February 25, 2011, 12:04 PM — Android has always frustrated me. I've tracked Google's mobile operating system ever since its debut on the T-Mobile G1, and time and again I've seen new versions fall short of overhauling the interface into a clean, user-friendly experience that can compete with--and push--Apple's iOS.
Until now: With Android 3.0 (aka Honeycomb), Google has stepped up to the plate and hit one out of the park.
In using Honeycomb on the Motorola Xoom tablet, I found myself routinely enjoying, not cursing, the experience. That's quite the contrast to how I react to my Samsung Galaxy S phone running Android 2.1--using that feels downright painful in comparison with using my Apple iPhone 4.
When it comes to interface design, I value a clean, organized style, with efficient navigation. That means making minimal taps, and not having to move my fingers back and forth across the whole screen to accomplish simple tasks. I was a harsh critic of the early Android, the unfinished operating system--it was the OS that went only so far, not far enough to see an entire action through, or to carry the polish to the next level.
But Android 3.0 is more than up to the task. Honeycomb is the first polished-interface product I've seen out of Google, and the first one that doesn't feel like an in-progress beta at launch. In some cases, it's the small details--like being able to tap anywhere on the screen to dismiss a menu window--that make Android 3.0 infinitely more usable.
Here are six things about Honeycomb that I've come to appreciate as I've spent time with the Motorola Xoom. Some of these items address grievances that I've long held with Froyo; others are just plain neat additions that bring the operating system to life.
Better Browsing Through Tabs
How do I love the improved Web browsing? Let me count the ways. The tabbed interface is more like what we're used to on our PCs, and it makes switching among windows supereasy. No more exiting to a separate screen to pick a thumbnail; just scroll through the tabs, and you can switch Websites in a heartbeat. (And theoretically you have no limit on the number of open tabs.) No more annoying menu pop-up for settings, search, adding bookmarks, or viewing the download manager--all of these functions are directly integrated into the browser.
Easier Text Editing