Introduction to Android Honeycomb

June 22, 2011, By Christian Cawley

If you’re in the market for a tablet computer, you’re probably aware that there are several different types available. You might have spotted a BlackBerry Playbook, or an iPad, among the demo units at the local electronics store.

The majority of tablets, meanwhile, run the Android operating system with the most recently released devices sporting the Honeycomb version of the OS. This more than just a scaled-up version of the popular mobile phone OS, however; Honeycomb is specifically designed for tablets and features a wealth of tablet-specific UI enhancements and features.

After purchasing a Honeycomb device and taking it home to play with, you might be forgiven for thinking that the tablet is something completely new and therefore be a little apprehensive about using it. However, you shouldn’t worry about this. The best thing to do is charge up the device, power it on, and start playing!

Honeycomb is very easy to use, as we shall see in this new series of tutorials.

Introduction to Android Honeycomb

Honeycomb Navigation and Widgets

When you first power on your Android Honeycomb tablet, you will be greeted by a selection of widgets and shortcuts, spread across five desktop screens. Interacting with these is very simple. To move from one desktop screen to the next, drag your finger left to right and right to left across the tablet display.

Make sure that you do this in an area where there are no or few widgets and shortcuts, as a quick tap is all that is required to open these.

In the bottom left corner of the Honeycomb display you will notice that there are three buttons. These are the Back, Home and Multitasking buttons, and they help you to get to the screen you want to be on. For instance, pressing the Back button repeatedly takes you back through each previous screen of an app, then to previously used apps and eventually to the Home screen; meanwhile, the Home button takes you straight back to the Home screen. The Multitasking button should be used when you want to switch to a different app, and pressing it will display a preview list of all open tools from which you can select the one you want.

Customizing the Honeycomb Desktop

Meanwhile, in the top right corner, you will see the button for the Apps list, a screen in which you will be able to find all installed apps. To the right of this is a + symbol, and tapping this will take you to a desktop settings view where you can make changes to the way information is laid out and displayed on the five Home screens.

Here, you can select between available Widgets and App shortcuts that can be dragged to any of the five Home screens, as well as change Wallpapers and add other shortcut types.

Notifications in Android Honeycomb

One of the main features of previous Android releases was the Notification area, a section at the top of the screen displaying battery power, signal strength, the current time and offering access to Wi-Fi and Bluetooth toggling, not to mention providing updates about apps and services.

In Honeycomb, this feature has been moved to the bottom-right corner of the display, and unless a specific notification allows it there is no option to tap any default items in order to gain further information. This makes sense, of course; while icons display new email messages and you can tap these for a quick summary, there is a lot more real estate across the five Home screens than on a mobile phone. Whereas previously the Notifications area acted as a pull down overlay, it is now fully integrated with the rest of the user interface, and works just as well!

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