Honeycomb Puts Android 3.0 Tablets On Nearly Equal Footing With iPad

This morning Google showcased the features of its new tablet-optimized version of Android: Honeycomb. Danny live-blogged the press event,

Honeycomb represents a dramatic improvement over Gingerbread for tablets in several respects. The UI is the most obvious example, as well as developer tools on the back end.

There are some distinct UI differences between Android and the iPad. While Android apps and handset UIs often closely resemble the iPhone that is not true with Honeycomb for tablets. Regardless the presence of the iPad hung over the press event (at least for me) and much of what Google introduced was “catch up” or “me too” functionality.

Long overdue, Google announced a web-based version of the Android Market. It also gave developers new ways to promote their apps on the applications page and virally through social media.

Android developers have complained that people aren’t buying apps and thus they’re not making enough money on the platform. This is partly due to payment friction and the lack of a unified payments platform across countries. Google and carriers have tried to remedy this by adding carrier billing as an option in addition to Google Checkout.

Today Google demo’d a relatively smooth app purchase process. It also introduced in-app purchases, which will help mollify developers and make them more money — especially game developers.

Google also briefly teased Google Music but didn’t discuss it or provide release date. One area of clear superiority for Android is Google Maps. The version of Maps for Honeycomb is much richer than the comparable version of Maps for the iPad.

Here are some additional screens:

Google said that existing Android applications will work without modification and run “really well” on Android (unlike iPhone apps on the iPad). Google says that it still wants to encourage developers to build “tablet optimized” applications. Lots of developer-speak and discussion of developer tools within the Honeycomb framework ensued to general confusion (on my part).

Android tablets will feature cameras with the ability to shoot a video and upload it instantly to YouTube. Cameras are not part of the iPad but thought to be part of iPad 2 coming out later this year.

Honeycomb supports video chat:

Third party apps were displayed and demonstrated:

Google says that developers will now have lots of control over application pages and app promotion within the Android webstore (including with YouTube video). There are social-promotional tools (tweet about apps directly from the webstore). The new webstore is a cloud-based version of iTunes with no wired syncing.

Overall Honeycomb will make Android tablets much more competitive with the iPad than existing Android devices (e.g., Galaxy Tab) running earlier versions of the Android software. Pricing will be critical to their adoption however. In addition the availability of smaller 7″ tablets may prove a very successful form factor for Android.

Apple has largely shunned the idea of producing smaller tablet (“nano”) devices. But the Samsung Galaxy Tab’s relative success shows a demand for the smaller sized, more “mobile” tablet — especially given the inferiority of the overall Galaxy Tab experience.

Expect Android tablet adoption to generally follow the path of Android handset adoption with a somewhat less aggressive growth curve because the iPad is broadly available unlike its sibling the iPhone. What will also be interesting to see is how other tablets fare when they’re introduced later in the year (WebOS, RIM Playbook).

Related Topics: Channel: Mobile | Features: Analysis | Google: Maps & Local | Google: Mobile | Top News

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About The Author: is a Contributing Editor at Search Engine Land. He writes a personal blog Screenwerk, about SoLoMo issues and connecting the dots between online and offline. He also posts at Internet2Go, which is focused on the mobile Internet. Follow him @gsterling.

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  • http://ARMdevices.net charbax

    Your opinion is ridiculous.

    Android 2.2 on Tablets is SAME as iOS on iPad, if not much more advanced. Android 1.6 SDK introduced support for LARGER screens and LARGER resolution, that means nearly all of the 100 thousand Android apps work fine on Tablets, not same on iOS.

    Honeycomb is CUSTOM OS designed specifically for Tablets, nothing like iOS.

  • http://evula.tumblr.com/ evula

    The Samsung Galaxy Tab’s relative success… relative to what? Samsung has said that sales are “quite small”, and it’s reported to have a return rate of 16%.

    I fail to see how dismal sales (and high returns of those few sold) show demand for much of anything, aside from “anything other than a Galaxy Tab”.

  • NOT RahmEmanuel

    @evula wrote:
    “Samsung has said that sales are “quite small” …”

    Uhm, no ‘they’ didn’t. Their CEO said Galaxy sales were “Quite smooth.” Given that Samsung has reported selling a (corporate) record number of handsets last year – thanks, by the way, almost entirely to their use of Android OS – it’s a good bet he knows what he’s talking about.

    Just FYI: it pays to check your facts before calling BS. For those who practice unabashed, uninformed snarkiness I suggest they stick with FOXNews.com. ;)

  • Steves

    “But the Samsung Galaxy Tab’s relative success shows a demand for the smaller sized”

    Only trouble is, that while Samsung built and shipped lots of these things, consumers failed to actually buy them. Sell-out has been estimated to be less than 5%. So if this is the basis of your thesis:

    “Expect Android tablet adoption to generally follow the path of Android handset adoption with a somewhat less aggressive growth curve because the iPad is broadly available unlike its sibling the iPhone.”

    Simply needs to be re-evaluated. Likewise, the iPhone is “broadly available”.

  • spoooooooooon

    @NOT RahmEmanuel wrote:
    ‘Their CEO said Galaxy sales were “Quite smooth.”‘

    In case anyone was wondering, Samsung’s CEO was originally reported as saying that the sales were “quite small”, when the actual words were “quite smooth”.

    However, she continued, ” We believe, as the introduction of new device, it was required to have consumers invest in the device. So therefore, even though sell-out wasn’t as fast as we expected, we still believe sell-out was quite OK.”

    Doesn’t sound good. I consider myself an Android fan, but I don’t like the sound of “OK”.

    ["Sell-in" means "sales to retailers", while "sell-out" "sales to consumers"].

  • http://searchfororangecountyhomes.com/ karenfiddler

    I just got my Galaxy Tab ( I know….didn’t wait for the new release). I love it! Best thing I ever did. I use it for business as a real estate broker. Because it has Adobe Flash on it…I have full access to my MLS, offer-writing software and other business tools. The only thing it doesn’t work with is my Docusign, but I can view in it…just can’t create the digital signatures. Love it….now I”m going to get a phone which just answers the phone and this fits in my purse.

  • rainmanbk

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