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Summary:

Verizon is releasing a software update Thursday for the Motorola Xoom tablet, but it doesn’t look like the features will boost flagging sales. Most of the changes are minor and don’t address bigger shortcomings found in Honeycomb. For that, device owners need to look to Google.

motoroloa-xoom-featured

Motorola’s Xoom tablet owners have a software update waiting for them Thursday, per Verizon Wireless’s support site for the device. The tablet will notify users when the 28 MB file is available for download, according to the carrier, suggesting a rollout in waves. How many waves there are is up for debate. as analysts have pegged Xoom sales at low numbers, ranging from 25,000 to 120,000 sales so far for the first Google Honeycomb tablet.

I recently returned my Xoom review unit to Verizon, so I’m not able to test the upgrade. However, on paper, nothing suggests any of my major dislikes of the tablet or platform are addressed. Honeycomb still doesn’t appear to be ready for primetime due to application crashes, general instability and a lack of useful software titles in the Android Market made for larger displays. Those criticisms apply equally to the G-Slate, another Honeycomb tablet I recently reviewed. But the Xoom has a few more issues, and this software update addresses neither.

Specifically, Motorola’s tablet still isn’t able to use Verizon’s LTE 4G network, which will happen after device owners send in their Xoom to have the LTE hardware added. There’s no mention of LTE support in the release notes for this software update. Nor can Xoom owners use the microSD card slot for expanding memory or for easy transfer of data from another device. Instead, here’s what’s new to the Xoom after this software update, version HMJ07B, is installed, per the release notes (PDF):

Web Browsing and Data Access

  • Access and stay connected to Wi-Fi networks with added Proxy support.
  • SSL data transfer with websites is now supported.
  • WPA Pre-Shared Key pass-phrases are now supported when using the device as a Mobile Hotspot.
  • Supports Google Widevine DRM and HDCP.

Email and Messaging

  • POP3 HTML emails will display in their entirety.

Call Features

  • Bluetooth is now supported in Google Talk.

Additional Device Features

  • Encrypted passwords can be entered during power up.
  • Calendar events will remain up to date after an installed software update.
  • Application storage errors will not appear unless the device has reached maximum storage capacity.
  • Safely dock the Motorola Xoom into the docking adapter without interruption.
  • Ability to add and use a Bluetooth mouse.
  • A shortcut key for the Bluetooth keyboard has been added.
  • View and import pictures from digital cameras with Picture Transfer Protocol.
  • When using the device in accessibility mode, menus will no longer prompt with sounds.
While these are welcome changes — particularly the Bluetooth and wireless bits, in my opinion — I don’t expect Xoom sales to be significantly impacted, as no follow-up review would likely be different from the initial review. The real catalyst to jumpstart Honeycomb sales likely has to come from Google directly in the form of a bigger Honeycomb update to boost performance and address application crashes. If I’m right, we’ll hear about that at Google’s I/O developer event, which takes place in the second week of May. Until then, the Xoom gets incrementally better, but not by much.

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  1. I have had this conversation with you on twitter too, but you have to try the Wifi Xoom out. It seems devoid of all the problems like instability, long response times etc etc. In fact it was a huge step up from froyo on HTC legend. As far as performance went it was like butter…. And yes I got a chance to try out the iPad 1 and iPad 2, although I dont own one.

    Sure platform problems like app library will remain, but it should not be worse than a galaxy tab 7″

    I wouldnt be surprised if the problems you speak of are due to a bad baseband (ie it only affects the cellular models) The rush of the original (wifi+3g) xoom was hurried as shown by the 4G snafu …

    As a point of reference the iPhone 3G was very very buggy compared to the iPod touch 2G. (Both are the same generation device) with identical processor, memory etc… What I eventually figured out was that the baseband / phone app would steal some memory and the apps always had less memory so they were more likely to crash. All this disappeared with the 3GS.

    Maybe software fixes can help the original xoom. Though I think that sexier hardware like the new samsung tablets are going to kill the xoom in sometime anyway.

    1. Appreciate the thoughts, and you could well be right that there are baseband issues that wouldn’t be seen in a WiFi model. But those aren’t causing the apps to crash, which is a huge problem to me. One thing I don’t understand though, you said “Sure platform problems like app library will remain, but it should not be worse than a galaxy tab 7″”

      What app problems does the Galaxy Tab 7″ have? I use the device daily and there aren’t any problems. 99% of the apps I’ve found use the full 1024×600 display; only a few still run in a letterbox format. And the apps don’t crash on me, like they did on the Xoom. So what issue are you pointing out? Just curious.

      1. By platform and app library problems, I mean tablet optimized apps ie two and many column apps like the ipad which are common to honeycomb froyo and gingerbread

  2. Interesting, we’ve deployed seven Xooms in-house and we’re having none of the crashing issues. Perhaps a bad unit??

    1. Glenn, it’s not the OS that was crashing on me: it was apps such as Android Market, Facebook, etc…. I don’t think it was a bad unit because other reviewer experienced the same. Hard to say, but I haven’t yet seen anyone say the experience was rock-solid and bulletproof. In Google’s defense, I never had any issues with Gmail, Calendar, etc….

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