Google Android Honeycomb

Today at the Android-themed Google event, Google proudly gave an in-depth demonstration of the latest version of the Android operating system. Android 3.0, or better known as Honeycomb, is the first version of Android that has been optimized for tablets, and from what we’ve seen it looks extremely promising. The Android team has gone into a lot of hard work to modify Android so that it will work better with the larger screened tablets that pack high-end features such as dual-core processors. Here is a rundown on some of the features that will be on Honeycomb.

An improved notification system

Like Windows, users will be presented with a notification bar at the bottom of the screen that informs them of any events such as incoming messages and completed file transfers. It gives users quick and easy access to important information with non-intrusive notifications. Through the notification bar, users can easily access settings such as airplane mode, or turning on or off WiFi

The ability to run all Android apps

It has been made very clear that apps that run fine on previous versions of Android will work just as they did on Honeycomb (albeit on a bigger screen). This means that the thousands of apps available on the Android Market can be used on Android tablets without a hitch. This definitely removes the fears about apps not working properly on Android tablets when Honeycomb is released. Kudos to Google for keeping their operating system backwards compatible.

New features for developers to use in their apps

Developers will now be able to use “fragments” in their apps. Fragments are encapsulations of a portion of a program that can be easily reused throughout the whole app, to help developers keep the consistency of their apps.

Application bars are “bars” that can change in functionality depending on what items are selected on screen as they demonstrated with the Gmail app – when no messages are selected, the action bar displays the options to compose a new message, however when a message is selected, the action bar changes to show options for replying or forwarding the message.

Optimized graphical performance

Honeycomb has been optimized to take full advantage of dual-core processors and graphic rendering capabilities. Both 2D and 3D apps will run without a hitch on the operating system, making full use of the tablet’s capabilities. This was evident in the game demos they presented at the event as well – Monster Madness, an action game that was ported over from the PS3 (!!!) and Great Battles, a game that fully utilizes the Tegra’s 2 dual-core processor to render high quality medieval battles between large armies. Existing apps can easily take advantage of Honeycomb’s hardware acceleration with the addition of one single line of code.

Google also demonstrated the power of their new graphics engine called Render Script – to provide high performance interactive 3D graphics on the operating system. This was demonstrated with their music player and book app.

New apps demonstrated

Google demonstrated the new Google Maps – how fluid and well it works on the Honeycomb tablet, and its vector engine that shows buildings when you zoom in closer to the ground. The Books app and new Music Player app was also demonstrated. Lastly they showed of a totally new app called Google Body. An app that is basically a Google Maps for the human body. Users can discover the names of different parts of the human bodies, from the outer skin level down to the skeletal structure, with a search function for you to easily locate different parts.

Disney and CNN also demonstrated some apps that will be released in the near future once Honeycomb is out on the streets. Disney will be bringing Disney Radio (targeted at tweens) and Jelly Car to the Android platform. CNN showed off their news app that looks like pretty immersive, bringing news to a whole new level. It also features an iReport section where users can easily use their Android tablets to record and upload news to CNN.

Native video chat support

The Android camera app has been updated with loads of additional features for more advanced photographers (though most people still use Android as a point-and-shoot). Honeycomb also will natively support video calling, and it was demonstrated at the event as well. Shortcuts on the homescreen can easily be used to initiate video calls with your contacts.

All in all, it was an impressive presentation by Google and we can’t wait to get our hands on a HoneyComb tablet. Head over to the official Android channel on YouTube to catch highlights from the event.

Photo by Karsten Lemm

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