Google gave the world a look at how Android 3.0 ("Honeycomb") will look on tablets, as well as some changes to the Market for (almost) every user. What's worth getting excited about? Here are the six best improvements we saw.
There are lots of new things in Android 3.0 that we won't cover here, even though they might make Android a better place to work and play inside. See Gizmodo's hands-on preview and coverage of the demonstration, along with our own guide to using the new web-based Android market.
Now, on to the things that make us excited about Android 3.0: the upgrades and annoyance fixes!
A Web-Based Market with Instant Installations
No more typing in a search term and cringing. Less reliance on QR codes and instructions to "Search for XYZ." Android's Market has hit the web, where you've got much more space to find apps, and install them instantly to any Android device you own.
Android users can head to market.android.com, sign in with their Google account, and search and browse for apps, with a few filters and many categories offered. You can buy paid apps from the web store, send Market permalinks to friends, tweet about your favourites, and generally point to and explore apps much easier.
For example, if you were intrigued by Firefox Mobile and wanted to see if it really was as fast as Android's default browser, you needn't open a barcode scanner, angle your phone in front of your monitor, and hit "Open in Browser." Nor would you need to open the Market, hit Search, then poke around. You can just click here, on its Market page, and install it directly.
We've got a full walkthrough on how to use the new web-based Android Market for those eager to get started and play around.
Stabilised Video Chat
Technology moves so fast that two-way video chat is hardly new anymore. What Google is offering with their tablet-focused 3.0 is, according to the Android team, better video stabilisation.
But video-chatting through your Google Contacts also provides a much wider contact list for the average person than Apple's closed-off FaceTime environment. The demo shown by Google was a bit if-y, but live demos are always hit and miss. Here's hoping the actual promise of non-shaky, easy-starting video chat lives up to the promise.
The camera app saw some upgrades, too, but they weren't too apparent in the demo. There is, however, a new wheel-style interface, similar to that on any digital camera sold in the last decade, and shown in the video above.
Less Intrusive Notifications
On Android phones, notifications pile up in the upper-left corner, though they still will ping you and fill out your top-most bar with text when they happen. On Android 3.0, it appears that notifications pop in from the lower-right corner, but tuck away quietly if you ignore them. It's more like Growl for Mac than the Android system that exists now, and it seems like a good way to handle notifications on a tablet, where you don't always want to be yanking down a "shade" to see what's up.
Better Multitouch and Drag-and-Drop Features
The tablet-ready multitouch controls baked into Android 3.0 were shown off with a round of Fruit Ninja. But the real benefits may be more apparent in apps like Gmail, which received a panel-ised makeover for Honeycomb.
You can drag and drop messages onto a label to move your mail around, which is pretty handy, and we'll assume some other handy gestures, like swiping between messages, will show up, too. And, yeah, it's a bit of catch-up with the iPad, but we'll take it.
Currency Conversions and In-App Purchases
Automatic cost conversions and in-app buying seem like minor changes in the Market, but they could add up to make the whole thing less annoying. Apps and games sold in foreign currencies can be a surprise for US buyers until they reach the final purchase screen, and vice-versa across the sea. In-app purchases give developers new ways of making money, but more importantly to you and me, might remove the multiple Pro/Premium/Donate versions of apps that exist now.
We're eager to actually try out Honeycomb in a tablet to see if its promises pan out. What about you? Are you intrigued by Android's potential in 3.0, or will you wait for the early adopters to find out?