Google’s leaked Honeycomb video has undoubtedly been the highlight so far of this year’s CES, currently taking place in Las Vegas. The OS has been touted for months and the clip confirms that this will definitely be Android 3.0, rather than 2.4 as some had previously feared. But beyond the codenames, the shots of the UI in action are what really show how much Google has moved on.
The OS is completely different to what we’ve seen before. Icons are huge to accommodate the tablets for which it has clearly been made. YouTube has been given an overhaul and looks, dare we say it, more like Safari than ever. With gTalk, 3D maps and email redesigns, this is a version of the OS that looks every bit as sleek as iOS. Of course, Android is surging ahead already, but Honeycomb is evidently going to make Android phones a lot more attractive when it comes to software. Current versions do feel a tad less intuitive than Apple’s mobile OS.
And while there’s no denying the new look is a winner, there are questions raised by this leaked trailer. First of all, the ‘built for tablets’ tag throws up a few queries. Does that mean that it’s made only for tablets? It certainly looks like it will work best there, but will Google look to keep this on slates and push OEMs towards using 2.3 Gingerbread for newer smartphones?
That would be a shame, but wouldn’t be a surprise. Still, with the Open Handset Alliance so, well, open, mobile makers will not be willing to pass up this opportunity and miss out on coupling a stunning OS with the very best hardware. Just imagine an HTC phone using Honeycomb. Apple must be quaking. But beyond that, the ever-present issue of fragmentation is lurking in the background. Gingerbread is barely out of the door, only available on the Nexus S and hardly making strides.
Even the new LG Optimus Black uses FroYo, showing that phone makers are clearly unwilling to push harder and get the latest versions on their phones. This huge update will probably make last year’s Android phones obsolete very quickly, exacerbating fragmentation and giving key rivals another stick with which to beat Google.
Whatever happens, Honeycomb looks the part. With new tablets imminent, it will dominate headlines in the coming days and weeks. But there’s no way that it will stay top of the agenda for long before tech-watchers start to wonder what it means for the wider Android product.