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Android 3.0 Has Been Optimized for Tablets

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The latest version of Android contains new features such as: new UI “holographic” theme, multi-core support, hardware accelerated 3D, animation framework, enterprise features, and more.

Starting in September 2008, Google has released a major version of Android almost every year with the exception of 2010 when they released 3 minor versions: 2.1 (Éclair), 2.2 (Froyo), and 2.3 (Gingerbread). Android 3.0, a.k.a. Honeycomb, has been recently announced, but it is not a final release but rather a preview.

Android 3.0 has been created with tablets in mind, the OS having a new interface with a “holographic” UI theme that can be used across all applications. (Large resolution image showing the new UI) This new theme with its corresponding widgets is clearly made for larger screens, not for phones. It is interesting to see how Honeycomb will look like on smartphones.

Some of the most interesting new features are:

  • System Bar – a bar at the bottom of the screen, always on but it can be dimmed when an application needs to run in full-screen.
  • Action Bar – each application can make use of a drop-down menu coming from the top of the screen, containing commands and preferences related to that application.
  • Home Screen – the OS has 5 home screens customizable with widgets, shortcuts, wallpapers, and a search box.
  • Multitasking – the status bar contains information about the applications running in the background, including a snapshot of the current state of the application similar to Windows Vista or Windows 7.
  • Connectivity – Honeycomb supports the Media/Photo Transfer Protocol (MTP/PTP) used for synching media files with USB cameras and desktops. Also, external keyboards are supported and improved Bluetooth tethering.
  • Animation Framework – it allows developers to control the animation of widgets.
  • Hardware-accelerated 2D graphics – Android 3.0 comes with a new OpenGL renderer accelerating most operations in Canvas, Paint, Xfermode, ColorFilter, Shader, and Camera.
  • Renderscript 3D graphics engine – a framework for generating 3D effects for applications.
  • Multi-core support – support for multiple cores is built in the Dalvik VM and the Bionic library.
  • Multimedia – support for HTTP Streaming and it has a pluggable DRM framework.
  • Enterprise – support for encrypted storage, password expiration, password history and complex passwords.

Previous applications are not only compatible with Android 3.0, but they can take advantage of the new holographic UI theme by setting an attribute in the manifest file.

Developers can get the Preview SDK, but they should be aware that the API is not final, and applications built with this version of the development kit cannot be loaded to the Android Marketplace. A final version of the SDK is expected to be ready next month.

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