Well, this is big news for any platform: a new version finally going final build. As exciting as the preview was, many developers I’m sure are pretty stoked to get their grubby little fingers all over this Honeycomb version of Android. All API’s are final (And cranked to 11!!! :O) and the whole kit and kaboodle can be downloaded right now. I know I’m not first to the scene, but I’ll be here to post an update later with my own personal impressions with the new SDK and experimenting with the AVD. For now you’ll just have to make do with my exposure to the preview.
If you’ve been following any of the news as of late, Android 3.0 is the next version of Android designed specifically for tablet devices. It is the first true competitor to the market the Apple iPad started about a year ago. Running Android 2.2 on 7″ devices may work for some, but it’s not a valid option to the tablet specific apps for the iPad. Windows 7 is too bloated to try and run on these devices and none of the Android tablets so far have had the necessary software enhancements to really make a stand against the plethora of tailor made tablet apps for the iPad. All that changes with this latest build.
I had a chance last week to sit down with the 3.0 SDK Preview build that was released on January 36th (better late than never). Needless to say I walked away from the experience very impressed and quite excited to see the next wave of tablets come crashing over the U.S. I didn’t take too much time to actually write any apps for 3.0 (API’s not being final keeps me away) but I did take a bit of time to get the AVD up and running for a Honeycomb device code named Zoom (hehe). As I recall, my device had 10″ scaled display with a 4gb sd card and 1024MB of RAM. I left it at the default resolution and DPI as well as not touching any of the other modules besides touch screen input. My first device build failed (not sure why) but the second time it finished and eventually booted up in about 5 minutes on my Win7 PC.
The differences between 3.0 and 2.2 on a tablet are huge, especially in the UI realm, but what I’d really like to compare it to is the iPad’s iOS UI scheme and how strikingly different they are approaching the same screen real estate. Instead of a row of docked icons at the bottom of the screen with rows of scrollable icons above, the Honeycomb build presents you with an System Bar across the bottom and instead of just icons, several widgets are seemingly floating above the wallpaper. Above the widgets on the homescreen you’ll find a Google Universal Search box in the top left and an icon to access your full list of apps on the top right. The bottom left of the screen contains three navigation buttons: Back, Home, and Menu. Adding widgets has a new 3D visual appeal as well as the widgets themselves scrolling through a three dimensional space. My 3.0 AVD build not being the quickest (I also blame bias against AMD processors) kind of killed a lot of the visual aesthetic, but I did at least get it to show the app launcher and the recent applications visual. The app launcher is pretty much the standard array of icons, but the recent apps brings a lot more to the table via the System Bar. Instead of having a row of icons popup for fast app switching in iOS 4.2 you’re treated to actual live snapshots of apps running in the background making it a lot less of a guessing game and a lot more of getting stuff done. Most of this has already been demoed and videoed dozens of times before, but I encourage you to take the next step and try it out for yourself. Sure, I’d already seen the launcher and the widgets and all that in multiple videos, but it’s an entirely different experience when you get to press the buttons for yourself and really feel how everything works.
Although my experience thus far has been limited to the preview SDK for Android 3.0, it was nonetheless an experience that has left me highly anticipating getting me some Honeycomb action before too long. iOS had better really step up its UI for tablets with the iPad 2 because even my short time with Android 3.0 made me feel like my that extra real estate was being put to good use outside the gazillion apps. Ultimately the market decides, but Honeycomb has come in with it’s guns blazing and I’d encourage anyone of any OS to build yourself an SDK and start developing cause 2011 is gonna be a crazy ride!