27
Jan
honeycomb logo
Last Updated: July 24th, 2011

Honeycomb is one of the biggest updates in Android history, so naturally, I jumped at the chance to try it out via the newly released Android 3.0 "preview SDK." What I found certainly wasn't disappointing - though it's important to remember that this is just a preview, meaning that not everything is in working order (for example, the emulator is so slow it made me want to tear my hair out at times, not to mention the frequent force close messages). Join us below for our first impressions of the new UI elements and other features found in Android 3.0 "Honeycomb."

The emulator's bootscreen is the same as it was for Android 1.6, 2.1, 2.2, etc. (though Honeycomb tablets will most likely ship with a different one):

Screen shot 2011-01-26 at 5.05.22 PM_wm Screen shot 2011-01-26 at 5.06.33 PM_wm

I suppose some things never change 

The homescreen has been given an almost complete makeover - from the process of adding widgets to scrolling through apps in the launcher, it has been redesigned from the ground up:

Screen shot 2011-01-27 at 7.47.28 AM_wm Screen shot 2011-01-27 at 7.45.26 AM_wm

 Just look at those beautiful widgets!

Screen shot 2011-01-26 at 8.29.29 PM_wm Screen shot 2011-01-26 at 6.53.19 PM_wm 

Adding apps/widgets to the homescreen is an entirely different (and better) experience

Screen shot 2011-01-26 at 5.26.20 PM_wm Screen shot 2011-01-26 at 5.29.16 PM_wm

Moving and deleting apps/widgets is also a much smoother and more visual process

 Screen shot 2011-01-26 at 5.34.57 PM_wm Screen shot 2011-01-26 at 8.41.55 PM_wm Screen shot 2011-01-27 at 9.40.47 AM_wm

The app launcher has also been redesigned and split into two sections: 'All' and 'Downloaded'

Searching has been streamlined nicely - I especially like the fact that when you type in the URL of a website that is in your bookmarks, a little widget pops up:

Screen shot 2011-01-27 at 9.21.33 AM_wm Screen shot 2011-01-26 at 8.45.57 PM_wm

The widget (seen in the right side of the first screenshot) will pop up even before you're done typing - very convenient.

The multitasking interface seen below isn't what you'll get on your XOOM or other Honeycomb tablet - the final version of Android 3.0 will include snapshots of currently running apps - but here's what we have so far:

Screen shot 2011-01-27 at 2.22.57 PM_wm Screen shot 2011-01-26 at 8.45.50 PM_wm

I can't wait to try this out once it gets thumbnails of running apps - Honeycomb may have the most innovative implementation of multitasking this side of WebOS

It took a while before I could get the browser to do anything other than crash, but it was well worth the effort - check out its sexy new progress bar, desktop-esque tabs, and general awesomeness:

Screen shot 2011-01-27 at 9.13.52 AM_wm Screen shot 2011-01-27 at 9.15.53 AM_wm Screen shot 2011-01-27 at 9.14.53 AM_wm

The only thing that worries me is the fact that the browser loaded the mobile version of Android Police - I hope the final version of Honeycomb will load desktop versions of sites by default (like the iPad)

I got the 'Camera' app to open, though it wouldn't actually function (for obvious reasons):

Screen shot 2011-01-26 at 7.24.35 PM_wm Screen shot 2011-01-27 at 9.55.09 AM_wm

Screen shot 2011-01-27 at 9.54.53 AM_wm Screen shot 2011-01-27 at 9.55.20 AM_wm Screen shot 2011-01-27 at 9.55.16 AM_wm

Again, nice improvements all around

The 'Contacts' app looks great with its new two-pane design:

Screen shot 2011-01-26 at 9.01.01 PM_wm Screen shot 2011-01-26 at 9.03.58 PM_wm Screen shot 2011-01-26 at 9.04.20 PM_wm

Pretty slick, no?

I couldn't get past the first screen of the new email app, but I like what I saw:

Screen shot 2011-01-26 at 5.36.19 PM_wm Screen shot 2011-01-26 at 8.42.32 PM_wm

I was repeatedly greeted by a server error after this screen, no matter what email account I used (I tried Gmail, Google Apps, Exchange, and a few others) 

The calculator's UI has also been revamped:

Screen shot 2011-01-27 at 2.24.35 PM_wm Screen shot 2011-01-26 at 8.44.37 PM_wm

Hey, it's a calculator! On a tablet! Imagine that, Apple! 

The same goes for the clock:

Screen shot 2011-01-26 at 8.51.41 PM_wm Screen shot 2011-01-26 at 8.51.57 PM_wm

Simple, foolproof, and futuristic. I like it, Google

Have a look at the widget-style clock you can access by tapping the battery icon in the System Bar (the System Bar is the bar across the bottom of the screen - it also contains the home, multitasking, and back buttons as well as the time/battery level and any notifications):

Screen shot 2011-01-27 at 7.57.00 AM_wm Screen shot 2011-01-27 at 7.55.28 AM_wm

Could be a nice way to view the date in addition to the time and battery percentage (which are displayed in the System Bar)

Screen shot 2011-01-27 at 8.01.08 AM_wm Screen shot 2011-01-27 at 8.03.17 AM_wm

Some useful toggles accessible via a press of the triangular button in the widget-style clock

Even the 'Settings' app has been revised so as to better fit the larger display (and yes, 'Settings' still thinks you're using a phone - don't tell it that Honeycomb is a tablet operating system):

Screen shot 2011-01-26 at 8.33.20 PM_wm Screen shot 2011-01-26 at 8.31.09 PM_wm Screen shot 2011-01-26 at 8.31.21 PM_wm

Screen shot 2011-01-27 at 8.21.30 AM_wm Screen shot 2011-01-27 at 8.21.38 AM_wm

If this is the sort of UI we can expect from all Honeycomb apps, I'm sold

Text selection has also been improved:

Screen shot 2011-01-27 at 9.17.44 AM_wm Screen shot 2011-01-27 at 7.51.37 AM_wm

Screen shot 2011-01-26 at 5.36.38 PM_wm Screen shot 2011-01-26 at 5.38.01 PM_wm

The bar across the top is perfect for a screen of this size, and the pop-up 'Paste' button is a great way to quickly paste something into a text field

And here's what apps built for Android 2.x look like:

Screen shot 2011-01-27 at 7.49.54 AM_wm Screen shot 2011-01-26 at 6.47.18 PM_wm Screen shot 2011-01-26 at 6.32.13 PM_wm

Yes, a lot of space goes to waste, but it still looks better than this...

Like I said in the introduction, Honeycomb doesn't disappoint. Sure, the emulator is unbelievably slow (even slower than an emulated Gingerbread instance, if such a thing is possible), the text/images look slightly askew in portrait mode, and I encountered force close messages at every turn, but I'll dismiss these issues as bugs in the emulator and/or a result of the non-final code contained in this "preview" version of Honeycomb.

The bottom line is that Android 3.0 introduces a fantastic new UI - one that, judging by what we've seen so far (we haven't had a chance to play with the Gmail app, YouTube, the Market, or any third-party applications yet) could easily stand its ground against the iPad or any other tablet on the market today. Let's hope the final version of Honeycomb delivers!

If you plan on trying the Honeycomb emulator yourself, be aware that there's a horrible orientation bug - by default, the screen is in portrait mode, but the window is in landscape view. You can make the window portrait by pressing the 'Control' and 'F12' keys simultaneously. To enable landscape mode, you'll need to go into 'Settings,' then 'Screen,' and finally disable 'Auto-rotate Screen.' After this, you can toggle between portrait and landscape views by holding down the 'Control' and 'F12' keys.
Jaroslav Stekl
Jaroslav Stekl is a tech enthusiast whose favorite gadgets almost always happen to be the latest Android devices. When he's not writing for Android Police, he's probably hiking, camping, or canoeing. He is also an aspiring coffee aficionado and an avid moviegoer.

  • G-Fruit

    Honeycomb SDK - Nexus One:
    http://goo.gl/f9ndK

  • max

    OMG THIS IS INCREDIBLE!! I'm very excited to actually use, I hope they put it on a very small tablet or a phone the size of the EVO

  • TareX

    Thanks guys, you're awesome!

  • Ruben

    I swear Ima pi$$ myself waiting for this on my G-Tab!!!!

  • Aatif Sumar

    Brilliant! Hope current Tablets like the Galaxy Tab support it.

  • SiliconAddict

    My only real problem is everything is so damn boxy. There are no curves in the UI. It makes it feel unfinished and rushed. The calculator as an example. Hard corners makes it feel like someone whipped that out in an hour. I wish Google would put some curvature into its OS. Everyone likes curves. ;)

  • alhinai

    finally it support Arabic thank you google

  • http://www.humidorsandmore.com J Kane

    It looks fantastic...hopefully manufacturers won't ruin it with their skins and add ons!

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