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Five things Google needs to fix in Android 3.0 Honeycomb

Melissa J. Perenson | May 9, 2011
Make no mistake: Google's tablet-optimized Android 3.0 represents a huge improvement overall over previous versions of Google's mobile operating system. But that's not to say it gets everything right.

From the outset, that "exit" button has been a problem. It looks like a sideways bookmark, but is intended to be an exit or back button. It behaves like a back button to move you back to the previously viewed screen, but only does so in some apps; and, according to Google, it will actually close you out of an app if you use it to back out of an app). Meanwhile, the recently accessed button at right is neither clear in its function, nor easy to view as a light tracing.

I much prefer the thicker, clearer redesign implemented by Asus on its Transformer; and that company isn't the only one I've seen re-skin those buttons on its tablet. If more than one manufacturer sees it as a problem point, Google would do well to address a the issue itself.

4. Clean Up the Root Directory

As compared to other mobile operating systems, Android lets you have freer access to your files from within apps. This capability is key to interoperability with other computers and apps, and it allows a tablet to have the maximum possible flexibility in what it can do, and how far it can challenge more established desktop operating systems. It means that you can transfer files to the tablet via email, via an app, via a memory card, or even a direct connection to your PC; and then access those files using another app on the device to actually do something with them. It's about creation, and not just consumption.

Take this real-world use example. While using the Asus Eee Pad Transformer as it was docked in its Mobile Docking Station keyboard, I attached a USB flash drive, opened a Word .docx file in the Polaris Office 3.0 software preinstalled on the tablet, edited the document, and then saved it with a new name directly to the directory of my choice-be it on the flash drive, or back to the tablet. I chose to resave it to the tablet, and then I opened the Gmail app and was able to attach that newly edited file to an outbound e-mail.

Here's the rub, though: A number of file manager apps will let you access the Android file system, but by default, the file/folder organization looks like a mess. You have to be a developer to know where files are stored, and what's in what directory. For example, on that Transformer tablet, the file manager showed that the USB drive folders were buried under the Removable directory, within the root directory.

The bottom line is that finding files manually remains a cluttered and arcane experience given Android's plethora of installed files and folders, and lack of apparent, real-world hierarchy to those files and folder. A little housekeeping in presentation here can go a long way towards making tablets more functional.


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