Android 3.0 Honeycomb has new features revealed

Google has released a preview version of its Android 3.0 Honeycomb SDK for developers, but also given us more details of what we can expect from the tablet-focused software too.

Google has given us a few more reasons to get excited about its new Android 3.0 Honeycomb software, publishing 'platform highlights' that outline some of its key new features. They come in advance of the launch of the first tablets to run Honeycomb, which has been revamped specifically for iPad-killing purposes.

We wrote about Honeycomb's holographic interface and Chrome-like browser earlier this month , so what else is new? Google is certainly talking Android 3.0 up: "The new UI brings fresh paradigms for interaction, navigation and customisation and makes them available to all applications -- even those built for earlier versions of the platform," it claims.

The Android on-screen keyboard has been redesigned for larger screen sizes, with reshaped and repositioned keys, and a few extra ones, for example Tab. Touch-holding keys will now also access menus of special characters -- great news for umlaut fans everywhere. Copy and pasting has also been tweaked for tablets.

A new System Bar sits constantly at the bottom of the screen on Android 3.0 devices, pinging you with notifications and system status, while also containing soft navigation buttons. You can get rid of it when necessary though, for things like full-screen video or gaming. It will include a Recent Apps list to switch quickly between applications that are running in the background.

There's also a separate Action Bar that sits at the top of the screen, which contains options, widgets and other notifications relevant to a particular app you're using. Meanwhile, you'll be able to customise five home screens with widgets, app shortcuts and wallpapers on a Honeycomb tablet, for easy access to all your stuff.

Honeycomb devices will also play nice with cameras and computers for syncing files, using the Media/Photo Transfer Protocol to speed up the process of transferring files across. Android 3.0 also features a new camera app with access to more options -- exposure, focus, flash and zoom for example -- from the same screen.

Finally, the Contacts and Email apps have switched to a two-pane user interface, to make more efficient use of larger tablet screens in the same way that the iPad's email app does. Contacts are now shown in a card-like way, while email lets you sync large attachments for later offline viewing.

Google promised that Android 3.0 would be properly reworked for tablets, and the highlights list and screenshots indicates this is genuinely the case. If the hardware is up to speed too, we could see some genuinely impressive tablets coming out this year to take on the iPad.

 

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