Google's Android 3.0 Honeycomb: What's inside

CNET outlines Google's changes and additions in its new Android operating system for tablets. Do the specs point to Google's eventual tablet domination?

See five home screens in one zoomed-out view
See five home screens in one zoomed-out view. Google

We already knew about Android 3.0's (Honeycomb) 3D capability and its new look with larger, revamped icons and the like. But now Google has revealed the details on many more feature updates and additions in its Android operating system for tablets.

The Goog's theme for tablets is bigger, better, and more. Tablets' larger screen size encourages a proportionately larger design and gives developers more room to play around with 3D graphics, live streaming, and deeper connections with Bluetooth devices.

It's clear that with Honeycomb, Google is urging Android 3.0 tablet makers to market tablets as laptop replacements or powerful in-betweener devices, not just as larger versions of existing Android smartphones. That's evident in the way Google is giving the browser a distinctively desktop look and feel with side-by-side browser tabs (Android smartphones call them "tabs" but treat them like windows) and with two-paned contact information windows that are easier to read on a 7- or 10-inch screen. We've already seen this with the iPad, so it's expected that Google would follow suit.

Below, we outline major changes to the user interface (UI), the keyboard, and the signature Google apps built into every Android device. You can read up on even more details in Google's Android 3.0 SDK document for developers.

Interface changes

  • New System Bar at the bottom of the screen has navigation controls. It's pervasive across all screens, but has a dimmer to become less obtrusive.

  • Thumbnail view of recently accessed apps in the System Bar.
  • Application controls appear in a bar whenever an app is running. Should largely replace the context menu for accessing a program's options and controls.

  • Universal search bar on each of the five home screens.

  • Zoomed-out overview of all five screens for easier selection (we've seen something similar in HTC's Sense skin for Android phones).

  • Tweaked virtual keyboard, plus new keys, like Tab.

  • After selecting text, elect to cut, copy, paste the text from the action bar.

Connectivity

  • Bluetooth tethering support

  • Sync media files with a USB-connected camera or desktop computer--without mounting the phone as a USB mass storage device.

  • Connect USB or Bluetooth keyboards.

Updated Google apps

  • Browser: Side-by-side browser tabs, automatic sign-in on Google sites, incognito (private) mode, joint bookmarks and history view.

  • Camera: Gallery app gets full-screen mode, adds thumbnails for other photos.

  • Contacts: Dual-pane interface, contact info presented as a contact card.

  • E-mail: Dual-pane interface, select multiple messages, manage e-mail with a home screen widget.

 

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