Why Android Matters: Gingerbread, Ice Cream, Honeycomb and More!

January 16, 2011
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In the past several weeks we have had the privilege of seeing the future. We have seen some of the most significant developments in mobile technology and in Android development the world has ever witnessed. We already know that a number of significant changes can be expected, and they will only serve to accelerate adoption of Android world wide.

The 2011 Consumer Electronics Show was packed with a seemingly unlimited amount of new gadgets. By far the biggest news for Android fans were the announcements of the Dual-Core Motorola Atrix and Motorola’s Xoom Tegra 2 Tablet with Android 3.0 Honeycomb. We are extremely eager to get our hands on Honeycomb as soon as we can in early March.

Google is an absolutely remarkable company. With a stock price over $600, it’s hard to believe that this company is basically only a decade old. They have been highly strategic in their approach to being the leader of the Internet, and have pioneered into previously uncharted territory with excellent planning, foresight and execution. While their execution hasn’t been flawless in every respect, they certainly have demonstrated a keen ability to learn from their mistakes, their competitors’ shortcomings, and launch products and services that are better than anything else available.

Not too long ago, Google made the extremely wise decision to hire Palm’s Matias Duarte, an industry veteran in mobile UI design. We at Android Authority have been paying close attention to this development, and are very enthusiastic about the changes coming in the highly anticipated Honeycomb. We have seen firsthand that the UI developments are substantial, and will blow users away. March really can’t come soon enough.
The rapid ascent of the Android platform has been staggering in 2010. Android has now overtaken the Iphone OS in nearly every respect. Some market research indicates that many people still consider Android to be somewhat complicated, but they can always opt to be part of the Iphone herd. Clearly the world wants choice, and will not settle for a closed system with limited diversity of phones and software. The emergent theme is that the open and ever-changing nature of the Android operating system, coupled with the constant competition of multiple handset makers, and the absence of any restriction on software publishing will inevitably make Android the dominant Smartphone and Tablet platform of the future.

We can see that the same analogy allowed Windows to flourish and become the dominant operating system worldwide. Having a minimally restrictive operating system that functions on a near unlimited amount of hardware will make Android the de facto operating system of the future.

There will be more Android devices in the future than iPhone OS devices

Android is based on the Linux kernel which already powers an unimaginable range of computers and devices. Google has worked hard to provide an excellent foundation of rich communication and a great user interface layer to help bolster the creativity and efforts of developer worldwide. We can expect Android to power everything from phones to tablet computers but also in-car media, thermostats, refrigerators and potentially anything. Of course the idea of true digital convergence comes to mind, and is very likely within reach when you consider all the amazing possibilities.
Of course, there is also the prevailing argument that Android is already too fragmented for such a thing to occur, but we beg to differ. Android, as we can see, is already splitting from Gingerbread Android 2.3/ Ice Cream Android 2.4 to Honeycomb Android 3.0. We have already uncovered reports that Smartphones will receive the same Honeycomb treatment in very short time.

When first showing off Honeycomb and the Motorola Xoom tablet at an All Things Digital mobile conference last month, Google Android chief Andy Rubin was careful to avoid describing Honeycomb as a tablet-only OS. During the session, reporter Walt Mossberg asked Rubin whether Honeycomb was “just a version of Android that happens to work well on tablets” or “a tablet version of Android.” Rubin’s response: “It’s both, I would say.” Great!

Tim O’Reilly, arguably one of the most prescient technology observers, effectively suggested that it is not Apple vs. Google but rather Apple vs. the web. In today’s interconnected information environment, controlling the data (i.e. Google) is more important than controlling the device (i.e. Apple).
Google will undoubtedly remain the dominant information platform/storehouse for the foreseeable future. However, new companies will continue to impress with compelling data in their sectors, such as Yelp for restaurant and vendor reviews, IMDb for movies, Twitter for social networking, and so forth.

Conclusion:

  • Competition is a wonderful thing and only benefits the users and consumers involved
  • Google is a very, very smart company
  • Android is better than anything Apple could ever hope to produce
  • Android is still young, and will mature very nicely
  • Honeycomb is the future of Android, and will work on Smartphones too

History does not quite repeat itself, but does reverberate. Both Apple and Google will flourish and we, the consumers, will benefit.

For starters, there’s a brand new art direction coming to Android; with Honeycomb, we can see a clear shift to a futuristic, ‘authentically digital’ aesthetic, reminiscent of futuristic art. The new gesture action for unlocking a Honeycomb device involves a glowing circle in the center of the screen.  

Currently, Android phones and tablets depend on physical buttons that are fixed into the hardware – Home, Search, Back, and Menu. In a few months, we’ll start to see devices without hardware buttons, as Honeycomb will have a Windows-like ‘taskbar’ with Home, Back, and Menu buttons displayed on the touchscreen.

The tablet build of Honeycomb features so many improvements it is staggering. We have already seen a new dedicated Gmail widget, and a very aesthetically pleasing calendar view that allows you to scroll through calendar events from the home screen. Especially impressive is the new 3D panoramic YouTube app and  a powerful new Chrome-like web browser. The new and improved touchscreen keyboard is going to increase productivity by leaps and bounds, and the new integration of GTalk video chat coupled with an incredibly elegant multitasking solution will allow users to see what apps are running at every available moment.

Honeycomb looks simply stunning. At this point, it’s hard to say how many of these incredible refinements will make it into the phone version of Honeycomb. What is clear is that Google is putting everything they have into making Android a more consumer-friendly OS that will scale beautifully with a variety of tablet screen sizes. The fact that Honeycomb will only serve to foster incredible competition and enable electronics makers to produce quality tablets is a very compelling prospect indeed. Based on what we witnessed at CES, 2011 is going to see a massive army of iPad-hunting Honeycomb tablets.

Stay tuned for the latest and greatest Android updates here at Android Authority!

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