The Motorola Xoom Android tablet goes on sale in the UK this week, bringing a first taste of Android Honeycomb at long last. Electricpig has been playing with one over the weekend and will be bringing you a full verdict tomorrow. But in the meantime, if you passed on the iPad 2 and have been waiting patiently for Honeycomb, here are ten cast-iron reasons your gamble has paid off…
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1. It isn’t enslaved by iTunes
It’s absurd that a device that is meant to redefine computing still has to be chained to a PC for updates. And you know what, iTunes is almost starting to look old-fashioned – it’s laggy and bloated. Simply plug in the Motorola Xoom via micro USB, and you can copy across whatever files you like, or use the excellent, free and streamlined doubleTwist desktop app for iTunes-style syncing.
2. Praise the Lord, it’s got Flash
How the hell have Apple got away with this for so long? Without Flash, a large proportion of videos and websites pop up with a ‘Haha, you’re not in our gang’ message and refuse to work properly. Ok, to be fair the situation is getting better, but it’s simply not an issue for the Xoom, which uses the latest Adobe Flash 10.2 plug-in to play any video you can find on the internet.
3. The keyboard is vastly superior
While Apple’s QWERTY touchscreen keyboard on the iPhone has still yet to be matched, the iPad’s is a different story. On the iPad 2, it’s responsive enough but there’s no form of prediction to speed up your typing. The Motorola Xoom however uses an enlarged version of the stunning keyboard found in Android 2.3, which pops up with suggested words above as you type. Oh, and because it’s Android, you can install any other keyboard that takes your fancy too.
4. Notifications don’t bring it to a grinding halt
Apple’s iOS notification system is certainly its Achilles’ heel, and it’s felt even more acutely on the iPad 2′s much larger screen. Whenever anything happens, it stops whatever you’re doing and throws a message in your face. By contrast, the Motorola Xoom’s notification set up is elegant. Instead of the pull down tray on Android phones, you have a small area in the bottom right hand corner where new messages like pop up. You can remove the pop up with a tap, open it, or just ignore it completely – point is, the choice is yours.
5. A HDMI cable won’t cost you a kidney
You can connect both an iPad 2 and a Motorola Xoom to your TV to play HD video back on the big screen – but the latter will cost significantly less to do so. Apple’s 30-pin port requires the company’s own Digital AV Adapter, which costs a full £35, where as the Xoom uses a regular micro HDMI cable, which can be had for just a few pounds online.
6. It’s a multi-tasking genius
We’re not going to get sucked into the argument about whether iOS multitasking is true multitasking or not – suffice to say it’s enough for most. But Apple could learn from Google in this respect still: we much prefer the live thumbnails you see when you pop the multitasking button on the Xoom. It’s just easier to see what lies beyond, where the iPad gives you impenetrable stock icons.
7. Somebody actually thought about the homescreen
The iPad 2 is a beautiful device, but every time we look at the home screen, we wince at all the real estate going to waste. Couldn’t you just have all those icons in one corner, and leave the rest for widgets? Android 3.0 on the Xoom lets you slap widgets, shortcuts and contacts anywhere you like on multiple homescreens, and leaves the list of apps for a separate menu screen you can summon on command.
8. You can upgrade the storage cheaply
How about some hot swappable storage space on your slate? While it’s not active right now (Motorola says a firmware update is coming), the Motorola Xoom sports a microSD slot, so you’ll be able to pop in cards of up to 32GB as you please. Of course, you can get the iPad 2 in flavours up to 64GB in size, but they cost a lot more – and you can’t switch it out at will.
9. Voice actions are built in
Apple’s voice command controls remain fairly limited, while Google vastly improved its voice options with Android 2.2 and up. They make even more sense on a tablet, which you’re more likely to be using in the comfort of your home, and you’ll prefer not to type on if possible. Telling the Xoom what to search for just makes perfect sense.
10. It’s got a killer browser
Using the browser on the Motorola Xoom feels just like a refined Chrome on a computer. It’s fast, with tabs visible at the top instead of in a separate window a la Safari on iOS, voice controls are included and you can even open up an incognito tab to surf for, er, ‘surprise birthday presents’.