Using Google's Android 3.0 Tablet, the First Real iPad Fighter

This is how an Android tablet should feel. Android 3.0 running on Motorola's Xoom tablet is almost iPad-like, a legitimate threat to the only successful tablet on the market right now. It's about damn time!

You can tell that the Motorola Xoom tablets running Android 3.0 are fast just from demo videos, but it's not until you actually use them that it's clear that these are responsive and usable enough to compete with the iPad. It really does feel like a tablet designed for people who prefer Android to iOS.

App switching is done via a soft-button on the tray, displaying the last 5 used apps in a column. Tapping it immediately takes you to the app in a way that's at least as fast, if not faster than switching apps on an iPad. It took until version 3.0 for Google to design a user interface explicitly for tablets, and their first effort is a good one just from the way you can get around the tablet quickly.

All the apps are modified to be on the tablet-sized screen. Gmail has two columns, one for the message list and one for the actual message you're viewing. Google Talk is similar, with your contact list on the left and the messaging window on the right. YouTube has many more thumbnails and videos to browse through, defaulting the video to playing back in a smaller window that you can then maximize. A lot of consideration has gone into how to expand each user interface element to better fit the largest screen and have more things you can do at once.

What's also adapted is the widgets, which I can imagine people will be using quite a bit, instead of switching back and forth between modal applications unless they really need to focus on one thing. Having a calendar, your inbox, marketplace and chat widgets visible all at once gives you desktop-like multitasking ability, and when you want, tap into each widget to take you to the app itself. Everything is fast and smooth.

Small touches like expanded notifications (again, because of the larger screen), and improved graphics performance in the core 3D UI elements go a long way to making this not suck.

All the problems found in the two Android tablets running version 2.2 should be solved, or at the very least, reduced. It's much faster, much more responsive and actually reach a sophistication level so you won't get constantly pissed off using them.

Even though Google won't talk about how Android 3.0 Honeycomb will be on Android phones, or whether or not it's coming at all, it's a pretty huge step for Android tablets. Those of you who are looking forward to the iPad 2 might want to check out the Motorola Xoom as well.