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Xoom – Initial thoughts - King Rat
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Xoom – Initial thoughts
Xoom Home Screen
photo by Yining Zhang (CC By-NC-ND)

I bought myself a new toy on Monday, a Motorola Xoom. I got the 3G version rather than the WiFi only version. It’s possibly I could get by with the WiFi version, as my track record with my smart phone is that I rarely use much cell phone data with it, and I’ll be carrying the Xoom around less. I’ll be taking it with me to Madison at the end of the month, so we’ll see how much cellular data I use on the trip. If I don’t need it, I’ll cancel my wireless data plan. I paid full price, rather than the subsidized price, so that I wouldn’t get hit with an early termination fee if I ended up doing this.

Here’s some initial thoughts.

The form factor is mostly nice. It’s a little bit on the heavy side to hold up for extended periods of time. For reading, for instance, I’ll be propping it on my lap or something like that. It wouldn’t be so bad if there were a little stickum on the back to make gripping it easier.

I also bought the multimedia dock for it. The Xoom does not slide easily onto it like my Droid slides onto its dock. It usually takes me a bit of working it to get it to settle onto the USB and HDMI sockets.

The graphics are really crisp. The browser appears to be a limited version of Chrome, with way more features than the browser on Android smart phones. I really like the new Gmail application, which is good because K-9, which I use on the Droid, doesn’t work well in tablet size. The GMail application still lacks the ability to save attachments unless they can be opened by another application though. That really sucks. However, the web version of Gmail is accessible, and I can save files from it.

There aren’t a lot of tablet sized applications for it it yet. A few of my applications that I use on my Droid don’t resize at all. Some resize, but badly. Most of them are set to use the standard Droid application buttons. Those buttons don’t exist on the Xoom. Instead, they are put inside some on-screen menu spots. Those spots are not convenient to my thumbs when holding the tablet by the side. In particular, the Google Reader application is cumbersome to use because of this. If it had gesture controls, it would work much better. Applications really need to have gesture/swipe controls on a tablet.

When applications for the tablet do not auto-rotate, it’s even more of a pain than when they don’t for a smart phone. The application market only works in landscape mode. Some of my applications only work in portrait.

I installed the Flash plugin. Most web site flash stuff is a pain with a touch screen. It’s also not very responsive on the Xoom hardware. Provided I can press a button or something like that in a Flash application, the computer won’t respond to that press for several seconds at least. Luckily, even with the plugin installed, I can set the browser to only run Flash applications I click on.

Battery life is really pretty good so far. I can read news with Google Reader and my standard web sites for about 90 minutes, and the battery level drops from 100% to 87%. Flash sucks the battery, even when it’s just a container to play video. Supposedly video actually doesn’t kill the battery when viewed in a native application, but I haven’t tried that yet other than a couple of short Youtube videos.

Even though it’s on the Verizon cellular network and it nominally uses a phone number, I can’t use it for phone calls (not surprising) or even text messaging (a little surprised by that). I can’t even install the Google Voice application only to listen to my voice mails. I can use the Google Voice web site at least. The lack of text messaging means I can’t install Mobile Defense, which is the application I put on my Droid that lets me track it remotely (and control it remotely too).

I have installed six different book applications on it. This was the reason I bought the thing. My Nook died hard after Guinevere knocked it off the shelf. Rather than stick with one book platform, I could use all of them and buy a book wherever it was cheapest. Or even available. So I have the Nook and Kindle applications. The Nook application uses gestures for reading, so I’m happy there. I haven’t tried the Kindle application yet. It also comes standard with the Google Books application, which I haven’t yet tried either. I also installed the Aldiko reader for reading epubs and the occasional Adobe Digital Editions format. I’ve used it on my phone. Maybe the Nook or Google Books applications can be side loaded, but I didn’t bother to look.

Additionally, I installed the Overdrive and Audible applications for audio books. I’ve used Overdrive’s desktop platform to get audio books from the Seattle Public Library before, but I couldn’t transfer many of them to my Droid due to DRM. I hadn’t realized they’d finally gotten an Overdrive Android application until I ran into it this time. I will likely add it to my Droid too. I haven’t used the Audible application yet.

I may install the Kobo books application if I ever find a book there that I want and can’t get anywhere else.

I plan on leaving my laptop at home on my upcoming trip to Madison. Going to see if the Xoom and Droid will be sufficient for my needs on trips. I even got a Bluetooth keyboard for the Xoom so I could take notes quickly.

crossposted from King Rat.

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