Okay. Maybe I’m being a little dramatic. However, based on my time with the XOOM, and my previous experience with the iPad, I think the XOOM, with Android 3.0 (Honeycomb) has much more potential than the iPad.
Let’s dig in…
The XOOM is packing the latest and greatest in mobile technology. It has an NVIDIA Tegra2 1GHz dual-core processor, 1GB DDR2 RAM, and 32GB of on-board storage. It also has a microSD slot, but won’t be enabled until a future software update. There are two cameras; Rear 5MP with dual LED flash, Front 2MP. It also records 720p HD video. Both picture and video quality are on par with smartphones with the same specs. in addition to recording in HD, the XOOM will playback 1080p HD videos. There is an HDMI port on the bottom, but I’m unsure of its capabilities, as I didn’t have a cable. Flanking the HDMI port, you’ll find micro USB and charging ports. On a side note, the tablet will NOT charge via the USB port. There are also metal, dock contacts on the bottom. The only physical buttons on the device are the volume and power/unlock buttons. The power/unlock button is on the back of the device, next to the camera. It’s unintuitive at first, but you get used to it. The XOOM is 4G capable…eventually. Unfortunately, this upgrade cannot be performed with a simple software update. You have to box it up and ship it off to Verizon. Not an ideal upgrade.
(Screen) Size Matters…or does it?
You don’t have to be a mathematician to know that 10.1″ is larger than 9.7″. However, when you actually measure the screens, the iPad and XOOM have roughly the same screen real estate. The XOOM merely has a wider screen, so the total diagonal measurement is larger. There are no physical UI buttons on the XOOM. However, there is a persistent ”System Bar” visible on the bottom of the screen, which includes the BACK, HOME, and RECENT APPS soft buttons. It also display Notifications, the time, connectivity and the battery meter. As a developer, it doesn’t appear that you can hide it. You can only enable “lights out mode” to dim the icons and information…but the bar is still there. Additionally, developers have the option to use the built-in Action Bar, which give them a consistent location to place navigation, search, and context sensitive elements. The stock Honeycomb Home app uses this. Add up the extra space that the “bars” take up and 10.1″ is less than 9.7″. Regardless, the screen size is fine.
Apps – or – The Lack Thereof
Google did a good job of retooling their apps to utilize the larger screen. Gmail, Calendar, Contacts, Books, Maps, Market, Music, Talk, and YouTube all received the tablet treatment. They even added a new core app called Movie Studio. As the name suggests, Movie Studio is a movie editing app, which allows you to combine/trim video files as well as add images, transitions, and a music score. Then you can export your video for future upload. While it’s nice that the core apps have been tabletized, most of your favorite apps, in the Android Market, have not. Google does now offer a “Apps for Tablets” section, but there are only 16 apps listed. It’s possible that these are “featured” apps, and not the entire list of apps that are available. Rest assured, most of your favorite apps will still work on the XOOM. They just might not fill the screen or look quite right. It would have been nice if Google would have reached out to some key developers to have them upgrade their existing apps to be tablet-friendly. At the time of writing this, Adobe Flash is not present on the XOOM. The official announcement word is that it will be “available soon, as a free download” from the Android Market.
Pricing and Availability
The Motorola XOOM tablet is available now through Verizon Wireless or an authorized retailer. You can purchase it for $599.99, with a new two-year contract, or $799.99, without a contract. Data plan options are 1GB/$20, 3GB/$35, 5GB/$50, and 10GB/$80. 4G pricing is unknown at this time. There are several accessories available, including a standard dock, an HD speaker dock, a protective case, and a wireless keyboard (not yet available on VZW’s site, but is available at Best Buy).
In Conclusion, and In Summary…
Overall, I like the XOOM. Android 3.0 is very responsive. The updated core apps and widgets are well designed for tablet use. The other tablet apps, that are available in the Market, also work well. The lack of SD card and Adobe Flash capabilities, out of the box, coupled with the 4G LTE mail-in upgrade puts the the XOOM on my “wait to purchase” list. At least until they get this sorted out. The other reason I would wait, to purchase this tablet, is to see what else is going to be available in the next two months. LG, Samsung and a few other manufacturers have announced new tablets. More competition may drive prices down.
Made with Movie Studio