Android This Week: Skype On 3G; Amazon Tablet; G-Slate Review


Android device owners using Skype’s software are one step closer to parity with their iPhone counterparts this week. An updated Skype client for Android handsets adds calling over 3G mobile broadband networks, while at the same time, patching a potential security hole in the application. Apple devices still have one key Skype advantage, however, as the iOS version supports video calling while Android owners are still waiting for that feature.

The new 3G calling functionality has the potential to turn my 7-inch Galaxy Tab Android tablet into a full-time phone. Since I carry the tablet everywhere and it replicates the same features as my Nexus One handset — minus voice calls — Skype could make up the difference. For now, I’m forwarding my incoming Google Voice calls to a Skype phone number as a test. Incoming calls have been hit-or-miss as they sometimes don’t ring on the tablet. Outgoing calls over 3G have worked perfectly, so I’m not giving up quite yet.

The Amazon Android tablet rumors gained more credence this week when Peter Rojas of gdgt shared information that Samsung is building a device for Amazon. At this point, there’s little doubt that Amazon is at least entertaining the notion as all of the pieces are in place to provide a compelling mobile experience. The company has a music ecosystem with its MP3 store and Cloud Player software, video-on-demand service and even an Amazon AppStore for Android software.

Until Amazon debuts an Android device, consumers have other Honeycomb tablets to consider. This week, I reviewed the T-Mobile G-Slate, an 8.9-inch 4G tablet with 3D video capabilities. The dual-cameras for 3D capture work reasonably well, but without a 3D television, require passive glasses (included) to view. Honeycomb runs well on the Nvidia-powered tablet and the tablet makes good use of T-Mobile’s fast HSPA+ data network.

The application catalog for Honeycomb tablets is still lacking however, which could mean consumers take a “wait and see” approach with the G-Slate and other Android tablets. Honeycomb itself still needs some work as it appears that hardware has outpaced software: applications still crash from time to time and devices sometimes exhibit slowness. I suspect Google is working on updates to correct these issues, which might be just in time for Amazon’s tablet debut. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised to see an Amazon tablet featured at Google’s I/O developer event next month.

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