Android 3.0 Honeycomb gets officially unveiled, alongside Web-based Android Market

Google hosted an event at its headquarters earlier today. And in case you haven’t followed our live chat, here’s a quick rundown of what got announced.

Google re-unveiled Android 3.0 Honeycomb, the tablet-optimized version of the mobile operating system. And this time it wasn’t just a teaser video, it was a full-on demo. All the new features and all the UI polish were shown, and the Web-based Android Market front end was finally made available too.

The Web-based Android Market was first promised in May of 2010, during Google I/O, the yearly developer-focused event. The Web-based Market is finally live at market.android.com, though you may have issues logging in for now – issues which will undoubtedly be fixed in the coming hours. The Web Market allows you to purchase and push apps to your phone, as well as share apps with friends via Facebook, Twitter or email. Developers can add YouTube demo videos to their apps’ pages. The Web market even knows what apps you have installed, so when you go to such an app’s page you’ll see that it’s already on your device. Installing apps is as easy as hitting “Install”, and accepting the permissions. There’s no need to touch your phone – the app gets automagically pushed to it and installed on it via the cloud.

Support for in-app purchases is on its way to Android. The SDK will be released to developers today, and Google expects the first apps to take advantage of it to be available to users before the end of March.

Android 3.0 Honeycomb features a redesigned user interface, one fully optimized for tablet use. There’s a new notification area that now features more information per notification and allows you to discard one notification at a time. There’s also a new multitasking button that allows you to switch between running apps quickly. There will be new widgets, having scrolling built-in.

By simply adding one line of code, hardware acceleration can be added to existing Android apps. It will only work in Honeycomb though. Honeycomb also has a new engine for 3D graphics. Video chat is now built into the platform, though quality is exactly what you’ve come to expect from mobile video call solutions.

Existing apps will work on Honeycomb, although developers can add tablet-specific UI elements that will only show up if your device is running Honeycomb. For example, the Gmail client for Honeycomb is based on a two-pane interface in landscape mode.

Honeycomb also has a new camera app, with controls made bigger since there’s more than enough screen real estate on tablets to accommodate them. The media player has also received some eye-candy, as has the YouTube client, which now shows a 3D wall of video thumbnails. And Google Books has received iBooks-like smooth page turning.

The first device to be running Android 3.0 Honeycomb is expected to be Motorola’s Xoom tablet for Verizon, which should become available either later this month, or sometime in March.

Author: Vlad Bobleanta

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