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Summary:

The first Android 3.0 tablet launched this week: there’s both good and bad in it, ranging from a solid Google experience to a lack of apps, and hardware that won’t work until later upgrades. A faster Firefox is here as is Gingerbread for Nexus One handsets.

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Google’s tablet platform has arrived in the form of Motorola’s Xoom, the first available tablet to run Android 3.0. Reviewers, including myself, found much to like ranging from an effective notification system to an outstanding experience with the core Google apps, such as Mail, Music, and Maps, to name a few. You can get a peek at both the Xoom and Android 3.0 in my video overview. The Honeycomb user interface is huge leap forward compared to Android on the smartphone, but is more computer-like and as a result, some consumers may find it challenging on a tablet.

After the core Google apps, however, the Honeycomb experience lacks depth. As of late this week, only 16 applications specific for Android tablets appeared in the Android Market. While Android smartphone apps do run on the Xoom and other expected Android tablets, many of them are simply stretched to fit larger screens and waste much space. This suggests Honeycomb will take time to mature and that perhaps Motorola rushed the Xoom to market. Additional indicators of the early launch include a non-working memory card expansion slot until after a software upgrade and Verizon’s procedure to add 4G support to Xoom: Consumers will have to send their device in to Motorola and wait up to six business days for a return.

While Honeycomb may sound like a beta, I’ve used some Android software that actually is a beta, and been impressed nonetheless. Mozilla released the fifth iteration of Firefox for mobile devices this week, and not only is it a solid app; it’s speedy too. Indeed, my benchmark tests showed a 218 percent increase in JavaScript performance, making for a fast mobile web experience on my Samsung Galaxy Tab. Even the dual-core Xoom tablet gained speed with Firefox’s browser, which tested faster than the native Honeycomb browser.

This wasn’t all about tablets though; after two months of waiting, Google Nexus One owners began to see the Android 2.3.3 update for Gingerbread via an over-the-air delivery. Since I have a custom ROM on my Nexus One — I’ve probably had more than 100 of them installed over the past year — my phone won’t see the update from Google. Instead, I’ll need to revert back to the stock firmware and then wait for the update to be sent. Or will I? Instead of waiting, folks like me can install the update themselves with a small download found at the XDA-Developers site. I’ll still have to “downgrade” from my custom ROM to a stock ROM, but there’s no wait involved. And since Gingerbread brings a much improved copy / paste function that also found on Honeycomb tablets, I’m certain this will be my next weekend project. That is if I can put aside my other hobby and stop controlling robots with my Android phone.

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  1. I’m tired of hearing how fast Firefox Runs – it already runs as fast as my connection. I’d like to see it load faster. It even loads slower than IE.

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  2. I am also really liking the speed of Firefox when browsing. I know this is still beta and hopefully they can add the ability of been able watch embedded videos like on Dolphin browser. At times Firefox doesn’t render webpages and then i go back and it does them correctly. Also seems that keyboard settings dont work with Firefox. Example I have set my keyboard to auto insert a period after double space, and doesnt work. Also any auto inserts from keyboad dont work. So, for now I will use Firefox when I just need to browse quickly.

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  3. Xoom hasn’t rushed to market despite only a few handfuls of Android apps for tablets. Judging Android developers and phone apps, they’ve done an incredibly impressive amount of work in only one year. Android and it’s developers have returned the fear of God into Apple and that’s a good thing. Xoom provides core tools out of the gate on a tablet and is generating tons of hype/encouragement to the Android developers and paying a glorious path. I’d love a great tablet but am sure as hell not buying back into the Apple ecosystem. Android is a vote for democracy. Loving it!

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  4. I wonder how my new favorite Android app movie streamer https://market.android.com/details?id=com.jkeatinco.MovieStreamerLite&feature=more_from_developer works on honeycomb? Also does anyone know if the Droid incredible will ever get android 2.3?

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  5. Unless Google throws actual tablet support besides just Honeycomb, it will be nothing but a fail. The support will hopefully arrive in the form of third-party applications, and what I’ve read, it feels as if the OS is still in beta due to several force closes and errors. Android developers, please take advantage of this. You finally have a true tablet with a true tablet Android OS, so make the best out of it. There’s so much to be done on that screen real-estate, so don’t waste this opportunity.

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  6. I too feel that FF could perform faster but I still find that it was the first real IE alternative so that’s why I don’t count it out. They also have to figure out how to get FF on more devices and the sync feature should get better. They also have plugins for the mobile browser, I got tons of olivine on my desktop browser and it slows down, hope this won’t be an issue for mobile.
    http://mobopt.com/article/better-browsing-from-a-mobile-phone-part-2-firefox-mobile

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  7. Wow, XOOM can playback 1080p HD video, I use a Free Blu-ray DVD converter do this, you can check it out now

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