Google showcases Android 3.0 Honeycomb

Google has barely launched Android 2.3 and is already showing off a tablet with Android 3.0 on it, which is set to come with many of the features missing from Gingerbread, along with plenty more – and is expected to release some time in 2011.

Android 3.0, which keeps up the alphabetical sweet products nicknames with Honeycomb, was the version number widely expected for Gingerbread but was revealed in early November that it would be 2.3 instead.

The Gingerbread update came yesterday and includes a slightly refined UI, faster text input, new copy and paste options, improved power management, extra camera support, more VoIP options, and a slew of smaller tweaks. Not quite what people were building up for then, with the UI changes being minimal and there being a very obvious lack of video chat, which was rumoured to be on the cards for Gingerbread.

So, a slightly underwhelming update, particularly given the months of hype. There is light on the horizon, however, with Google giving a brief demonstration of Honeycomb which looks like it will have all the features that should have been in Gingerbread. Including a significant UI redesign and video chat support.

The UI is particularly important. New APIs have been added to allow an application to be split into multiple views, according to Android frontman Andy Rubin, Google’s Vice President of Engineering. This allows a single application to look different for a smartphone than a tablet. The traditional Android buttons are also reported to be missing, while icons look more like a traditional PC desktop. Customisation options will also be included, marking a significant move away from the Apple model.

Even more importantly, Honeycomb is designed to properly support tablets, which is vital for Google with the flood of Android tablets expected in 2011. To bring the point home Rubin showed off a new monster tablet being developed by Motorola with Gingerbread already working on it. 

The tablet is rumoured to be called Stingray and is expected to come with a dual-core 3D processor, an Nvidia graphics card, 16GB of onboard storage, a 10-inch touchscreen, and may even offer LTE support.

The fact that Google is showing off Honeycomb when Gingerbread isn’t even out on the majority of devices suggests that its release will come in early 2011. Many people are expecting the Motorola Stingray tablet to launch in the first quarter, so that may be a good guideline for Honeycomb.

It seems to us that many of these features were planned for Gingerbread in the first place, but Google ran into delays and had to push them into a later release.

They were already well into development and may only need tweaking and polishing, particularly if Google is willing to make promises on features and show off the UI makeover as early as now.