Back at CES Verizon and Motorola showed us the Motorola Xoom tablet running a pre-launch build of Android 3.0 "Honeycomb," Google's first tablet-optimized OS. We weren't allowed to touch the demo units, though – we just watched as company reps demo'd neato things like the UI and the new YouTube and Google Maps apps. (The new Google Maps is sick, if first impressions are worth anything)
Then Google posted the 3.0 SDK and an enterprising dev who goes by "deeper-blue" cobbled together a port of Honeycomb that runs off of a microSD card installed in a Barnes and Noble nook Color e-reader. nook Color is an Android-based device, and card-based installs of Android 2.2 FroYo had already been successfully run on the device, so why not 3.0?
Earlier this week a post spread around the blogosphere linking back to a forum thread with step-by-step directions and downloadable disk images for loading Honeycomb onto your own nook Color. Since I happened to have a nook Color in my office (cool device on its own merits, by the way … more on that later), I figured I'd give it a whirl.
What I didn't know is that basically any card-based install of Android requires a Class 6 or faster card to have a shot at running. So my efforts to get 3.0 on my nook with a Class 4 card were totally misguided, and wound up costing me some time. One Amazon Prime delivery later (the local shopping center didn't have any microSD's and I didn't have time to drive to Best Buy), I tried again. It's an easy process and I got it working just fine, but by then a new build was available. So I downloaded and installed the new build of "Honeynook" today and have been fiddling with it for an hour or so now.
- For a port based on an SDK that's not meant for consumer install and use, this thing works remarkably well. Touch responsiveness, including pinch and zoom, is quite good, the accelerometer works, and I can connect to WiFi and browse the Web with no problems.
- The second build added support for sound and some YouTube videos, though the nifty 3.0 YouTube app demo'd by Google is nowhere to be found. The second build also lets me set up my Email account, though I'm not sure if the first build didn't support Email or if I was just having issues specific to my use case.
- I'm honestly not as enamored of Honeycomb with it in my hands as I was seeing someone else whiz through it at a press event. Granted, this is a not-at-all official build missing several core apps, but the UI itself looks much more like "just a new Android skin" than what I thought I saw at CES. It's an improvement on 2.x running on tablets, for sure, but it's not really a paradigm shift. 3.0 has the same multiple-homescreen & widget approach as 2.x. Not that there's anything wrong with that, mind you – I just had my hopes up for some crazy new awesomeness. 100% my bad.
- That said, the 3.0 apps I've seen previewed look pretty sweet. So in no way am I passing judgement on this 100% bootleg install I've got here on my desk. This is really just a neato fun-time "hack"that lets me mess around with a version of something that's not really out yet.
- 3.0's Gmail app is quite nice. It honestly reminds me of Gmail on iPad (the Web version), but tightened up and Android-ified. Pretty cool so far. I can't sync with my Google Account contacts right now, though, which is too bad.
- Apparently there are hacks for improving display quality (to better match nook Color's native specs) and to gain entry to the Android Market. I'll try those next.
- THAT said, I am really impressed at how well this all works. It's a port for an under-specced device that's based on an SDK. And it runs off of an SD card. And it works. No rooting required. Pretty neat.
That's all for now. Feel free to hit me up with questions and I'll answer them if I can!