If you're in the market for an iPad alternative, you can't go wrong with one of the tablets driven by Google's upcoming Android 3.0 operating system. Here's your guide to cool new features you'll love about this Android version codenamed Honeycomb.
On Thursday, Google released a preview of Android 3.0 codenamed Honeycomb, the latest and greatest Android mobile operating system.
It comes with a bunch of new features for users and a software development (SDK) kit for programmers to write smooth and engaging new apps for Android tablets.
Included below is a thorough run-down through all new Android 3.0 capabilities you'll no doubt love. Less patient readers can simply scroll down and check out Google's teaser video. Looking for big, beautiful screenshots promised in the headline? Hit page two of this piece right away. All righty, let's get started then...
For starters, Android 3.0 support multicore processing to optimizes performance on both single- or dual-core processors found on many upcoming tablets. Under-the-hood optimizations trickle down to Dalvik VM, the Java virtual machine that runs Android apps, promising a snappier performance for your existing software library.
New user interface
Android 3.0 packs in a new, highly visual holographic interface that looks stunning on tablets. The new Recents Apps list in the system bar is visible in all apps, allowing you to quickly switch between apps regardless of what you're doing. Another novelty is the Action button at the top for quick in-app access to the commonly-used features of the foreground app.
A new "lights out" mode will dim everything but the currently running app - useful when watching videos full screen. You will no doubt enjoy new themes bound to dazzle you with cool 2D and 3D effects, courtesy of both Open GL and a new hardware-accelerated 3D graphics engine called Renderscript.
This is your revamped task switcher in Android 3.0.
Building on top of the new-look interface are additional widget types like a 3D stack, search box, a date and time picker, number picker, calendar, popup menu and more. Your home screen now has spatial arrangement in all orientations and you can scroll content displayed on the home screen widgets, like flipping through 3D stacks, grids or lists.
An improved notifications interface sports additional visual clues such as titles, priority flags, large and small icons, etc. What's best, existing Android apps inherit the aforementioned visual treats automatically.
Enhanced web browser
Android's WebKit-based web browser has been enhanced with a new anonymous browsing mode, better interface for organizing bookmarks and history, bookmark sync with Google Chrome, automatic sign-in to Google sites via your Google Account. Expect new multitouch controls and improved zooming and panning. Multiple tabs support rounds up the impressive list of subtle, but noteworthy improvements in Android 3.0's web browser.
Android 3.0 introduces new multimedia features catering to content owners like Netflix aiming to copy-protect their media with digital-rights management (DRM). It supports HTTP Live streaming protocol found on Apple's iDevices.
Widgets in Android 3.0 offer higher interactivity with 3D stacks, new multitouch gestures and more.
As a result of HTTP Live streaming, apps are able to deliver music and videos behind most firewalls and routers while dynamically optimizing streaming quality to your given network connection and throughput.
Like Apple, Google rewrote core applications to take advantage of the larger form factor and portrait or landscape orientation. The revamped Gallery app features full-screen album viewing with new controls for quick access to individual photos in an album.
You will appreciate the updated Camera app that works full screen and offers handy controls for exposure, focus, flash, zoom, front-facing camera and more.
The new-look Contacts app boasts a two-pane interface and has fast scrolling and automated phone number formatting.
The enhanced Email app packs in a brand spanking new home screen widget that offers an at-a-glance preview of incoming messages. It also supports offline attachments and has a two-pane interface for easier email organizing plus group copy, move and delete operations.
Other Android 3.0 perks include drag-and-drop in supported apps, a new system-wide clipboard, an improved cut, copy and paste designed around touch-holding a word and using a loupe (like on iOS). Android's virtual keyboard has been redesigned and now includes bigger keys.
It also adds a new TAB key and handy buttons for switching between text and voice input and for accessing additional characters by touch-holding keys. An improved Bluetooth support paves the way for a greater headset control, wireless audio streaming to Bluetooth devices, Bluetooth modem tethering and the ability to use external USB or Bluetooth keyboards with your device.