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How Google Can Make Android Truly Tablet-Worthy 168

Posted by timothy
from the is-tablet-worthy-a-high-goal-or-low? dept.
With an Android armada on the horizon (or at least expected), reader androidtablet plugs this piece on ways Android could be truly tablet-friendly. Armchair engineering may be easy to knock, but I like the ideas presented here, such as aggressively using the inactive (locked) screen state to display useful information.
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How Google Can Make Android Truly Tablet-Worthy

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  • Wrong (Score:5, Interesting)

    by 0xdeadbeef (28836) on Saturday May 29, 2010 @02:38AM (#32386904) Homepage Journal

    Mandatory hardware buttons, and dictate their placement. Having the back button, menu button, and home button change places on different Android devices is retarded. And make it hard to accidentally hit them. Apple's "fuck whatever you're doing and quit" key is stupidest UI decision ever made. Putting it where you hold the device makes it even worse.

    Want to be real awesome? Have touch-sensitive dedicated scroll areas off the display surface.

    Support pen input, from low-end pressure screens to that fancy induction Wacom stuff. That is the real future of tablets, always has been, always will be. There is a reason only children fingerpaint.

  • Re:Wrong (Score:5, Interesting)

    by shikaisi (1816846) on Saturday May 29, 2010 @02:59AM (#32386976)
    I don't think David Hockney [wikipedia.org] would be classed as a child, and he seems pretty enthusiastic about the iPad as a (finger)painting medium.
  • Status information! (Score:4, Interesting)

    by teh dave (1618221) on Saturday May 29, 2010 @03:01AM (#32386978)

    aggressively using the inactive (locked) screen state to display useful information

    I don't know exactly what that means but I like the sound of it. Mobile operating systems, especially ones from Apple, should be a lot better than they are at at displaying device and communications status. It's one of the... maybe two things Windows Mobile is good at: at a glance I can see how many emails I have in each individual account, how many appointments I have today and the two or three coming up, how many active tasks I have and the first few highest priority/earliest due, how much data I've used this month, what the weather will be like tomorrow, and of course the time, date, battery and signal et cetera. All from one button press. And of course there are lots of other Today plugins available and they are easy to develop.

    If you cringe at that, that's fine. You don't like it and most people I know don't want "clutter" on their home screen either. That's fine for them but iPhone OS doesn't give the choice to those of us who would like to use an otherwise purposeless blank screen for displaying useful information. The key word there is choice... you can have it your way and I can have it my way. At least, we could, if iPhone supported a single bit of customisation...

  • by Zixaphir (845917) <Jinira@@@hotmail...com> on Saturday May 29, 2010 @03:13AM (#32387018) Homepage
    I don't know, man. All the features I could ever want work great outta the box. As long as I'm locked into Android, there is no way I'll ever lose my contacts. When I format or switch to a new phone, my apps are all downloaded again automagically. If I don't like something about the OS, I can generally replace it with some third party application. When android tablets start coming out, if I get one, my custom "Android" will likely follow me onto it. I don't know, as someone who had to deal with people when they had synchronization problems with ActiveSync and their Windows Mobile phones (problems sync'ing generally mean loss of everything without some roundabout backup/restore of PIM), I can't get enough of Android's robust synchronization with "the cloud"
  • Re:Wrong (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday May 29, 2010 @03:16AM (#32387028)

    "Have touch-sensitive dedicated scroll areas off the display surface."

    This x1000

    I don't understand why more (any) devices don't integrate something like this. A small strip vertically on each side of the keyboard for a laptop/netbook, or next to the screen for phones, pda, and tablet use. One of the most frustrating things with my nokia tablet is vertical scrolling. It sucks. Some laptops do similar by sectioning off part of the touchpad, but simple strips along the sides where you actually -hold- a portable devices would greatly increase ease of use.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday May 29, 2010 @03:18AM (#32387040)

    What the hell are you trolling about? Have you ever even used Android? I have and Android phone right here and it is awesome. Everything on it works great. Thanks to the 1 GHz Snapdragon proc, multi-touch is butter smooth, the browser is blazing fast, maps and the free navigation is the best this side of a 500 dollar garmin, the camera takes decent phone pictures, it's easy to use, the ui is intuitive, voice input into any text entry box, I could go on. About the only thing that was indeed half-assed is the market app. It downright sucks. Of course, that's what sites like this [appbrain.com] are for. As someone that's been through over a dozen Windows Mobile phones through the years, Android is like when Dorothy stepped out of black and white and into color. It's nothing short of phenomenal as a smartphone OS. Even developing for it is brain dead easy with the free emulator and eclipse plugin integration.

    I have to think you are trolling or just laying down the 'turf, one.

  • Re:Focus (Score:3, Interesting)

    by DrXym (126579) on Saturday May 29, 2010 @03:55AM (#32387142)
    a) There is no such thing as "100% perfect" in software, and b) Android phones are perfectly fine as it is. Doesn't mean there is no room for improvement but there is nothing wrong with the implementations out there already. My HTC Desire does an excellent job as a phone.
  • by Superken7 (893292) on Saturday May 29, 2010 @06:23AM (#32387600) Journal

    ..for the first time (it was just released in europe), and after seeing the linked android tablet in the description, two things come to my mind:

    1) 7'' might be a WIN. I found the ipad extremely gorgeus and fast, etc... but it was too uncomfortable to use because it was just heavy enough to use with both hands, but as soon as you need to interact with it a lot (i.e. almost anything other than scrolling) you need to switch to holding it with one hand and typing/interacting with the other hand. And it was way too heavy for me to do that comfortably.
    That's why I think 7'' or 8'' might have been way better.

    2) that android tablet will probably have a much poorer battery life (yes, pure speculation) and I doubt they will have access to android market, so.. (oh, and I hope they dont redo the entire homescreen/UI because that will probably mean they somehow f*cked it up)

    I am eager to see 8'' android tablets made with great hardware, great battery life and stock android so it is easier for them to update the damn thing.
    Also, I think 128MB or 256MB RAM is not enough. (see this one, for instance http://www.dealextreme.com/details.dx/sku.39448 [dealextreme.com])

  • by Fnkmaster (89084) on Saturday May 29, 2010 @07:54AM (#32387886)

    Have you tried running some apps on a Froyo-enabled Nexus One yet? There can be no doubt, Dalvik is now blazingly fast on a 1GHz snapdragon.

    The only performance issues left that I've seen are:

    1) For some reason, LauncherPro Beta is far smoother and snappier feeling than the stock Launcher. This was the case in 2.1 and is the case in 2.2. I use LauncherPro Beta, but really there's absolutely no excuse for the stock launcher to not be able to smoothly scroll through the home screens on such blazingly fast hardware. I don't know why the JIT didn't fix this issue with Launcher, but I'm guessing it has something to do with the way it interacts with the graphics hardware on the Nexus One, since the JIT is amazing.

    2) Browser scrolling in Android Browser. Not rendering, but scrolling. In terms of page load time and rendering on a good internet connection, this is the fastest phone-based web browser I've seen. But even my iPhone 3G (which has a much less beefy processor) could scroll around on web pages without feeling... choppy. Something is wrong with the smooth scrolling algorithm, the number of frames/the amount of CPU time it uses to actually *scroll* vs. to incrementally render, or the way it puts the Javascript engine on hold or something. Please, please, please figure out how to make the web browser scroll without giving me a headache, the way iPhone does it. Cheat if you need to - skipping frames or a quick-pass and filling in once the primary scroll action is complete. Maintain smoothness at all costs. Since the browser engine is native code (just the outer UI stuff is Dalvik), this saw no benefit from JITing, and in fact is worse under 2.2 in my experience, probably because I came from CyanogenMod which is very well optimized.

    If Android gets these two issues kicked, it will be amazing.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday May 29, 2010 @08:18AM (#32387986)

    I agree with the sentiment of keeping the buttons. For myself, one of the best things about Android has been those buttons, especially the back button. Not only does it save screen real-estate, it can be hit repetitively in a quick fashion. Even the search button, which at first I thought was just for a Google-centric theme, I've found very useful.

    Whether you think Apple's one-button concept is awful or great, it shouldn't be duplicated. Android works well because it's not really an iPhone clone, it's a whole other choice. Those buttons represent part of that choice, that alternative.

    Too many of these "how to fix Android" writeups have a bit too much "make it like Apple does" on them. This article wasn't entirely driven that way, but on the button topic I start to wonder if they've been using Android much at all. I'd definitely want these on a Tablet, just as much as I do on a Smartphone.

  • Re:Wrong (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Alien1024 (1742918) on Saturday May 29, 2010 @08:18AM (#32387992)
    Yeah, as a former Windows Mobile user, the one thing I miss on Android is the ability to select text by swiping; then you can copy it to the clipboard with a long tap+proper option on context menu (or even easier, Ctrl+C if you have a physical keyboard). Well, that, and the ability to "reverse tether", i.e. get network access from a PC, and seamless access to SMB resources.
  • by arcite (661011) on Saturday May 29, 2010 @11:14AM (#32389014)
    for free. Google will track and record everything you do, search for, and record. Sell your personal information to the highest bidder. Not to mention those 'accidental' privacy leaks when they get hacked or someone finds a loophole. Oh sorry, too bad, our services are "free"...you get what you pay for right? Can't complain if its 'free'...

    At least Apple is upfront and takes its users privacy seriously. But then I suppose some do not value their individuality as much as others.

  • by Miamicanes (730264) on Saturday May 29, 2010 @11:51AM (#32389262)

    It's easy... pair your iPad with just about any Android phone known to exist. Any rooted Android ROM worth mentioning can emulate a wireless access point, and there are lots of apps to do the same thing that can be downloaded and installed on any Android phone, rooted or not.

    From the Android side, it's amusing that the first question journalists and users from the Apple side of the universe ask is whether a given tablet "supports 3G". Android owners don't care, because it'll be a cold day in hell before we pay our carrier yet more money for dedicated data service for a tablet. We just take for granted that any tablet we buy is going to wirelessly tether to our phone, and take advantage of the data service we already paid for. I haven't looked yet, but I'm sure someone has already written an app to let Android tablets make use of their Android phone's location services, too.

  • by ArsonSmith (13997) on Saturday May 29, 2010 @12:06PM (#32389374) Journal

    I'd much rather have a tablet sized monitor that I can slide my phone into, then have a pad with all the exact same applications and data as my phone.

    Perhaps throw in some storage and graphics acceleration for the larger screen, and a standard slot/plug for android phones and I'd be ecstatic about it.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday May 29, 2010 @12:20PM (#32389452)

    > They can't get the best use out of any given chip.

    Tablet-wise it's no excuse, but it is a legitimate complaint with specific regard to Android phones (and most Windows Mobile phones, for that matter). It's the fault of the unholy alliance between carriers, handset manufacturers, and Qualcomm. Qualcomm puts the acceleration hardware into every chip they make, but they only allow it to be used if the manufacturer pays higher licensing fees for the right to use them and documentation explaining how it works. Handset manufacturers (like HTC) won't pay the higher fees, because their real customers (the carriers) won't pay for them. Then, when their hapless captive (in America, at least) end users buy and root their phones, it ends up being damn near impossible to reverse-engineer how the acceleration is supposed to work and implement it in a custom ROM, because NOBODY has licensed it & there's literally no implementation to rip apart and study out in the wild. Qualcomm isn't interested in dealing with end users (even a few thousand) who'd happily pay the few dollars HTC would have otherwise had to pay to license the features officially for the phone that got sold to them.

    IMHO, it's a stalemate that's not going to end unless Qualcomm gets a viable competitor, or Qualcomm puts its foot down and tells HTC & the rest that they're going to license the acceleration features whether they like it or not, so Qualcomm can then make the documentation publicly available.

  • by SnapShot (171582) on Saturday May 29, 2010 @01:07PM (#32389754)

    This is probably more of a hardware problem than an OS problem (Android, iPad or whatever) but what I would like to see in a tablet is Wacom-quality inputs. All the tablets appear to be platforms for consuming entertainment (music, movies, social networks, apps and books) that other people have created for you. I would like to be able to create on a tablet by painting, handwriting, or sketching directly on the screen.

    I've only used an iPad for 10 minutes and I've never had a chance to work with an android tablet so I'm curious, how far away is that technology?

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