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Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Life with Xoom

I broke down and bought a Xoom. Actually I bought it for my wife for her birthday. She has an Android phone and uses it all the time. She also has a nice HP laptop that is running most of the time. She is a stay at home mom but probably gets more done in office productivity apps than I do. She really knows her way around Excel and Word.

Why get the Xoom? I have had much better luck with Android over iOS. I liked the higher resolution screen and the choice of Flash. Various web sites, including Soap Opera Digest - one of her favorites, use Flash. So do a number of kid sites like Nick Jr. I don't care for Flash as I think too many have abused it but that does not mean I refuse to use it in the proper situations. So far the sites I have visited that need Flash have run without a hitch.

My wife tends to fall asleep well after I do. She has been using her phone while laying next to the me in bed before she nods off. She likes to read email, scan various websites and wants to save tree via eBooks. She also wants a second monitor at times for her laptop. She also loves the instant on of the phone to check weather and email but, like me, does not like to type anything more than a few sentences on a tiny keyboard. Now she can read even more sites, actually respond to email and wants to buy some eBooks.

For these needs the Xoom appeared to be a really nice fit. So far that has turned out to be the case. I love the instant on, the ability to hold it in one hand and read websites, the fast enough typing speed (not full touch typing but fast two finger typing). There are a number of fun games to play on it and the games are more enjoyable in the large format. Angry Birds is great, you do have to manually zoom out every level which is annoying but being able to see the whole level for each bird shot is very helpful. Setting up multiple email account was easy as is switching between them.

I used the about:debug setting of the browser to tell the world I am a desktop instead of a phone and most sites agree and show me a full web experience. I tried Opera and thought it was OK and FireFox which appears to work decently. FireFox does not scale images all that great, might no be using the GPU where the built in browser does.

Kids enjoy it, hit power, check homework central, grades, search for essay information all from anywhere in the house. It has become the family pass around machine. Battery life has been great. Even Angry Birds does not kill the battery like my phone does.

We went WiFi only. Did not want another data plan in the house. Might pick up a BlueTooth keyboard at some point.

Downsides - Honeycomb does not seem to be finished. I am really hoping since Motorola went vanilla here that I will get upgrades as soon as Google has them available. I like a lot of the things they did but you have to not think it will be just like your phone. Various parts of the UI have moved. It has crashed a couple of times and I have had programs running in the background playing sounds that you can not see in task manager so I had to do a reboot. The browser will crash too, that is why I have been playing around with Opera and FireFox.

I am converting my Android phone game - Grid Hunt - to Honeycomb. Lots of cool things in the API including fragments. It is nice to have so much more screen space to be able to display more game information. I plan on adding multiple player settings, two player mode and more scoring statistics.

There is one area I think all tablets are failing at - supporting multiple users. All are just like a phone, power it on, you are the one user. I want my wife and I to have separate desktops layouts, default tabs open in the browser, default email settings etc. I don't care about switching users with both logged in at same time, just log one out and the next one in - basically reload settings. I know just sharing it playing games between my son and I would be a big help. Right now Stupid Zombies has many completed levels I have not actually played.

I do like that I was able to connect to our network drives via SMB easily. I can copy files from the Xoom to the network to back them up, look at many files (DOC, XLS, PDF, etc.) right off the network on the device etc. We keep most of our documents on the network drive at home as it is backed up regularly.

I rarely am a first adopter of anything. This was a great gift for the wife / family. It gives me a chance to convert my game and be in on the early set of Android 3.0 ready applications. I really hope it gets a number of updates from Google / Motorola. It is very useful as is but needs tweaks before I would recommend it to less tech savvy friends and family. I am happy with the purchase but really want some updates to fix the crashes and to tweak the UI.

My neighbor bought the Samsung tablet in late January. I was telling him about the Xoom when he dropped by to borrow my power washer and he thought it sounded pretty cool. He is very happy with his tablet in that his work provided laptop can take 10 minutes to fire up due to all the corporate crap it must run and it being low on physical memory. He has a standard 8 AM meeting with a spreadsheet. He fires up the tablet, has the spreadsheet ready to peruse and can have the laptop come on-line when it ready. He has gotten a lot of use from the tablet. I hope to feel that way months and years after my purchase too.