software development kit (SDK) preview, allowing mobile developers to get an early hands-on with what the first tablet-only version of the Android operating system has to offer. With Honeycomb, built from the ground up for devices with larger screen sizes, there's a new "holographic" user interface, as Google describes it, plus improvements to multitasking, notifications, widgets and more.Google has released its Android 3.0 (code-name Honeycomb)
Now that the SDK is public, we can get a look at what Honeycomb includes, how it will look and yes, in typical Google fashion, we can even check out the new Android Easter eggs tucked away in the SDK, too.
For Testing Only
The SDK offers non-final APIs (application programming interfaces) and is for testing purposes only. Google says its release - a few weeks ahead of the final version - is intended to allow developers time to familiarize themselves with the new UI patterns, APIs and capabilities. But a word of warning - Engadget went hands on with the kit yesterday and said it was "extremely slow - nearly to the point of uselessness." Yikes.
If you're just curious about its insides and don't need to test anything yourself, it may be better to just stick with the news and forum postings for now, from the sounds of it.
Some of the notable new features in Honeycomb include the following, according to Google:
- UI framework for creating great apps for larger screen devices: Developers can use a new UI components, new themes, richer widgets and notifications, drag and drop, and other new features to create rich and engaging apps for users on larger screen devices.
- High-performance 2D and 3D graphics: A new property-based animation framework lets developers add great visual effects to their apps. A built-in GL renderer lets developers request hardware-acceleration of common 2D rendering operations in their apps, across the entire app or only in specific activities or views. For adding rich 3D scenes, developers take advantage of a new 3D graphics engine called Renderscript.
- Support for multicore processor architectures: Android 3.0 is optimized to run on either single- or dual-core processors, so that applications run with the best possible performance.
- Rich multimedia: New multimedia features such as HTTP Live streaming support, a pluggable DRM framework, and easy media file transfer through MTP/PTP, give developers new ways to bring rich content to users.
- New types of connectivity: New APIs for Bluetooth A2DP and HSP let applications offer audio streaming and headset control. Support for Bluetooth insecure socket connection lets applications connect to simple devices that may not have a user interface.
- Enhancements for enterprise: New administrative policies, such as for encrypted storage and password expiration, help enterprise administrators manage devices more effectively.
More details on the developer features are here.
For End Users, a New UI
One of the most dramatic changes in Honeycomb, from an end user's perspective at least, is the completely revamped user interface (UI) that looks nothing like the one you see on Android phones today. From Google's own Developer site, there are number of new screenshots and details about the UI changes.
- System Bar: The notifications bar from the Android phone has been transformed into a "System Bar," which now lives at the bottom of the screen. From here, you can access notifications, system status and the soft navigation buttons (Back, Home and Recent Apps). On some Android phones, recent apps didn't have its own dedicated button, but was invoked by a long press on the Home button - that's how it works on the Nexus S, for example.
- Action Bar: The Menu area from Android phones has become the Action Bar on Honeycomb. Now at the top of the screen, this bar provides access to the contextual options, navigation, widgets and other content, as dictated by the application currently running. If anything, the Action Bar calls to mind the way the Mac OS works, where the application you're in dictates the menu choices seen at the top of your screen.
- Customizable Homescreens: Honeycomb comes with five customizable homescreens which users can add widgets, app shortcuts and wallpapers to. Each homescreens offers a launcher for access to all the applications and search box for apps, contacts, media files, Web content and more.
- Recent Apps: Visual multitasking is enabled through the Recent Apps button, as described above. Now its own button on the System Bar, the most recently accessed apps will display with a snapshot of its actual state when you last viewed it.
- New Keyboard: Honeycomb's soft keyboard offers reshaped keys which have been repositioned for better targeting. New keys, including Tab for example, have been added, too. Also, can us juvenile if you wish, but a dedicated emoticon button is lots of fun. (Well, on phones it is.)
- Better Copy-and-Paste: The copy/paste functionality has been given an upgrade too. Now, a press-hold activates the "select" function, then you can drag the arrows to adjust the size of the selected area. From the Action Bar, you can copy, share, paste, Web search or find.
- Connectivity Options: Honeycomb offers built-in support for the Media/Photo Transfer Protocol, which lets you sync with a USB-connected camera. You can also attach USB or Bluetooth keyboards. Bluetooth tethering is supported and Wi-Fi connectivity has been improved.
New Standard Apps
Also new in Honeycomb are major updates to the standard Android applications, the Browser, Camera and Gallery, Contacts apps and Email.
- Camera and Gallery: The camera app takes advantage of the large screen with easy access to exposure, focus, flash, zoom and the front-facing camera, the latter which is designed for video conferencing. Photos in the gallery can now be viewed fullscreen, too.
- Contacts: The updated contacts app has a two-pane UI and Fast Scroll. Contact info is presented in a card-like UI, too.
- Email: The email app also uses a two-pane UI for organizing messages. You can select multiple messages at a time and then perform an action with the Action Bar. There's a new Email homescreen widget for keeping an eye on email at a glance.
And of course, no Android SDK would be complete without an Easter egg of some kind. This time around, it's an image of a blue and black Honeybee, found in the function fyiWillBeAdvancedByHostKThx() at android-sdk/docs/reference/android/widget/AdapterViewAnimator.html#fyiWillBeAdvancedByHostKThx().
The photo of the bee is also available in a set of Honeycomb wallpapers, now available as zip file download from the Android Central Forums.