Though Android 2.3 Gingerbread is less than a month old and still available for only one phone, Google's own Nexus S, the company is previewing the next version, the highly-anticipated Android 3.0 Honeycomb.As expected, Honeycomb is aimed at tablets and comes with a completely overhauled user interface, a new browser, new apps and plenty of other goodies for the tens of Android tablets to ship this year.
"Honeycomb is the next version of the Android platform, designed from the ground up for devices with larger screen sizes, particularly tablets," Andy Rubin, VP of Engineering at Google, announced.
"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," he added.
One of the common complaints about tablets running Android is that the UI is designed for phones and their small screens, not for the special requirements of tablet devices.
Google acknowledged this and has been working on a revamped experience to tackle the iPad's. The preview video does a good job at showcasing the big differences, Honeycomb makes good use of the screen real estate that the bigger devices enable.
The animations and UI elements look a lot slicker than what we've seen in Android so far. The new interface is the result of one of Google's 2010 acquisitions.
In May, Google acquired Bump Top, the makers of an alternative, 3D interface for desktops. It looked like a strange move from a technology point of view, but Google was interested in the team behind it.
And the team delivered, from what we've seen so far, Honeycomb is a huge update in the looks department.
But there's more to Android 3.0, the updated browser is looking particularly slick. Impossible to miss are the similarities to Google Chrome, the tabs, the back, forward and home buttons and so on.
In fact, the new Android browser will be able to sync your Chrome bookmarks and comes with form auto-fill, particularly useful on mobile devices without a proper keyboard.
Google already has Chrome running, with a customized UI, on Android in Google TV devices, but this looks like just an updated Android browser and not a port of the popular desktop browser for the mobile OS.
Android 3.0 looks great for tablets, but there's no word on phone-specific updates and how many of the interface elements will be available on smartphones. Honeycomb is still a few months away, so more details should be coming soon.