While Android tablets are in much the same position that Android phones are — trying to catch dominant market leader Apple and its iPad tablet — there’s an increasing amount of buzz about the newest generation of Android tablets from companies such as Motorola, LG, and Samsung. Google’s release of its new Honeycomb tablet OS should open up some brand new possibilities in apps used on Android tablets, including games, utility apps, and e-commerce applications. The Motorola Xoom is the first Android tablet out of the gates to use Honeycomb, and it makes full use of many of the new capabilities. One of the most noticeable is its Google Talk app, a direct competitor to Apple’s FaceTime program used for video chatting on the fly. Other utility apps and those available at the Android Market include an improved Web browser and e-mail apps, as well as tools to customize the home screen and other tabs. Honeycomb also promises increased support for e-commerce applications, such as the possibility of scanning barcodes and paying for items with a few swipes on the device. Honeycomb also promises more graphic support and speed for higher-end games — including a new animation framework and accelerated graphics — key areas that Android tablet manufacturers are counting on to try to steal market share from the iPad. While most games that are currently available for Android devices don’t really show off those capabilities, many game developers are planning more intensive, higher-end games that take full advantage of the new OS. One very popular gaming genre that continues to grow is online gaming, especially blackjack online games, poker, and other casino games. It’s next to impossible to play slots online on the iPad due to Apple’s restrictions on gambling apps but Android developers don’t have the same handcuffs. […]

Hello, Moto — no wait, Samsung… or is it LG? Three of the world’s biggest smartphone makers have leapt at the opportunity to serve up Google’s brand new Honeycomb build of Android, however their selection of menu items looks to be somewhat lacking in diversity. Motorola’s Xoom matches Samsung’s Galaxy Tab 10.1 in both screen size and resolution (1280 x 800), while LG’s Optimus Pad / G-Slate offers only marginally smaller measurements with an 8.9-inch display spanning 1280 x 768. More than that, all three tablets run the bone-stock Honeycomb UI and are built around NVIDIA’s 1GHz Tegra 2 system-on-chip, leaving little room for differentiation on the basis of user experience or internal performance (LG would have you believe its 3D camcorder is a big advantage for its slate, but we’re not so sure). Most choices between the three, then, will come to things like brand loyalty, ergonomics and pure, basic aesthetic appeal. To help you judge the latter of those three points, we’ve prepared an exhaustive barrage of side-by-side photos below — we expect you to view every last one of ’em… at least twice. More images and links after the break. Trackback: Engadget

There’s no question that Honeycomb tablets like the Xoom are powerful pieces of hardware, and it looks like Google will be doing its best to ensure that developers are able to exploit as much of that power as possible. A big piece of that puzzle is the company’s Renderscript API for the OS, which it’s just now starting to detail in full. The big advantage there is that it’s a low-level API designed especially for developers who are “comfortable working closer to the metal,” which will let applications built with it (including games) take full advantage of the high-end GPUs and dual-core processors found in Honeycomb tablets. What’s more, while the API is just now being made public, it’s already been put to use in Honeycomb by Google itself — both the YouTube and Books apps, and the live wallpapers shipping with the first Honeycomb tablets were created with the help of it. Head on past the break for another quick example — a brute force physics simulation that involves 900 particles titling with the tablet — and look for Google to provide some additional technical information and sample code sometime soon. Trackback: Engadget

Last year promised to be the year of the tablet, and at least for Apple, it was indeed. The nearly ubiquitous iPad managed not only to outsell every other tablet on the market by a wide margin, it also exceeded Mac sales in the last quarter with a record 7.33 million units moved. But even if Apple is not likely to lose its throne anytime soon, competition is finally making itself present. If Android’s gains in the smartphone market serve any indication it should be an interesting year for tablets as well. Rivals such as Motorola and LG are coming on strong with the first Android “Honeycomb” tablets, while Research In Motion is launching the PlayBook using a completely reworked operating system based on QNX Neutrino. HP will start to see the fruits of its Palm acquisition when it launches the TouchPad, the first webOS-based tablet, this summer. We’ve compiled a comparative table with what we consider are the hottest tablets either currently available or announced so far. Note that we’ve only included those models that are expected to be released in the next few months and the reason for that is two-fold: their specs are official or at least somewhat reliable, and because we’ve seen a lot of teaser products that in the end don’t even make it to market — which happened a lot last year. Check the Trackback link for the full details! Trackback: Techspot

A little late, but still cool! We just played with ASUS whole new tablet lineup, which is truly impressive not only in scope, but also for the fact that ASUS didn’t just pick a few capacitive screen sizes and call it a day. Each of the four tablets (three Android-based Eee Pads and one Windows-based Eee Slate) has its own “twist” on what’s come to seem traditional in modern day tablets, while also maintaining significant hardware and screen quality. We’re not crazy about the ‘MyWave’ ASUS software skin on its Android models, but they at least seem serious about providing UI and apps for the entire experience — they’re not kidding around, is what we’re saying. Check out more after the break! Trackback: Engadget

Jealous of all of your Nexus S-toting friends? Yeah, me too. Without a doubt the biggest thing that I love about pure Android phones or ROMs is  that the launcher is so clean. Of course, there’s also the added benefit of little things like a new Live Wallpaper or in the case of Gingerbread, a new keyboard. So, want to try them out but don’t want to root your Android device just yet? You can easily snag the Android 2.3 launcher, live wallpaper and keyboard directly from the Android Market. According to Recombu, developer Steven Lin has done us all the favor of uploading the 2.3 goodies to the Market and has made them available for free. To grab them, just head to the Market and search for “Gingerbread launcher”, “Gingerbread keyboard” and/or “Gingerbread live wallpaper”. Make sure you grab the uploads from Steven Lin and you’ll be set. Of course, you’ll need to set the new keyboard and launcher for use, just as you would with any other keyboard or launcher. The new live wallpaper is slick, looking much like the one from Android 2.2 but a bit cleaner without the gridded background. The launcher is very similar to what you’d see from AWD Launcher, including 5 screens and quick access boxes on the bottom. The keyboard, probably my favorite feature, has a load of great options including the ability to do one-touch word selection for suggestions and copy/paste. Download the Launcher Download the Keyboard for Eclair / Froyo Download the Live Wallpapers: Microbes.apk (Microbes.apk) [found @ Droid Life] NexusSLWP.apk (NexusSLWP.apk) [found @ XDA Forums]

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