Ice Cream Sandwich, the version of the Google Android OS that will once again reunite the smartphone and tablet sides of the system, is out and working in devices already, but the Motorola Xoom 2 ships with Android 3.2 Honeycomb at present. It’s better-suited to large 10.1in screens than the smartphone version of the software, with a better-integrated notifications system that borrows design elements from desktop operating systems like Windows and Mac OS.
Down the bottom is an interface bar that holds a clock, any recent notifications plus three nav buttons – back, home and recent apps. As Honeycomb doesn’t rely on hardware navigation buttons, these three little touchscreen squares are key parts of the Android Honeycomb experience. Just as important is the apps menu shortcut right up at the top of the screen. This button and the home button take you to the two “halves” of the OS – the home screens and app menu.
Home screens and…
To anyone who has used Android before, this will seem as though we’re explaining the alphabet or why it gets dark at night, but if you’re of Apple stock, it’s important to consider whether this different style of OS will be your bag. It allows for plenty of customisation and fiddling, and home screens can be bunged full of widgets and shortcuts. However, it’s less immediate and simple than iOS – which is little more than a window to an app menu.
Ice Cream Sandwich, the upcoming version 4.0 of the software, doesn’t significantly deviate from HoneyComb 3.2. It just makes it work a little better, which is something that Android for tablets needs – it doesn’t offer as pleasurable and “complete” an experience as iOS or Android for smartphones.
…the apps menu
Motorola has confirmed its intention to bring Ice Cream Sandwich to the Xoom 2 within six weeks of the system’s public launch. Having spent many a month waiting for an Android update to land, we’d advise taking any such claims with a dose of salty scepticism – although all tablet manufacturers are in a similar position right now.
In the meantime, Motorola has thankfully not made any bold customisations of the Honeycomb OS. There’s a little icon stuck in the bottom menu bar, giving you easy access to a little, very basic, notepad that floats on top of the home screen, and the clock font seems to be a custom addition, but the rest of the layout is the bog-standard one we’ve grown all-too accustomed to over the last year.
Floating notes – take notes without leaving the home screen
The Xoom 2 is crying out for Ice Cream Sandwich, as it can be argued that, weight loss aside, the Xoom doesn’t feel massively different in operation from its predecessor. Its mild obsession with note-taking is… notable given that Motorola also offers an official stylus (not supplied as standard, £25), but as it’s a standard active capacitive stylus rather than anything fancier it’s no reason to favour the Xoom 2 over any Honeycomb rival.