Google’s Android operating system for tablets has had mixed reactions. On one hand, users seem to like Android for the mobile phone, and on the other hand, there’s Honeycomb 3.0 that lacks the finish and refinement seen in its primary competitor – iOS. Many of us agree that the OS is far from complete and there are some bugs that need to be ironed out. The iPad has been a runaway success and Google is hoping to catch up once Honeycomb matures. We just got news of Motorola launching Android 3.1 for the Xoom tablet and that’s something we’ll see across the board very soon. Here’s a quick look at what key features and enhancements Honeycomb 3.1 has to offer.

Improved USB support

While tablets were designed to replace netbooks and notebooks, one of the key things stopping users from doing so was poor connectivity with other devices using the USB interface. Come Honeycomb 3.1, users will be able to use a wide variety of USB devices with their tablets.

USB open to a variety of devices; game controllers included

USB open to a variety of devices; game controllers included

This means, everything from keyboards, mice, other input devices and even digital cameras will be able to work with tablets. Imagine typing on a tablet using a portable, folding keyboard and transferring images from your camera or a card reader to your tablet, and viewing photos in real time. Google says that you can even use Bluetooth-based input devices with the tablet.

Resizable Widgets

Sure, this is something that third party window managers bring, but Android has never really had a built-in feature to do this. This means, anyone using Honeycomb had to be satisfied with the size of widgets. The new widget system lets you drag widgets into the screen of your choice and then adjust its width by holding it down, similar to what LauncherPro would let you do.

Improved Wi-Fi capabilities

Well technically, it’s not going to be faster or anything of that sort, but there will be bits and pieces added to the functionality. For example, users can now turn off the screen and the tablet will continue to stream content over the network for extended periods.

Wi-Fi optimized for longer battery life

Wi-Fi optimized for longer battery life

There’s also an option for users to use HTTP proxies for separate Wi-Fi networks, so you no longer have to switch networks and set a different HTTP proxy each time. Google claims that their new Preferred Network Offload (PNO) feature will help reduce battery drain during long Wi-Fi sessions.

App Updates

There are a bunch of Google apps that come bundled with any Google Android OS. Google has tweaked many of these for the 3.1 release. The browser, for example has an improved Quick Controls UI that’s bound to make navigation and multitasking between tabs easier. The browser has been upgraded to allow HTML5 video playback, so you no longer have to depend on Flash versions of Vimeo and Youtube videos.

UI tweaked and enhanced to allow easier navigation

UI tweaked and enhanced to allow easier navigation

Ability to save web pages for offline viewing is also a part of the browser now. Users should also notice some performance benefits, all thanks to hardware acceleration support through plugins for the browser. The Gallery now supports something called PTP (Picture Transfer Protocol). In simple terms, you can import photos from a camera to the Gallery easily. Other apps to receive enhancements are E-mail, Contacts and Calendar. 

ASUS Transformer - one of the tablets to get the 3.2 update

ASUS Transformer – one of the tablets to get the 3.2 update

Whether or not Google is successful in impressing users will only be known in the weeks to come, as manufacturers start rolling out these updates. Google has already started work on 3.2 and manufacturers are announcing that the update should be available sometime in August.

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