Friday, February 4, 2011

Android 3.0 (Honeycomb) - A problem of nomenclature

Google created a problem. Following Apple's iOS naming conventions, it announced its next landmark in its Android OS as version 3.0 (Android). Android users started expecting, the after Android 2.3 (Gingerbread), their devices would receive a Android 3.0 upgrade. This clamor for continuous updates is a bit unreasonable, but that is for another article. 

Back to Honeycomb, Android 3.0 is designed "only" for tablets. What does that really mean? First, Android 1.x~2.x was designed for devices with 3.7 to 4-inch screen with a 800 x 480 pixel screen resolution. Manufacturers may come out with different hardware configurations, but the 3.7 to 4-inch (800 x 480) screen is the reference design. The user interface is designed with icons and indicators which are optimized for this screen size. App developers design applications taking this reference into consideration.

This interface simply won't work at 4-inches, and it is not designed too.

Android 3.0 is designed around a 10.1-inch, 1280 x 800 resolution, screen. A 4-inch screen is about half the size of a 7-inch screen, and a 7-inch screen is about half the size of a 10.1-inch screen. An interface which looks good and works well at 4-inches would look rather ungainly on a 10.1-inch screen. Features, like tabs on a web browser, like the ones on Mozilla Firefox or Google Chrome browsers would work fine on a 10.1-inch, 1280 x 800 resolution, screen. On a 4-inch 800 x 480 screen, you would need a stylus to select the tab which would be 1/4th its size on the 4-inch  screen as against the 10.1-inch screen.  

Second, Android 3.0 is designed around an iPad killer. Overkill if you ask me (but again for another article). The Apple iPad and the iPhone share the same hardware. Actually, the iPad is a lower powered iPhone having only half the RAM. It is an iPhone, without the call and SMS functions, with a larger screen and the benefits that brings. The iPad was not designed to compete with the MacBook Air.

Google designed its Android 3.0 around a dual core system that looks like it wants to try to replace your ultraportable personal computer. Built with strong multi-tasking, 3D effects graphics and 1080p HD capture and playback, the tablet is more than a bigger Android phone.  There is no hard and fast hardware requirement, but some features like 1080p HD video playback simply won't work in single core system. The wisdom "super tablet" of this approach is something only time will tell. I suspect we will continue to see lower cost, lower powered tablets in 2011. 

It would probably have been better if Google had named this as Android HD 1.0 or something like that. The 3.0 name, created expectations, which now have to be "managed".  

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