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Honeycomb 101: Getting to know your Android tablet

JR Raphael | May 21, 2011
Not sure how to get started with your new Android tablet? Fear not: We've got you covered.

So you're the proud possessor of a shiny new Android tablet. Now what?


Google's tablet operating system is a little different from the versions of Android you may have seen before. Unlike the iPad, which is basically a blown-up version of the iPhone, Android Honeycomb tablets are designed to take full advantage of the extra screen space--and it's up to you to decide how to use it.


Of course, flexibility and simplicity don't always go hand in hand, and Honeycomb can be a bit overwhelming at first. But once you get the hang of it, you'll find that its power and its potential for personalization can be pretty darn sweet.

Here's a quick guide to help you get started.

Hello, Honeycomb: Navigating Your Home Screen

Let's begin with the home screen. On Honeycomb--unlike on past smartphone-focused editions of Android--the main controls are always visible right on your display.

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    • At the top left corner of the screen sits a Google search box. Tapping it lets you simultaneously search the Internet and everything on your device.
    • Next to the search box is a microphone icon that activates Google's robust Voice Actions system. You can use it to speak commands such as "listen to" followed by the name of an artist, album, or song; "send e-mail to" followed by the name of a contact and a message; or even "note to self" followed by a memo. You can also speak any phrase to launch an instant Web search for the term.
    • At the top right of the screen is a six-square icon with the label 'Apps'. Touch it for access to the full menu of applications installed on your tablet.
    • Next to the 'Apps' icon is a large white plus sign. It opens the tool for customizing your tablet's home screens; we'll look at it in more detail in a moment.
    • At the bottom right of the display is a system clock, along with icons indicating your current network connection status and tablet battery level. Tapping this area once will bring up more-detailed information. Tapping it a second time will bring up additional options, including toggles for airplane mode, Wi-Fi, and other system settings.


From time to time, notifications will appear in the bottom-right area of your display--when you get a new e-mail message, for example, or when a calendar reminder comes due. You can tap any notification to view more information about it or you can dismiss it altogether.

Getting Around in Honeycomb

The area at the bottom left of the screen focuses on navigation. No matter where you are in the system, you'll always see three icons:

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    • The left arrow jumps you back one step--not terribly useful on the home screen, but handy when you're in applications.
    • The home icon, predictably, takes you back to the home screen. If your tablet is running Android 3.1, your system will remember which panel you last had open and will automatically return you there.
    • The third icon opens the Honeycomb multitasking menu. This menu shows you a list of your most recently used apps and allows you to jump directly to any of them from anywhere in the system.

 

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