Apple has been dominating the market for tablet computers. But now, with Motorola’s Xoom and other tablet PCs rolling out, alternatives to the iPad are coming to stores, many using the new Google operating system Android Honeycomb.
Companies like Motorola, Samsung and LG are bringing out tablets with Google’s Android 3.0 operating system, also known as Honeycomb. In some ways, these new versions outscore the market leader.
One of the forerunners is Motorola’s Xoom. The U.S. company kept close tabs on the development of Honeycomb and was the first to be able to come out with an Android 3.0-ready tablet. At 730 grams, the Xoom is a little heavier than the 600-gram iPad and a bit wider. But it has a higher resolution in its 10.1-inch screen (1,280x800 pixels versus 1,024x768). Just like the iPad, the Xoom has solid aluminium housing.
Motorola took more pains with its built-in cameras than Apple. The camera on the back offers 5 megapixels, while the one on the front for video chat features has 2 megapixels, significantly more than the iPad 2. That means the Xoom can record videos in quality of up to 720 pixels, even though its recordings tend to have a slightly bluish tint.
Honeycomb tablets don’t have mechanical buttons for functions like menu, home, back and search, meaning the Xoom is completely controlled via its touch-sensitive screen.
Xoom runs with a dual-core processor (a set of 1 gigahertz processors) to allow speedy work and smooth video playback. Just like with the iPad, the Xoom’s battery has a charge of about eight hours, or the equivalent of a full workday or a long-range flight.
While there are more than 200,000 programmes available for Android, all of which should theoretically work on the Xoom, very few of those programmes were designed with the tablet exclusively in mind. Meanwhile, there are 10,000 programmes just for the iPad.
Unlike the iPad, Xoom supports Adobe’s Flash Player, which has to be separately installed. The player only plays a small role in video playback, since leading portals like YouTube have started distributing most of their online videos in the iPad-compatible format H.264. But Flash often crops up in interactive graphics, live tickers and online games.
Android Honeycomb also gives users more freedom in setting up the look of their homepage. While the iPad only allows the display of programme icons, links and notices, Honeycomb allows the display of up to five so-called widgets, small preview programmes for things like weather forecasts, email and stock market reports.
But these advantages don’t quite go far enough toward making up for the disadvantages the Google tablet suffers in its marketplace for apps and media services.