Android 3.2: Tablets Just Got Better, Here's What's New

Android 3.2 is an unexpected little update, especially with Ice Cream Sandwich coming later this year. But good on Google for making its less-than-amazing Android tablets a little bit better all the time until that major new hotness happens.

So! Here's what's new and better in Android 3.2, which is already rolling out to Motorola Xooms - other tablets will probably follow suit pretty shortlyish.

Zooming In

Android phones apps have, up to now, tended to squash and stretch themselves out to take advantage of all the disparate screen layouts you'll find on tablets. It's been a mess. With 3.2, that problem will be sort of rectified with the new zoom feature.

Think of how iPhone apps behaved on the iPad when it was first released. You had the option of choosing a 2x mode that scaled the app up the iPad's screen. Low-res and none too attractive, but functional. It's the same here. Apps that are known to struggle will, by default, have a button in the system bar that will allow users to toggle between "Stretch to fill screen", which is the same stretching business the app would have normally done, and "Zoom to fill screen", which will scale what you're looking at to your screen.

It's For Everyone

As far as 7-inch Android tablets are concerned, 3.2 will bring users closer to a real tablet experience. Real as in, where once you had an interface designed for 4-inch screens, now you have one that is suitable for tablet computing. Owners of the Xoom will, of course, be able to reap some benefits, but HTC Flyer users will finally be able to take advantage of the good things Honeycomb 3.1 brought with it. Before it might have felt like a a bad idea to try to get this app to run on that screen. Now it won't.

It's Just Better

The new Honeycomb can take on a multitude of screen sizes - including the new 7-inch Huawei MediaPad - as well as the new Qualcomm chips that will power tablets in the future. That's important, especially when things were prone to breaking simply because you had the wrong screen size before. It'll also feature bug fixes and hardware acceleration, proper SD Card support, and updates to Movie Studio, Movies, Music and widgets. [Android Developer Blog, This Is My Next]



    It's a given that Android is going to get nicer and nicer. But (!) you have to buy another new Android device to get it or wait 6-12 months for a small chance that your obsolete 1 month old device to get the update, if you're lucky. All these new features are great, but until Android solve the problem of how updates actually roll out to devices in a timely manor, it's not like existing customers can get too excited. It's currently 3 layers of wait. You wait for Google to release a version of Android, then for the phone manufacturer to implement it for the phone they've already sold to you and will not receive a single dollar more for making it better. In fact, if you do receive an update your phone, you'll likely keep it longer so it's a dis-incentive for the manufacturer. Then once they finally decide your phone is old enough that it no longer poses a threat to their latest and greatest and they do release the next version, they pass on the rom to the telcos and they spend the next few months evaluating it. They too profit from people upgrading handsets and being locked into contracts. They don't want you to sit on a perfectly capable phone.

    Android need to either roll out changes bypassing manufacturers (which is impossible) or require manufacturers who use Android to upgrade phone versions within a set time-frame if the handset meets minimum requirements for that build.

    A solid process needs to be firstly as simple as possible and provide incentive down the chain. Google are currently not addressing either to the detriment of the Android faithful.

      Most of us just end up rooting our devices anyway... Why wait when we don't have to? The Android developement community is the best thing about Android devices.

      The Honeycomb manufacturer updates over all Honeycomb tablets have been pretty much in unison so far, anyway (give or take a week or so). Much better than the phone updates. Plus, 3.2 is already out on the Xoom WiFi US and already rooted.

        that's only because they're all just released flagship devices. all of them are near identical so something like an OS release would be near top of buyers list to pick one over the other. when the next model is announced, the OS version bump is a great selling factor and the other models become irrelevant. it's not a criticism of the manufacturers. i think samsung are producing some of the best hardware out, but they get very little benefit from investing into upgrading superseded models. there's no further revenue. i think android community would collectively cheer if there was a commitment to keep devices up to 2 years old maintained to the latest OS builds. last week i bricked my galaxy tab trying to update it to gingerbread. my fault entirely, it was useless to me running froyo so i'm not any worse off than before i bricked it. I checked a few sites and gave it a go. i've upgraded other phones before successful but if u spend more than an hour or 2 trying to upgrade it, it's easier to just go to the shop and buy a new one that actually does run it. or maybe, that's the point.

          I think one big reason why Honeycomb has been kept updated so well is Google really hasn't allowed much diversity from the OS they made. When they roll out updates, they will only roll them out for the software THEY made, and manufacturers will have to tweak it a bit to get it to perform best on their product. Before Honeycomb, manufacturers were pretty much allowed free reign on what they wanted to do with Android, and so updates took longer to make adjustments to simply because there were a lot more of them.

      It's more benefit to the telcos to upgrade users, of which most of them they lock in to 24 month contracts. Unless you buy a new phone yourself, you're stuck with what you signed up to for 2 years, so really it's the telcos holding new phone sales back. If they pushed 12 months contracts, phone turnover would be much higher.

    I just bough the Asus Eee Pad transformer, sans keyboard dock, so do I have to root it to get the new update installed, or will it update by itself? #]

      Hopefully by itself :S i am in the same boat there!!!

        Heh heh, No really, does anybody know..? #]

        Ahh, just found it!! goto about tablet, and system update is at the top,.. Mines already running 3.1, great.. #]

          I it didnt update on mine :( says i have the latest and yes i have 3.1 its 3.2 we need oh well just have to wait cmon Asus

            I'm pretty sure 3.2 is still in beta and will be released soon! The TF should be able to update via afore said measure... What do you think of it so far? I'm mightily impressed, accept for the screen brightness, which is too bright at minimum setting at night... #]

      the Transformer launched with 3.0 and updated to 3.1 very quickly.

      If you just bought one it will have 3.1 preloaded.

      Given there is no telco to get in the way 3.2 should happen just as fast.

      I own one also and I will be waiting for an OTA update. I am kinda tempted to root to overclock to 1.6ghz (apparently it screams) but tbh I probably won't for stability reasons.

        Do you need to root to get a better web browser? The installed one is kind of awkward! Oh, and is there a risk of burning the beasty out with the overclock? So many questions, so few people willing to step up, Thanks

          Web browser works well for me - try going to settings/advanced/user agent string and change to desktop. this will stop pages like gizmodo loading in mobile format by default.

          risks in overclocking? yes. lots. that's why I haven't done it. plus I have yet to find an app that would really benefit from the extra speed.

          I don't think there's really a need to root.

            Thanks for that, I appreciate it. Maybe I'll leave overclocking for the time being, too bloody expensive to break it just now! #]

              Oh bloody hell did it again... comment was meant for 'John R' !

    So .. I bought a xoom here in Australia, and they released 3.1 - only to stop the upgrades one day later, with no advice, or statement of what the issue was - and now they are rolling out 3.2 for the xoom ... and we still havent had work on a working 3.1 ...

    Something stinks - will they release 3.2 npow or will they wait until they work out wtf is wrong with 3.1? What IS wrong with the 3.1 update and why did they halt it? We have heard bits and pieces to from memory performance, to them saying that the SD card activation was draining the battery ... now I see a 3.2 upgrade, and wonder whow long this will take to roll out - and, hell, how long it will take to even get 3.1.

    This story should be seen in perspective.
    The 3.2 rollout uis ONLY for a LIMITED number of US WiFi users, it's not a full accross the board thing.
    Non Us Xoom owners are still waiting to get even the 3.1 update, Telstra Australia started the update and then pulled it without a word of what is wrong with it.
    There are a large number of Xoom users world wide who are up in arms over the lack of support they are rfecieiving from Moptorola, Google and their Telco carriers.

    The 3.2 update is hardly unexpected - it was announced some time ago.

    I have an Acer A500 and I am still waiting for the upgrade to 3.1. It was released on 5th July. Some people have it already, and some of those are having problems with it. Now I don't know if I want it or not!

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