size - a lot more manageable than the iPad.
  3. Proper UI for tablet use - especially notifications.

Hope this gives some perspective for those considering honeycomb tablets.  It is not available locally, the unit I had my friend brought in from the US.

There are rumors that the next version of iOS (to be revealed at the WWDC in June) addresses the notification system.

Jan 22 '11
"For all sad words of tongue and pen, the saddest are these, “It might have been.”"
John Greenleaf Whittier