Motorola Xoom: Apple doesn't have to be concerned with this misfit toy

Summary:Apple is likely announcing the iPad 2 today and after spending a short amount of time with the new Motorola Xoom I think Apple can rest easy knowing they will still have the best tablet on the market.

Verizon slammed Apple with a commercial showing the iPhone on the Island of Misfit Toys, but now we see them holding an expensive tablet that belongs on that same island. In January, I started out thinking the Verizon Motorola Xoom price was reasonable based on a specifications comparison, but then after further thought I came to the conclusion that no tablet over $500 can compete with the iPad. Now after getting my own hands on a Motorola Xoom and spending a day with it I can say that my recent thoughts on tablet pricing remain valid and Honeycomb is not yet ready to compete with the Apple iPad.

Summary thoughts and hands-on video

It has been said multiple times that Samsung jumped the gun and released the Galaxy Tab with an OS that was not optimized for the tablet experience. As you can see in my video below, there are things (such as the Calendar) that are much better on the SGT than they are on Honeycomb and I personally have not seen anything (except for Gmail) that is compelling on Honeycomb. Here is a simple breakdown of my pros and cons of the Android 3.0 OS, as experienced on the Motorola Xoom:

Pros

  • Gmail is very good and optimized for the tablet
  • The web browser is fast and looks great
  • Google Maps looks good
  • Google Books is a nice looking application

Cons

  • There is inconsistency between landscape/portrait orientation in apps
  • The core Calendar app has a horrible appearance and is not very useful
  • The application selection for tablet apps is extremely limited
  • Other 3rd party Android apps don't function very well on the large display
  • The Home screen doesn't let you use the full display
  • The display doesn't look that great (resolution wise)
  • There is no indication or quick navigation method to jump between panels
  • The Honeycomb widgets are lame
  • I do not like the new virtual three buttons
  • I do not like the notifications in Honeycomb and prefer those in Froyo
  • I am not a fan of the huge keyboard and Swype is not included

When I first received this evaluation unit I thought it was a defect because it reset five times as I tried to perform my initial login. After getting through that phase, attempting to launch Google Maps caused either a force close warning or random reset. I was also seeing issues with the Android Market freezing up. I then performed a hard reset to see if there was something residual from the last reviewer. This time the Xoom only reset itself a couple of times and eventually I was able to use all of the default apps and the device. Thus, it seems the device itself may not be a defect after all, but the OS just isn't quite ready for stability and reliable performance at this time.

The hardware feels good in your hand and has a high quality feel. However, the OS just isn't ready to provide a great experience for the end user. With a new iPad likely to be announced today, I don't think the Xoom has much chance of doing very well with a broken user experience and high price.

I really like the Android OS and am very happy with my Samsung Galaxy Tab. I want to see several improvements in Honeycomb before I even consider taking another look at one of their tablets. I am actually more interested in the HTC Flyer with Froyo and an HTC-optimized Sense experience. The webOS and RIM BlackBerry tablets will now definitely get a closer look from me since Honeycomb is off the table for now.

Motorola Mobility CEO Sanjay Jha stated that the Xoom was aimed to come out ahead of the iPad 2, but I am afraid that is not the case and Motorola should have spent much more time with Google getting Honeycomb fine tuned on this new device.

Fellow ZDNet writers have the Xoom too

A few of us here at ZDNet have evaluation Xoom devices to check out, including Jason Hiner, James Kendrick, and Andrew Nusca so make sure to read their thoughts on the Xoom.

I think a quote from Andrew's review is spot on and I completely agree with him here:

But a trip around town reveals that this digital dish, while whipped up with panache and skill, is not yet fully baked. That is to say that the Xoom’s distinctive interface is both a fascinating exercise in imaginative thinking and a baffling hindrance. Navigation is too often not where it’s supposed to be. Important functions and menus are hidden away beyond the reach of a finger. Notifications disappear into the ether.

Other reviews online

There are several reviews now out on the Internet since the device has been available from Verizon Wireless for about four days now so check out some of these detailed looks at the Motorola Xoom:

Topics: Mobility, Apple, Hardware, Laptops, Tablets

About

Matthew Miller started using a mobile devices in 1997 and has been writing news, reviews, and opinion pieces ever since. He is a co-host with GigaOM's Kevin Tofel on the MobileTechRoundup podcast and an author of three Wiley Companion series books. Matthew started using mobile devices with a US Robotics Pilot 1000 and has owned over 200 d... Full Bio

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