Google’s latest version of Android, Honeycomb, was this week been fully detailed by the search giant after being teased back at CES. The tablet-centric OS looks completely different to its smartphone sibling and crams in some top end features that are bound to make Android even more popular. Here’s our pick of the ten best.
1 Better multitasking
A multitasking bar will be available on the left-hand side of all tablets running Honeycomb, letting you duck into all open apps from the homescreen. Previews show live versions of said apps, giving you arguably greater control than on the iPad.
2 New UI
The user interface is a complete change from the somewhat basic version found on Android 2.3 Gingerbread and lower. With a more widget-based approach and live information available, it’s a smart approach that’s bound to have Apple worried.
3 Video chat with Google Talk
If the Honeycomb tablet you choose has a front-facing camera, you’ll be able to indulge in some video chat action via Google Talk. This was mooted for months, but means the Big G has a serious alternative to the stillborn FaceTime.
4 ‘Bubble’ widgets
These will serve up real-time live info for apps such as Google Calendar and Gmail. It all means the ace Live Tile approach of Windows Phone 7 and HTC Sense’s live features are coming to vanilla Android. No need to open apps, just get what you need on the homescreen.
5 Hardware acceleration
Put simply, this means that Android tablets will run faster and be able to handle more complex tasks thanks to improved processing power. It also makes turning the page on an eBook or using the accelerometer a lot more sleek than on standard smartphone versions of Android.
6 3D graphics
These are tied in directly to hardware acceleration and mean that things like the YouTube video wall and any ebook stores look absolutely stunning. Google is finally going toe-to-toe with Apple in this respect.
7 App fragmentation
No, not fragmentation of the Android OS, but the chances for devs to create in-app panes that mean you can drill down in apps and get a welter of information in one view on the screen.
8 New notifications
A pop-up in the bottom right-hand corner will bring notifications directly to your tablet’s homescreen. You’ll get the chance to open apps straight up or even check out your mate’s mug when they send you a tweet, Facebook message or email.
9 New Android Market
This is a wider change, but ties into Honeycomb brilliantly. The chance to push apps over the air from your PC to your tablet will make updating Honeycomb slates much easier than the wire-reliant iPad.
10 Better games
Sony’s forthcoming PlayStation Suite and the new Android Market means Honeycomb can handle games with aplomb. Google showed new titles running on the OS, proving it has what it takes to mix it with Apple.