Is Froyo better than Honeycomb on tablets?

Is Froyo better than Honeycomb on tablets?

Summary: Honeycomb puts so much on the tablet screen at once that a bigger display is required. It also makes the main home screen very busy, and in that regard tablets with Froyo may be better for serious work.

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The floodgates are about to open for Honeycomb tablets, and so far they all have 10-inch screens which are less mobile than 7-inchers. Based on my hands-on experience with Honeycomb, I suspect the reason for the bigger screens is necessity. Honeycomb is an attractive interface that is well-designed for touch operation, but it puts so much on the screen at once that a bigger display is required. It also makes the main home screen very busy, and in that regard tablets with Froyo may be better for serious work.

Don't get me wrong, I was very impressed with Honeycomb during a recent session with the Motorola XOOM. It does so many things well that it is a serious platform for tablets. The issue I have with it is the lack of focus for the task at hand. Both iOS and Froyo excel at keeping the user's focus on the single task at hand, which is a very good thing for a handheld operating system. Tablets by design have the user's attention as they are used in the hand, and that task-oriented work is handled well by Froyo and iOS.

Honeycomb is so buy on the tablet screen that it doesn't grab the user's attention for doing things. It presents so many things on the screen at once, in an admittedly gorgeous way, that it doesn't lend itself well to focusing on tasks. There is so much grabbing the user's attention that is seems to require a lot of swiping left and right, up and down to get things happening. It may become intuitive over time, but the desktop metaphor used by Honeycomb is less like a mobile platform and more like a full computing environment.

No doubt some folks will like the desktop environment, but I believe it will take a longer learning curve to get more proficient with Honeycomb than with Froyo. The older version of Android presents things in a simple way on the home screen and applications screen, and a simple tap fires up the one task on the entire display. The user's focus is then on the task at hand, and not the pretty interface.

I hope I am proven wrong when Honeycomb-based tablets hit the market, and I get serious time using them. The OS looks sweet, and perhaps with a little practice it will become second nature to use and get things done. It will be a shame if Honeycomb remains harder to use than Froyo or iOS after a short interval of using the tablets.

Topics: Tablets, Hardware, Laptops, Mobility

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38 comments
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  • So what you're saying is that

    a big phone OS is better for a tablet than a tablet OS is? It doesn't seem like you like the idea of anything beyond the "simple" interface that has to be on Smartphones because of their size limitations.

    Am I wrong?
    Michael Alan Goff
    • RE: Is Froyo better than Honeycomb on tablets?

      @goff256 nope, I'm simply stating my observations garnered from actual exposure to both versions of Android. Mobile OSes serve a different purpose than desktop platforms, IMHO.
      JamesKendrick
      • I see

        But the way I see it, Honeycomb is doing exactly what a tablet OS should do. There should be something to distinguish it from smartphones, and the biggest complaint about the iPad is that it's a 'toy'.

        I think that Google are trying to make the OS more... professional than a scaled up phone.
        Michael Alan Goff
      • RE: Is Froyo better than Honeycomb on tablets?

        I agree wholeheartedly when James says mobile OSes - including those used by tablets - serve a different purpose from desktop platforms.

        Coming from a Windows Tablet PC Edition user background, I feel that the relative failure of that platform had a lot to do with the pitch: "Just like a laptop, but with a pen."

        Any modern tablet OS that says, "Just like a laptop, but with your finger" may also fail.

        I think the success of the iPad is actually *in spite* of Apple's intentions for it. Anyone who attended, viewed or closely followed Apple's original January 2010 iPad unveiling may recall they tried to position it as a "netbook replacement."

        They demonstrated it doing word processing (Pages), spreadsheet number crunching (Numbers), slide presentations (Keynote), and other fundamentally Office related activities.

        The web browsing, eBook reading, games playing and media consumption aspects were almost positioned as secondary functions. In fact, I believe they are its core strengths, and they are that way because the tablet surface lends itself far better to them than being a computer substitute.

        If you design software like it *is* a game, even if it's a sophisticated data visualisation tool, then you're on the right track in my opinion.

        The good software designed for the iPad (and I don't include Apple's "office" offerings in this bunch) recognises the elegant simplicity of a swipe. For example, mind-mapping tools using concepts of spatial positioning can make a tablet a very useful productivity tool; tab formatted word processor lists do not.

        Comments that the iOS flavor that powers the iPad is "simply a big phone" miss the fairly important point that Apple added a lot of behind the scenes plumbing to support their "netbook replacement" positioning of the iPad.

        The Pages, Numbers, and Keynote software were written specifically for the iPad and used relatively complex iOS features that only function on the iPad - split screen views, popovers, slidey things that you move to create room for data, etc, etc.

        Now, having used Numbers to attempt a few spreadsheets, with the unpleasant tap-hold contortions it involves, I feel that adding "not a toy" complexity is the wrong direction to take. Software that can do its job with the childlike understandability of a swipe may be "simple," but is not "simplistic". Cramming desktop OS metaphors onto a slate surface is repeating the same mistakes as Windows for Tablet PCs.

        The iPad already was more than a simple scaled up iPhone, and it succeeded in spite of that.
        blackobilisk
      • RE: Is Froyo better than Honeycomb on tablets?

        @JamesKendrick

        Agree with you. The market will show what works. Windows tablet has not yet taken off. Agree also that Honeycomb looks slick! But is that what people want. Know Apple did not put full OS X elements into iPad for reasons beyond battery and overhead. Look where their development of OS X 10.7 is headed. They do their homework and that is the tell. It seems most people want simpler UI elements. Like it or not. That is where personal computing is headed. Tech heads need to stay in the CLI or make better Linux desktops that meet their needs. Nothing wrong with either, but the masses will dictate the demand.
        ShamooToo
      • RE: Is Froyo better than Honeycomb on tablets?

        @blackobilisk WIndows Tablet PCs fail for one reason. PRICE. Manufacturers think they can add $300 to the price when they add a touch screen and thus the failure... nothing else. Guarantee if the cost of the touch vs. non-touch was equal...that every single Windows laptop would be a tablet one.
        condelirios
      • RE: Is Froyo better than Honeycomb on tablets?

        @blackobilisk

        I think you're missing the biggest failure of Windows Tablet PC Edition.... and that's Windows Tablet PC Edition. Microsoft, in the past, didn't do so well in the mobile area. It was almost as if they didn't care too much about it, and the quality showed.

        What I'm talking about is an OS designed specifically for Tablets with the idea of doing real work. If anyone can do this, I think it's either Google or Microsoft. Apple will continue to make a consumer device that is best for media consumption. There is nothing wrong with that, there is plenty right with that.

        But there is a larger market out there that might want more.
        Michael Alan Goff
      • RE: Is Froyo better than Honeycomb on tablets?

        @goff256 [i]... and the biggest complaint about the iPad is that it's a 'toy'.[/i]

        That's not a complaint, thats just one of the talking points for haters when they don't have anything else to fall back on.
        non-biased
    • RE: Is Froyo better than Honeycomb on tablets?

      @goff256

      Goff, one point on your reply to James Kendrick regarding the observation of a toy. A tool is often perceived as a toy by those who don't yet understand it. Not attacking you as you noted that it's a potential "commonplace" perception, which may/may not resemble your own. To that perception though, I attack the notion and the mentality supporting it without question. If this does resemble your thinking, then oh well.

      A car, though a marvel, was a luxurious toy to the horse and buggy class. Socket wrenches may be perceived as toys to those that don't tinker or work as mechanics. The Mac UI was derided as a toy, until Windows' mass market adoption. A mixer is a toy to many who don't cook. There is an aspect of "eye of the beholder" in such statements. Relativism makes it too subjective and thankfully there IS no accounting for taste. Makes little sense for that kind of perception to be mentioned with any degree of credibility or acceptance. Just breeds ill-will and so many "serious" people have eaten crow over their toy theories. John Dvorack, where is he now? Hurts to be so "serious" that one cannot see the application of the technology they think they love, when their real motives around tech may just be implementation of order and control. Such statements also lend themselves to sexist derision too and we all know what a great job so-called "serious" "masculine" thinking does for a world of humans. Monkey eat monkey. Technology driven by that type of thinking leads to destructive technology, borgs and bombs. All seriousness, is really stinking thinking for the people out there that fall into that "serious" trap. This message is for those with that narrow mentality. If you love technology like you say, then live and let live and don't spite the successes you did not have the ability to foresee. Learn from the silly toys you don't have to enjoy. Open the mind a bit. When they become successful, you may realize what and who the real tools are. Enough said.
      ShamooToo
      • RE: Is Froyo better than Honeycomb on tablets?

        @Angrypug
        Goff does have a point.
        I bought my iPad hoping it would allow me to perform both personal and business activities.
        After having it for a few months and trying many apps, tip, tricks, and..... (you get the picture) my use of it has devolved to a media consumptive device. This is totally useless to me as a work tool. This is not a limitation of the hardware, but of the software.
        While I would not specifically call it a toy, it is much less than I had originally envisioned.
        End of day I won't be buying another iPad device no matter how great the hardware may be.
        :(
        rhonin
      • Oh no, I love the iPad

        I don't have one yet, but I used one from a friend. It's nice. I know that it has certain uses, and it doesn't have others.

        But my statement was more that there is a need, with a specific audience, for a tablet OS that is more serious. Remember, there were less than 15,000,000 tablets sold last year. That's a tiny portion of a market that could be exploited. There are a lot more people out there, some who would probably buy a tablet if it could help them get their work done.

        At least, that's my belief.
        Michael Alan Goff
    • RE: Is Froyo better than Honeycomb on tablets?

      @goff256 I suspect he is confusing his own inability to handle more than one task on the screen at a time with the OS being able to handle it. He probably uses one program at a time on his desktop, too, with it expanded to full screen. <br><br>Personally, I welcome the idea of multiple things on the screen of my tablet. More information in a single glance saves time. Clicking open 6 different applications one at a time to check weather, stocks, latest news, stock quotes, messages, and new emails is just too slow. A tablet OS should be designed to use the extra screen space to save us time, not simply be a bigger screen version of your phone.
      BillDem
      • No reason to insult the man for his opinion

        I do agree about the need to use the different sized screen for more than simply making everything bigger. And yes, I do think it's in the best interest of the end-user to have as many options as possible on what they're going to use.

        In the end, though, there will be some people who agree with this guy. I have faith that the market will show that we're right on what the consumer wants/needs in their tablet.
        Michael Alan Goff
  • One answer: YES

    But that is because Honeycomb is currently vaporware that is no where ready for primetime.

    Once it is OFFICIALLY released (and not in pre-alpha like today) then you can ask the question. In the mean time, asking the consumer to compare an unreleased product with one that is barely available is just plain stupid.
    wackoae
    • Honeycomb is messy, but it will bring actual *tablet* applications

      @wackoae: Android 2.* can not do this.

      So you are right, it is better to wait and see.
      DDERSSS
    • RE: Is Froyo better than Honeycomb on tablets?

      @wackoae I didn't ask anyone to compare anything. I simply stated my observations garnered from actual exposure to both versions of Android.
      JamesKendrick
      • You did ask the question ... it is in the title

        @JamesKendrick But I do agree with your statement about Honeycomb, because every single video so far has shown a not so usable OS (ie: not ready and very visually sluggish).
        wackoae
    • It Isn't vaporware

      @wackoae vaporware is something that never shows, it was coined by people pumping up products that they never intended to release. How much do you want to bet we see Honeycomb within 2 months?
      slickjim
      • Vaporware is not only for never released products

        @Peter Perry If you took a few minutes to check out the definition of vaporware you would find that vaporware is also any over-hipped and unreleased product.
        wackoae
      • RE: Is Froyo better than Honeycomb on tablets?

        @wackoae and if you researched it you would know that regardless of the current definition that is not where the phrase started.
        slickjim