Google is about to announce what its engineers are up to with Android Honeycomb, the brand new and super-sexy version of Android that’s been optimised to work for tablets.
We’ve already seen a taste of Honeycomb at CES 2011, and no doubt we’ll be seeing even more at MWC 2011 in a couple of weeks time, but before then, we’re going to see a whole lot more – and hopefully some live demos of the tablet OS in action – at an event that Google’s holding…actually about now!
So sit back and relax, and let’s see what we can expect with the company’s brand new version of Android.
NOTE: find the Live stream here.
The event has started! We’ll be seeing new features on Honeycomb.
Showing the homepage. A new button for multitasking calls up the apps that are already running, showing thumbnails of those apps like Windows 7.
Widgets are reusable components that can be installed on the homescreen, and which can use collections of data to bubble up info from apps. For example, text messages, status updates, etc.
Notifications are completely unintrusive but contain more info than notifications on current phones. Think TweetDeck’s status updates on the desktop, for example.
It’s much richer than that, though. Guy presenting is demoing a music player – he pauses it, and a notification pops up saying it’s paused. Hit the notification and a small widget featuring full control of the music player pops up.
Now moving on to demoing Fruit Ninja – it’s the same version that’s originally developed for smartphones, but running smoothly on Honeycomb on a tablet.
But google wants more than just smartphone apps for their tablets, so they’ve added more to Honeycomb to make use of tablets. They’re calling it Application Fragments.
A fragment contains functionality (including layout) that can be reused by developers. For example, on GMail, the left part of the app is the list of folders. This is a fragment. The main pane that shows the email is another fragment. Each fragment can be used on its own or together iwth its partner fragment.
For tablets, you see both fragments side by side. For smartphones, where the screen real estate is less, you’ll see one fragment at a time.
Neat way of letting app developers create apps for tablets and smartphones at the same time.
Graphics and Performance
Honeycomb permits native hardware acceleration with a new animation framework and a graphics engine called RenderScript for high performance 3D graphics (it’s this that powers the new 3D YouTube video wall)
Plugging 3D apps in big way. Multi-core processors are supported in a big way to ensure smooth performance. Maps have been optimised, and the whole animation of the 3D vector-based Google Maps app looks incredible slick.
New music app looks pretty cool too, with a 3D-esque CoverFlow like way of browsing through titles.
Then there’s Google Body – a 3D rendering of the human body that you can zoom into and out of like Google Maps (but for the body), and the animation is extremely smooth.
Now a guy called Thomas is demoing games on tablets. One game is Monster Madness that was a PS3 game but has now been ported to Honeycomb using much of the same environments.
To be fair, it looks more like a PS2 game, but it’s still pretty cool.
Media Capabilities of Honeycomb
Original guy’s back now. There’s a new camera app with a cool new user interface. It exposes all the controls for the camera using a novel circular control interface.
It looks pretty cool, but nothing amazing.
Now onto video chat. Honeycomb uses image stabilization technology to make video chat much smoother and also to use less bandwidth.
Honeycomb has contact shortcuts that show pictures of people and let you connect to them easily using whatever forms of communication you have set up with them (email, SMS, video chat, etc.)
Video chat demo now starting – hooray, it’s worked! It’s not exactly the most enlightening chat, but it’s definitely video chat (and just as toe curling as it’s been ever since it was first provided on 3G phones!).
CNN News app
Forest Lewis Gump from CNNis now on stage showing an Android app for the tablet.
CNN has recognised that mobile and tablets are a core strategic priority, and so has created a nifty new CNN app for tablets that actually looks really cool – and it’s free, too!
It really gives a great feel for the different way apps will operate on a tablet compared to a smartphone – the tablet version is much more immersive than a smartphone app would be, and as it’s free, it’s much better than a News Corp app on an iPad!
Now showing CNN’s iReport, which lets users create their own news reports. Crowd sourced news that you can see and report on yourself – all from your tablet.
The app lets you take a pic or video on your tablet’s camera, write a note on what you’re seeing, and then upload it to iReport instantly. It’s all extremely seamless and lets you do the whole thing in a super-easy way. Very impressive.
CNN app to launch on the Xoom tablet when the Xoom is launched, and will be available for all other Honeycomb devices when they come out.
Chris Yerga (probably wrong spelling!) now on stage. Talking about changes to the Android Market. Giving users a better way to find and purchase apps (at last!), and giving developers more flexible ways to monetize apps.
First announcement: Android Market Web Store is now live!
It’s a new way to get apps onto your device – find the app on your desktop browser, find an app and push it to your phone! At last!
You can also purchase an app from your browser and push it to your device.
Featured apps, details, graphically rich descriptions – so much easier to find apps than the awful way you had to with the old version of the Android Market!
A paid app has a buy button on the page, which pops up a list of devices you’ve registered with the market. Click purchase, your credit card is charged, and upon success, the app is pushed to your phone.
You can also deep link to apps, with a single URL that you can share with your mates taking you straight to an app in the Android Market. There’s even a Tweet button on each app’s Market page that lets you tweet the app’s deep link automatically.
More impressively, when you view the app’s link that’s been tweeted in your Android smartphone, rather than the link taking you to the Android Market’s web page, it’ll take you straight to the Android Market in the phone.
The new Web-based Android Market also lets you filter apps according to cost, device type supported (so you don’t need to search through apps that your phone doesn’t support) and category, letting you easily find the app you want without having to wade through thousands of irrelevant apps.
Second Announcement: Buyer Currency Support
Not so interesting, it simply means that developers can enter specific prices for apps in different currencies.
Third Announcement: In-app Purchases
The final announcement is in-app purchasing, which lets developers sell a variety of virtual goods within an app. E.g. sell an app for a low price and let users unlock more premium features by paying for them within the app itself
Bart from Disney is showing off Tap Tap Revenge, which is now coming to Android, complete with in-app purchases.
Video chat again
Hugo’s back, showing off the video chat feature. I hate video chat. I hated it on 3G, I hate it on the iPhone, and I’m gong to hate it on tablets – just like the rest of the world!
OK, uncomfortable video chat over with, the event seems to be coming to an end as the lucky people who were actually at the event have just been invited backstage to see Honeycomb in real life.