Google Earth on the Motorola Xoom

I just picked up my Motorola Xoom last week, and I’ve gotta say that I’m very impressed so far. It’s running Android 3.0 “Honeycomb” and it’s a very worthy competitor to the iPad. You can read my full thoughts on the Xoom here, but I’m going to take this time to talk about Google Earth specifically.

While Google hasn’t released a Honeycomb-specific version of Google Earth yet, the phone version scales up very nicely. This is largely due to how Honeycomb deals with phone-based apps. On the iPad, it simply doubles the size of the iPhone app, which made it quite blurry. On Honeycomb, they actually scale the app properly so it stays sharp.

This works very well for many apps, but not so good for other. For example, the Facebook app looks kind of funny with a few little icons in the middle, and status updates rolling along the full width of the 10.1″ screen. However, for Google Earth it works great!

While the icons are a bit small on the big screen, the quality of the imagery takes excellent advantage of the 1280×800 screen and it looks amazing. The dual-core processor and 1GB of memory help it to be as smooth as silk, too. Check out the video below for a quick review.

Even if you fly down to terrain-heavy areas such as the Grand Canyon, the app doesn’t even stutter a bit. This is certainly a very powerful device.

Google has yet to announce anything related to Google Earth on Honeycomb, but I have to think they’re working on a new version for it. The power in this tablet might mean we’ll finally see some 3D buildings in the app, too! Even better, I hope we see more of the features that Frank suggested in this post earlier this month.

Do you have a Xoom yet? Are you holding out to see what the iPad 2 has to offer? Or just not sure you need/want a tablet at all?

Best Practices for Honeycomb and Tablets

The first tablets running Android 3.0 (“Honeycomb”) will be hitting the streets on Thursday Feb. 24th, and we’ve just posted the full SDK release. We encourage you to test your applications on the new platform, using a tablet-size AVD.

Developers who’ve followed the Android Framework’s guidelines and best practices will find their apps work well on Android 3.0. This purpose of this post is to provide reminders of and links to those best practices.

Moving Toward Honeycomb

There’s a comprehensive discussion of how to work with the new release in Optimizing Apps for Android 3.0. The discussion includes the use of the emulator; most developers, who don’t have an Android tablet yet, should use it to test and update their apps for Honeycomb.

While your existing apps should work well, developers also have the option to improve their apps’ look and feel on Android 3.0 by using Honeycomb features; for example, see The Android 3.0 Fragments API. We’ll have more on that in this space, but in the meantime we recommend reading Strategies for Honeycomb and Backwards Compatibility for advice on adding Honeycomb polish to existing apps.

Specifying Features

There have been reports of apps not showing up in Android Market on tablets. Usually, this is because your application manifest has something like this:

Many of the tablet devices aren’t phones, and thus Android Market assumes the app is not compatible. See the documentation of . However, such an app’s use of the telephony APIs might well be optional, in which case it should be available on tablets. There’s a discussion of how to accomplish this in Future-Proofing Your App and The Five Steps to Future Hardware Happiness.


The new environment is different from what we’re used to in two respects. First, you can hold the devices with any of the four sides up and Honeycomb manages the rotation properly. In previous versions, often only two of the four orientations were supported, and there are apps out there that relied on this in ways that will break them on Honeycomb. If you want to stay out of rotation trouble, One Screen Turn Deserves Another covers the issues.

The second big difference doesn’t have anything to do with software; it’s that a lot of people are going to hold these things horizontal (in “landscape mode”) nearly all the time. We’ve seen a few apps that have a buggy assumption that they’re starting out in portrait mode, and others that lock certain screens into portrait or landscape but really shouldn’t.

A Note for Game Developers

A tablet can probably provide a better game experience for your users than any handset can. Bigger is better. It’s going to cost you a little more work than developers of business apps, because quite likely you’ll want to rework your graphical assets for the big screen.

There’s another issue that’s important to game developers: Texture Formats. Read about this in Game Development for Android: A Quick Primer, in the section labeled “Step Three: Carefully Design the Best Game Ever”.

We’ve also added a convenient way to filter applications in Android Market based on the texture formats they support; see the documentation of for more details.

Happy Coding

Once you’ve held one of the new tablets in your hands, you’ll want to have your app not just running on it (which it probably already does), but expanding minds on the expanded screen. Have fun!

Sneak Peek of Android 3.0, Honeycomb

The past few weeks have been exciting ones for the Android team: we recently released Nexus S and Android 2.3, Gingerbread, and we’ve even had some of our most popular team members take a trip to space. But we haven’t stopped buzzing with excitement: today at the Consumer Electronic Show (CES) in Las Vegas, we previewed Android 3.0, Honeycomb.

Honeycomb is the next version of the Android platform, designed from the ground up for devices with larger screen sizes, particularly tablets. We’ve spent a lot of time refining the user experience in Honeycomb, and we’ve developed a brand new, truly virtual and holographic user interface. Many of Android’s existing features will really shine on Honeycomb: refined multi-tasking, elegant notifications, access to over 100,000 apps on Android Market, home screen customization with a new 3D experience and redesigned widgets that are richer and more interactive. We’ve also made some powerful upgrades to the web browser, including tabbed browsing, form auto-fill, syncing with your Google Chrome bookmarks, and incognito mode for private browsing.

Honeycomb also features the latest Google Mobile innovations including Google Maps 5 with 3D interactions and offline reliability, access to over 3 million Google eBooks, and Google Talk, which now allows you to video and voice chat with any other Google Talk enabled device (PC, tablet, etc).

Please stay tuned for more Honeycomb news from the Android team. For now, you can get a taste of Honeycomb by checking out this video.