Keeping Tabs on an Icon
With Google's aggressive move into the mobile arena with its Android platform, it's no surprise to see an Android tablet gunning for a slice of the tablet pie. Earlier models such as the Samsung Galaxy Tab were slightly shortchanged with the Android 2.2 Froyo firmware, which Google has admitted that it wasn't optimized for tablets.
Android 3.0 changes all that with its reworked interface designed for the tablet form factor. Earlier Android users might not be able to identify with certain elements, but that's not to say a steep learning curve will be involved. Basic apps such as your browser and Gmail get a slight upgrade with incognito tabs and a two-pane interface respectively.
Notifications have become more active and dynamic, though it is now situated at the bottom right of the interface. And to top it off, a new recent apps shortcut is added beside the home and back shortcuts, listing the five most recent apps and a thumbnail view of its last state in a pop up menu.
With most Android 3.0 tablets sharing the same stock interface from Google, it's hard to distinguish their unique features. For better or worse, each vendor has tried to add a unique touch to their products, and in the case of the Tab A500, Acer tosses in a few apps to complement the Honeycomb experience. In essence, they aren't exactly apps, given how these apps such as eReading, Games, Multimedia and Social are actually pages within a separate interface. Apps shortcuts are easily added onto these pages, somewhat similar to how one adds widgets onto the Android home screen by clicking on the + sign at the top right.
Besides the four main apps, there's also a variety of apps that covers a wide range of features. This includes an e-book reader called LumiRead, though we would hate to spend much of our time holding this relatively heavy tablet for reading. Social media gets its own app called SocialJogger which pulls news feed from your Twitter and Facebook accounts. Unfortunately, its interface is sluggish and there are better alternatives such as Tweetdeck that performs the exact same function, and more.
Multimedia-wise, the Tab A500 adds two specific apps that handle multimedia files, namely the NemoPlayer and Clear.Fi. apps. Both apps won't be our first choice for multimedia apps, given how Google's own Gallery and Music apps can perform much better with a more basic and intuitive interface. However, we did notice the media server feature within Clear.Fi., which is where the Tab A500's DLNA feature kicks in and streams content from connected PCs through the Wi-Fi network.