Apple iPad 3 The New iPad

It seems that all everyone in tech land wants to talk about right now is the new Apple iPad 3 The New iPad – Apple. Sure it’s only called the “iPad” from now on, but we’ll have to use something to denote the different versions. After picking up the unit yesterday and holding it, using it and most importantly looking at it, away from the hype and hyperbole of the launch, I’ve come away with a perspective on the new iPad that talks more to Apple’s business model than the product itself.

Apple iPad 3 the new iPad

You'll look, and then you'll look again... the new iPad with 2048x1536 resolution screen.

After all, the new iPad was always going to present a conundrum for Apple. After trailblazing the tablet path to dizzing heights of success, the original iPad was seen as a revolutionary shift away from traditional PC use into a more mobile, touch-oriented gesture activity. The second iPad added incremental improvements like a faster processor, a thinner and lighter body, and front and back cameras.

The new iPad takes a similar incremental upgrade path, essentially looking and feeling the same as the previous iPad, but improving the processor, upgrading the camera and moving to a mind/eye-blowing display that can’t be recreated on paper or on film – it has to be seen in real life to be appreciated.

The new iPad, and each iPad before it, was never just about the product, even though articles, blogs and segments are devoted to the intimacies of the hardware. The key word here is usage.

The original iPad made it easy to consume books, internet pages, movies and games without having an awkward keyboard attachment. With the second iPad, gaming became more important and FaceTime became an activity that could be achieved on the larger screen.

Now, with the upgrades Apple have made to the new iPad, the Cupertino company now seeks to change and modify usage again, and in doing so expand its base. Imagine how many millions of school kids around the world could replace their multiple-kilogram text books with an iPad? How many doctors and technicians around the world could be using the hi-res display to analyse X-rays, look at circuit diagrams or engineering models?

And that is really the core of the changes that Apple has made to the new iPad. It looks like they have gazed on the world, decided to play in new markets (or was already planning to), and worked backwards until they settled on their new product.

It could have gone something like this – school kids, doctors and engineers would all use the iPad if it were able to mimic the printed word and image in terms of quality. So, let’s make the pixels dense enough that they can’t be seen with the naked eye. To do that, we’ll need to improve our processing power, and to do that we’ll need to improve the graphics processor. And while we’re at it we’ll add the lens system from the iPhone 4S to give a better quality on board video recording to round out the feature build-up.

The publishing and entertainment industry must be unable to contain their excitement, because what Apple has done is potentially overhaul the digital content business model – not in distribution terms, as they’ve already created and made that model a success.  It provides movie houses and magazine/education/technical publishers an opportunity to expand their revenue stream, and in doing so make the Apple iPad 3 the new iPad the default device for not only web browsing, games and reading, but also reference aids for countless industries that struggle to deploy information other than printed magazines or newsletters.

The product is the vehicle. The new iPad is that vehicle, and all because of the new display. But don’t take my word for it, check one out yourself. And through that display, the 3 million pixels staring back at you are representative of the massive opportunities for Apple as a content distributor and for content developers/creators the world over.

The New iPad Release date is March 16th, Boasts 4G, Quadcore and High Res Display

This morning Apple officially revealed what we’ve been calling the iPad 3. The moniker for the 3rd generation tablet won’t be called that; it will be called simply “the new iPad”. The new iPad release date has been set as March 16th for Australia, the States and other countries and the 24th for the rest of the world.

New iPad release

Apple has announced the new iPad release, launching 16th March. (image courtesy Apple website)

The new iPad retains the same screen 4:3 ratio and size, but increases the resolution of the display to an incredible 2048 by 1536 pixels. This brings the pixel density to 264ppi, up from 132ppi for the original iPad and iPad 2. This makes it the highest resolution and densest display for a tablet yet.

Processor-wise, iPad has also taken up the fight to the new breed of Android tablets, boasting a new A5X chip with quad core graphics and a quoted four times superior performance to the Tegra 3 chip. I’m sure there will be plenty of benchmarking happening once the new iPad is released to quantify that claim!

The back camera has been improved, with 1080p recording up from 720p for the iPad 2. It’s very similar to the iPhone 4S but with a 5 megapixel camera instead of 8, and it does have the 5 element lens as well.

From a mobile broadband perspective, the exciting news here is that the new iPad will boast 4G capability here in Australia. The 4G network is developing quickly in metropolitan areas in Australia so we can imagine that the 4G network will start to get a real workout with new iPad users.

Alongside the 4G speeds for its own data network, the new iPad will also be able to share its internet connection with Wi-Fi hot spotting available. At the 4G speeds, connected devices are sure to experience some great online performance through the hot spot connection.

So what does the new iPad release represent for the manufacturer, its customers and developers? For Apple, it continues the trend of releasing progressive hardware with exciting improvements and more than combats the growing number of tablets in the marketplace. It’s hard to see how the new iPad and iPad family as a whole won’t continue to dominate the tablet category.

For users and potential buyers of the iPad, the screen was probably the most wished for improvement in the iPad 2, and for those that had held off upgrading from the original iPad, the new iPad makes a compelling reason to own one. The high resolution screen, quad core graphics processor, 4G mobile speeds and improved camera are all more than incremental changes to the previous iPad. To users they will represent a massively different on-screen experience in performance, display and online connectivity.

For developers, the new iPad release remains as attractive as ever. With the new resolution and processing power, developers are able to create even more detailed and commercially attractive content to increase their revenue and success within the Apple ecosystem. Not to mention HD content from movie and television houses, which may be able to charge a premium for upgraded content.

We can’t wait to see the new iPad release for ourselves. As enthusiasts of the technology industry, we’ll be doing comparisons with other tablets and pitting the new iPad against some of its future competitors as well. Stay tuned for more!

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Windows 8 Release Date Getting Closer with Consumer Preview Launch

This Wednesday in Barcelona, Microsoft will be releasing their Consumer Preview of Windows 8, giving users a taste of what the latest version of Windows will be offering. Although an exact Windows 8 release date hasn’t been announced, the timing of the beta version, as it is more commonly known, does indicate a possible release around September/October this year.

The launch of the Windows 8 Consumer Preview at the Mobile World Congress is telling, as it appears to be in line with the ramping up of the Windows environment across many device types. This includes smartphones and tablets in addition to the traditional PC and notebook market. Although Windows 7 has appeared in some touch screen tablets, these have been mostly commercial models and retail versions have not sold in massive numbers. This should change with Windows 8.

The Windows 8 Release Date firms up with the Consumer Preview announcement.

The next big milestone in the Windows 8 development is the Consumer Preview, but how far away is an official Windows 8 release date?

As we’ve already seen on the Nokia Lumia 800 Windows phone, the latest Windows OS for Smartphones is powerful and easy to use. The developer preview of Windows 8 also showed the Metro-style approach, moving away from the traditional desktop environment as we’ve known it for many years. (read our report on the Windows Phone from Nokia here.)

The tile-style grouping of programs and apps works well across the vertical swiping of the smaller smartphone screen, and the horizontal real estate of a widescreen display. How Microsoft intends to lock this down for the Windows 8 release date will be made much clearer as the Consumer Preview is distributed.

The Metro store is also expected to be opened in line with the Consumer Preview. These apps will probably be free previews ahead of the official Windows 8 release date. Apps would then be available to purchase as they are on the Apple App Store and Android Marketplace.

There is plenty of speculation about the final look and feel of Windows 8, including the removal of the iconic “Start” button. If this proves to be true, the Windows 8 release date will mark the end of a love-hate relationship with a desktop OS the world has used for decades. Microsoft could possibly re-invent Windows as a superpower OS integrated into people’s lives in business, leisure and social communication.

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iPad 3 release date draws closer

Ok, the word is out, Apple has just invited a whole bunch of media outlets to an Apple event, where almost everyone is certain they will  announce the iPad 3 release date and its new features . The event is being held at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco at 10AM PST, on Wednesday, March 7th (which would mean 5am on March the 8th for us in Australia). So mark this date in your calendar and until then, it’s anyones guess what the next iteration of the world’s most popular tablet will be.

The  slogan by Apple for the invitation is “We have something you really have to see. And Touch”

ipad 3 release date draws closer with Apple March 7th invitation

ipad 3 release date draws closer with the March 7th Apple invitation

Speculation is rife as to what the new features might be and at the top of that list is a high resolution display, an A6 Quad Core Processor and 4G capable. if any of these rumours are not met then we think the iPad 3 will have lost its place at the top of the tablet pantheon and it would leave the door wide open for other manufacturers, like ASUS and Samsung, to take a big slice out of Apple’s current strangle hold of the tablet market. So we highly doubt they will come out with anything less than the above hardware improvements, but only time will tell.

We’ll keep a close eye on the March 7 event and provide a detailed post directly after it. We’re really  looking forward to the iPad3 release date and to finally pit the latest iPad against the ASUS Transformer Prime.

So what new features do you think the iPad 3 will have? Let us know in the comments section below.

And what comparisons tests do you want us to run against the ASUS Prime when we get our hands on the iPad 3? Again let us know  in the comments section below.

The iPad 3 release date is just around the corner.

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This article was written by Michael for Ritchie’s Room

 

 

 

 

Toshiba Android Tablet AT200: A Closer Look

After the popularity and interest in our video (that can be found below) and the article on how Toshiba have stopped selling the AT200 in Australia, which you can read here Toshiba Android Tablet AT200 Ends Before it Begins, we thought we’d take a closer look at Toshiba’s new slimline tablet, as it will still be available around the world for some time.

Toshiba Android Tablet AT200

Just released globally, the Toshiba AT200 sets new standards in lightness and thinness for tablet devices.

Toshiba love being able to set new records and try new products that are a little left of centre.  Although some products aren’t successful in the mainstream, like the Libretto W100 Dual touch screen device, they do point to a company willing to take some risks to push the envelope.

The Toshiba Android Tablet AT200 is such a product. To call it the Ultrabook of the tablet world might be taking it a little far, but it does seem to go hand in hand with theZ830 as a companion in the thin and light mobile computing category, read that article here Toshiba Satellite Z830 Ultrabook First Look . At only 535 grams and 7.7mm it is currently the world’s thinnest and lightest tablet, matching the boasts of its Ultrabook sibling.

The overall design is of two slivers of silver being sandwiched together, with a black line running the entire way around the middle of the edge, except for the buttons and ports. It’s a stylish design and seems to be inspired in some part by its Ultrabook, with no tapering, just a consistent thickness all around.

The back plate has a metal finish with the Toshiba logo embedded, just in case there was any question as to what brand this eye catching tablet was. The back panel also holds the 5 megapixel camera. The front camera is 2MP.

What a great business model Gorilla Glass has now, becoming the go-to company for scratch and impact resistant display. The AT200’s 1280 x 800 display is protected by the Corning company’s mobile/tablet product.

Toshiba have kept the controls and ports very minimal but still manage to provide all the necessary outputs to satisfy most needs. The connection on the bottom of the tablet is for power and connection to a PC via USB, and the proprietary cable comes in the box.

It probably would have been easier to avoid duplicating the onboard connectivity of their previous 10.1”, the AT100, but they’ve gone all out and retained a full set of outputs.

The left hand side contains all the connections I mentioned earlier – headphone jack, micro USB, Micro HDMI and Micro SD. It is interesting that Toshiba can provide such a comprehensive connection suite in a product with such dimensions, beating both the iPad 2 and Tab 10.1, both of which offer only a single proprietary connection that can be accessed with various add-on cables.

Interestingly, the Toshiba Android Tablet AT200 uses a Texas Instruments dual core processor, which is comparable to the Tegra 2 or A5 processor used in iPads and other Android tablets. This may mean that another tablet with Tegra 3 may be on the drawing board down the track.

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Software-wise, the Toshiba is still rocking the Android 3.2 Honeycomb OS, and no word on upgrades just yet. Given the amount of exposure Ice Cream Sandwich is getting now, read our article here Android 4 Ice Cream Sandwich on a Tablet. I’m sure this question of ICS upgrade will be on the lips of any prospective AT200 owner.

In line with their pedigree in the commercial and enterprise space, rather than focusing on entertainment, Toshiba have included a few productivity apps. This includes Thinkfree Office for Word, Excel and Powerpoint compatibility; Splashtop for remote desktop access, a file manager (which surprisingly some tablets still don’t have out of the box), the popular Evernote and McAfee security.

When you look at the types of apps on board and the styling of the Toshiba Android Tablet AT200, you do get a sense that this is more of an executive’s secondary or third device rather than a casual gaming and entertainment tablet. The absence of Ice Cream Sandwich may turn some users off, but we’ll ask Toshiba for an update on that and come back with details when available.

In case you missed it the first time around, here’s our video of the Toshiba Android Tablet AT200:

What do you think of the AT200 from Toshiba?

Toshiba Android Tablet AT200 Ends Before It Begins

Toshiba Australia very kindly sent us a shiny new Android tablet to play with and we produced a segment, as seen below, and liked a lot about this new tablet. The Toshiba Android Tablet AT200 is the thinnest and lightest 10.1” tablet in the market, beating all other tablets on thinness and weight. The AT200 has its own look and feel that separates it from its competitors.

However, late Friday we were informed that as of this week, the Toshiba Android Tablet AT200 was going “End of Life” in Australia. This meant no more units would be brought into the country to sell.

Coincidentally (or perhaps not), Samsung also announced a fairly sizeable price reduction across the board for its 10.1 Galaxy Tab range, which now puts it at $100 under Apple’s iPad, you can read that article here Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 Price Drop .

The AT200 was originally pegged at $579 for its 16GB Wi-Fi only model, which would have put it directly up against the iPad, and $100 more than the repositioned Samsung.

The Toshiba Android Tablet AT200 was, on paper, a pretty likeable machine. It weighed only 535 grams and was 7.7mm thin, eclipsing any other current tablet. Like its predecessor, it managed to retain a comprehensive set of connections -– headphone jack, Micro USB, Micro HDMI and Micro SD.

Toshiba Android Tablet AT200

The Toshiba Android Tablet AT200 offered great connectivity and a sharp looking body.

It also had a pretty inclusive set of software on its Honeycomb OS. This included Thinkfree Office, Splashtop for remote desktop access, a file manager, Evernote for spontaneous information gathering and McAfee security. One uncertain factor was when it would be upgraded to Android 4.0.

Our understanding is that the Toshiba Android Tablet AT200 is still alive and well in other regions around the world, so it appears to be a local decision not to continue this model on this continent. The Australian market is sometimes used as a litmus test for new products and technology for vendors as it’s fairly isolated and we’re a proud bunch of early adopters. This could indicate a subtle shift in Toshiba’s overall strategy in the tablet space.

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So where could Toshiba be heading, given this was a benchmark product in form factor at the very least? My initial guess is a ramp up to develop a strong Windows 8 tablet as part of its overall Windows ecosystem offer.

Toshiba released a touch screen all-in-one model last year, so they now have desktops, notebooks, Ultrabooks, and potentially tablets that would put them in a healthy position to offer Windows 8 across virtually all device types, except for mobile phones. Given Toshiba’s strength in the Australian market, such a strategy could be extremely beneficial.

After all, Android has evolved from the mobile platform whereas Windows has developed from a desktop/server platform, giving it a very different set of development challenges. Given Toshiba’s long history supporting Windows as its dominant operating system, there is no doubt they will come out with a strong offer at the launch of Windows 8.

The Toshiba Android Tablet AT200 cancellation and Samsung’s price move are two significant news events in one weekend for tablets. We are still to see the iPad 3 resolve into a real product from the conjecture and rumour that is feeding the hype before the announcement.

It’s going to be a real interesting few months for the tablet industry.  We will see more Tegra 3 products released, ICS deployed and upgraded on more machines, and the new iPad 3 awake from its secret slumber. In the second half of the year, Microsoft will make its move with partners like Toshiba champing at the bit to get into the market with Windows 8 on multiple hardware options.

Watch the video below or read our article on the Toshiba Android Tablet AT200 a Closer Look for more information.

Does Toshiba’s announcement change your mind about Android, and are you waiting for Windows 8 on a tablet?

Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 Price Drop

Here in Australia, Samsung have officially moved price on their entire Galaxy Tab 10.1 range this weekend, with the 16GB Wi-Fi model now only $479 RRP. Here’s the new Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 price repositions at RRP levels across the range:

  • 16GB Wi-Fi only: $479
  • 64GB Wi-Fi only: $699
  • 16GB Wi-Fi/3G: $629
  • 64GB Wi-Fi/3G: $829

The Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 price is now pegged $100 below the comparative iPad models in both capacity and Wi-Fi/3G respects. This looks to be a move to continue the momentum gained through the media-supported hype around the Tab 10.1 and the legal stoushes with Apple here and overseas.

Once the Tab 10.1 was allowed to be released in Australia, Samsung embarked on a massive publicity campaign, complete with cheeky advertising callouts, including the phrase “The Tablet Apple Tried to Stop”, capitalising on the court’s decision to lift the ban on selling the Galaxy Tab 10.1 until the final verdict was decided.

The Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 price has just come down in Australia.

Samsung's advertising directly referenced their legal battles with Apple. Even without their own campaign, the amount of exposure the Tab 10.1 received was massive.

The Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 price drop can also be seen in context of other hardware offers in the Android tablet territory, and actually makes sense when comparing like-for-like systems.

Take, for example, the Asus Transformer Prime, the only tablet in the market with the Tegra 3 processor today. The RRP for the 64GB version of the Prime is $899. From the RRP of $699 for the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 price, one could add $100 for the addition of the keyboard dock, and a further $100 for the Tegra 3 processor upgrade.

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Of course, there are other market forces and activities hanging in the air that may begin to coalesce in the next few weeks. Rumours are building around a possible iPad 3 announcement, and Samsung themselves appear to have a new 10.1” model, the Galaxy Note 10.1 which looks to combine the functionality of the current Galaxy Note with the screen size and dimensions of the Tab 10.1. Given the number of units sold of the Note, and the development of S-pen based Apps, a 10.1 version of the Note could be very interesting and open the “creative mobile” market even further.

For now, we have the price drops which should stimulate sales of the 10.1 Galaxy Tab, and we’ll keep our eyes peeled for more information on new models as they are announced.

Have you been holding off for a drop of the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 price, and does this announcement get you over the line to become a Galaxy Tab owner? Let us know your thoughts below.

Chrome for Android Comes Without Flash Support

Whether it’s on a smartphone or a tablet, the quality of the online browsing experience is critical to the success of any mobile device. Chrome for Android aims to become the optimum browser for Android devices. However, as we pointed out in our previous article, Chrome for Android comes without Flash support in its Beta state, and none is planned.

This development (or lack thereof in this case) was also commented on by  Adobe. They mentioned continued development of the PC-based Flash product, and their contribution to HTML5. That in effect is a surrender to the market shift away from their long-standing plug-in.

Is it such a big deal that this browser is throwing the towel in so early? After all, even the stock browser supports Flash, and we made a tongue-in-cheek video pointing this out when comparing it to the iPad. Today we could very well re-shoot that video, only this time with two Android tablets: one running the stock browser and the other running Chrome for Android that doesn’t support Flash.

Chrome for Android Comes Without Flash Support

No, this is not an iPad screenshot, it's a Transformer Prime showing the world that Chrome for Android comes without Flash support.

When we step away from the issue and look at it a little more objectively, Flash is still very much reliant on localised drivers and plug-ins to provide an online experience. In this day and age that combination does seem to be a little old-fashioned. With all things moving to online storage, cloud services and less dependence on the specs of notebooks (take Ultrabooks) and tablets (which are stripped down compared to any PC of note), HTML5 seems to be the best solution.

Chrome for Android comes without Flash support, but will enable HTML5 authors and developers to create rich, interactive environments that will be transferable to any device, regardless of their plug in. After all, why should we need to download an app for Adobe Flash Player  just to see a website in its entirety on an Android device?

The very nature of the functionality of Chrome for Android is to connect seamlessly with your desktop experience. With no plug-ins and instant access to open tabs, the shift is very much in the favor of HTML5, the fact that Chrome for Android comes without Flash support seems to be a short term issue.

Apple did indeed bring this topic to a head. It’s encouraging to see the entire mobile platform converging on a single standard for the benefit of all mobile browser users, regardless of which ecosystem they have invested in.

Chrome on Android Using the Asus Transformer Prime

Earlier this week Google released the beta version of Chrome on Android, fulfilling a commitment to provide a seamless link between the desktop and mobile browsing experience.

Here’s our video showing you some great cross-device activities that, up until now, haven’t been possible, and it’s exciting to see them in action.

At this stage only 12 countries, including Australia, have been given access to the beta version of Chrome on Android, and it is limited to mobile and tablet devices with the Android 4 and above OS. In Australia, that really only gives the Samsung Galaxy Nexus and the Asus Transformer Prime the opportunity to show off this new browser. We are lucky enough to have a Prime tablet at our disposal, so we can show this off in tablet mode to you.

 

Chrome on Android menu system

The menu for the Chrome beta for Android browser, which includes "Other devices", a hint at the cross-device power of this internet browser.

The intention is for Google to move its stock browser over to Chrome on Android once beta testing has been completed, and if the initial experience is any indication, it’s a good move.

First up, the browser asks for your gmail account details to sign you in, as a large portion of the features involves utilising synching with your desktop browser. If you currently don’t use Chrome and do own a Nexus or Transformer Prime, I’d suggest you move over immediately to at least see what this has to offer.

Once you’ve signed in, make sure you’re also signed in over on your Chrome Desktop browser, because this is where the fun really begins.

Once you use the Chrome on Android beta browser a few times, one thing becomes very obvious – that Google is looking to provide a completely seamless browsing experience regardless of what device you are on. Whatever bookmarks you currently have on your desktop are immediately pushed to your tablet, and any changes you make are also moved across.

Chrome on Android Desktop and Local bookmarks

You can see the bookmarks above for both local and synched content within the Chrome beta browser.

But that’s not all. The synching also brings across your browsing history, so any websites you visit regularly will come up in priority to other search results. It’s uncanny, opening this browser for the first time and it knows what you are entering in the Omnibox.

What’s an Omnibox, I hear you ask? It’s the box in Chrome where you enter the URL, but can also be used for search terms. No more looking for a Google search box, just type right in the omnibox and you’ll get taken to the website of your choice or be presented with a list of options based on your search term. Those that use Chrome on desktop will be used to this feature, but it’s the sudden “awareness” of your new device using Chrome on Android that makes it a little spooky.

 

Chrome for Android Browsing Spooky Geen Android

Does it get any spookier than this Chrome eyed little Green Android?

Synching is one thing, but how about transferring all your open tabs on your desktop to your tablet? When you open a new tab, there are three rectangular buttons at the middle bottom: Most Visited, Bookmarks and Other Devices.

Most visited appears to be a more localised history. Bookmarks are split into Desktop, Other and Mobile bookmarks. Opening the Desktop bookmarks folder presents all the bookmarks from your desktop.

“Other devices” presents the currently open tabs from other Chrome browsers that you are currently signed into. However, instead of just duplicating all the tabs, it shows the pages in a list form so you can choose which ones you want to open. This is a great feature if you are on your desktop searching for movie times or restaurants and want to continue that exploration while you are at large.

Chrome on Android open tabs from desktop

Here you can see open tabs from the Toshiba PC, and a webpage that has been pushed to the tablet.

Another feature is the Chrome to Mobile feature, which ensures the page you were on is sent to your device even if you shut your current sessions down or have to power off your PC. Just install the free Chrome to Mobile app onto your desktop browser, and a small phone icon will now appear on the right hand side of the Omnibox. Press the icon, and a dialogue box will ask you to confirm which device to push to.

The next time you open your Chrome browser on your tablet, the page will be there waiting for you under the “Other Devices” area. This is a much quicker way of sending links, going browser to browser instead of going from the browser, to sending an email, receiving the email and pressing a link that opens in a browser – everything happens within Chrome.

Chrome is known for its “Incognito” option, and it is replicated here, and the overlapping squares and “Spy vs Spy” icon on the left hand side makes sure you don’t forget which browser you are in.

Chrome on Android incognito browsing

Incognito mode opens another window with all incognito tabs gathered, with easy switching between both modes.

The last thing I will mention here is voice search, another icon on the right hand side of the omnibox that, once pressed, will display a microphone for you to verbalise your search request. It seemed to be intelligent enough to pick up the basic phrases we threw at it, but given it is a beta version I’m sure it’s a feature they are working on to be polished by the time the final version is released.

Chrome for Android Browsing Voice Search Windows

Search by speaking is now available. Voice search is a highly competitive domain and Google need to deliver a polished product.

The initial impression of the beta version of Chrome on Android is very positive, and given this is the foundation for their stock browser once users provide feedback and bugs are ironed out, the idea of always-connected, always-on takes another step forward. Web browsing is a huge part of what we do on devices, and to have an uninterrupted experience between the difference physical screens we use is a very compelling reason to move to Chrome, both from a tablet and a desktop perspective.

Have you tried out Chrome beta on an Android mobile or tablet, and what are your thoughts? Are there any other scenarios that you’d like us to test? Let us know in the comments area below.

Android 4 Ice Cream Sandwich on a Tablet

When we first reviewed the ASUS Transformer Prime late last year, the promise of an upgrade to Android 4 Ice Cream Sandwich was just that – a promise. When the Prime finally arrived, there was a fair bit of anticipation but also apprehension that the upgrade would come down the pipeline anytime soon.

However, the new Android 4 Ice Cream Sandwich upgrade, was deployed very quickly and this was probably in no small part due to some issues the Prime was reportedly having, by many users, when in Wi-Fi mode.

And it looks like it was a big coup by Asus – The Motorola Xoom, which announced OS upgrades for its Wi-Fi version of its tablet, was pipped at the line by Asus in getting the Android 4.0 upgrade into the hands of its Prime owners. As such, it’s worth taking a look at some of the new features to be seen on the Prime that are specific to the new Android 4 Ice Cream Sandwich update.

Android 4 Ice Cream Sandwich Homepage Screen Shot on the ASUS Transformer Prime

The new Android 4.0 brings more usability and ease of use to an ever-improving tablet OS.

Firstly, tablets running Android 4.0 have taken a leaf from Apple’s book and placed a shortcut to the camera straight on the lock screen. Swipe right to unlock, swipe left to enter the camera. We’ll be posting some samples of both video and image capture off the 8MP back camera in the next couple of days so you can see the quality of the camera – and it is pretty decent, with 1080p video recording.

It looks like the 3G vs Wi-fi debate has Google’s attention, as Android 4.0 now comes with a Data Usage screen in the setting area, where you can track how much bandwidth has been consumed by week, and by which applications. This feature is a great way to monitor your mobile internet usage, especially if you are using 3G tethering.

Android 4 Ice Cream Sandwich Data Usage Screen Shot on the ASUS Transformer Prime

Keep track of your new Android tablet's data use by week detailing each app's contribution to the overall bandwidth usage.

Speaking of data usage, the Browser has had some changes to it as well. One of the most welcome changes is the ability to request the desktop version of the site you are in if it has automatically taken you to the m.website.com, because it was recognising Android as a mobile browser.

However, with the screen size and flash support, many sites are worth visiting in their rich desktop version. A new touch gesture based browser is also available to trial in the labs area of the browser, keep a look out for a video covering this in more detail to be uploaded soon or better yet subscribe to our YouTube channel at Ritchie’s Room TV.

Android 4 Ice Cream Sandwich Lab Browser Screen Shot on an ASUS Transformer Prime

Comprehensive browser options including desktop website version request. A mobile site just looks wrong on a 10 inch screen.

Widgets used to be treated very differently to Apps, in that they would be found in a fairly convoluted way via the home screen and there was no way to see more than a few widgets at a time. Now, the widgets live in the same place as the apps for easy management, with the new Android 4.0 recognising the different formats and placing them in separate categories.

Android 4 Ice Cream Sandwich Widgets Screen Shot on the ASUS Transformer Prime

Apps and Widgets, living together in perfect harmony as part of the new Android OS.

As with the last OS update, the App store icon is placed for easy access on the top right hand corner in the apps screen, and widgets are easily size-adjusted to suit your homepage layout. The native contacts app has been renamed and upgraded to “People”, with more social networking integration. This seems a little Windows Phone-ish but is a good upgrade so you can see dynamic feed updates on your friends.

App management has always been a bit of a bug bear for Android. There are a lot of tools on the market that help with task killing, but a native app manager would always be preferable. Now, with the Android 4 Ice Cream Sandwich iteration, it’s finally here.

All you need to do to shut down an app is press the recent apps icon on the bottom left hand corner, and swipe an app to the right. That will shut the application down and take it off the recent apps list.

This is way easier than any previous method and beats Apples iOS in terms of simplicity – no extended presses or physical buttons, just home page, recent apps and swipe. You’ll see an example of that in the video below.

If you’ve been using Honeycomb, then you will find the new Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich full of practical improvements. It’s not so much a departure as a welcome progression, and shows Android setting itself up as a serious contender in the Tablet OS wars that will explode later this year.

I’m sure there will be further tweaks before then, and we’ll report on them as well. In the meantime, here’s the video that shows some of those new Android 4 Ice Cream Sandwich features I mentioned above.

 

Do you think you’ll use some of these new features and which ones interest you most? We’d love to hear your thoughts below.