How Honeycomb Improves Tablet Options For Travellers

We looked at the key features in Honeycomb earlier in the year, but we’re now getting much closer to the actual release of devices offering the optimised-for-tablet version of Android. I’ve been testing out the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1v ahead of its official release, and it has some pretty nifty features for productivity-minded travellers.

The Galaxy Tab 10.1v is being promoted pretty heavily as a media consumption device, and it does perform well in that department. As Nick noted in his review of the device over at Gizmodo, the YouTube app is particularly impressive, offering a wall-of-videos view and great playback features. But while leisure is an important application for tablets, many people also look to them as a substitute for travelling with a notebook on the road.

My single favourite feature of Honeycomb is actually a fairly basic one, but crucial for travellers: the ability to tap on the signal icon to get at the 3G, WiFi and airplane mode options. While there have always been widgets to make these more accessible than having to dig into the Settings menu, it’s great to have all that available with a quick single tap.

When I first briefly played with a Honeycomb-enabled device earlier this year, I was worried that adjusting from the fixed buttons found on earlier Android models to software-based buttons would be difficult. In fact, it didn’t take much retraining at all, and having the buttons change position when you switch from landscape to portrait is definitely helpful. While there’s no doubt that the 10.1v is designed for use in landscape mode (and some apps such as the Market only work in that orientation), for casual reading I still preferred portrait mode.

The other tweak I enjoyed was the ability to access a simple list of currently-running apps. While older Android implementations support this when you hold down the Home key, the Honeycomb implementation is slicker and easier to navigate.

While the 10.1in form factor does improve many media experiences and Honeycomb definitely makes the most of it, I’ve got to admit that there’s one area where I still think the original Galaxy Tab performs better: you can fit it into a jacket pocket, and it’s pretty easy to operate with a single hand. With the current specials available on that device, it might still be the first one I would dive for — but as we’ve established many times before, I’m a keyboard addict. If you’re happier with a single slim device, then running Honeycomb on the 10.1v is a pretty solid choice — though I am looking forward to testing out the PlayBook later this week . . .

Lifehacker Australia editor Angus Kidman can’t wait for even more competition in the tablet space this year. His Road Worrier column, looking at technology and organising tips for travellers, appears each week on Lifehacker.

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