Xoom & Honeycomb Tips

By | Saturday, October 22, 2011 at 5:23 pm

Having had my Motorola Xoom for awhile, I recently sent Jay a bunch of tips and suggestions for his new tablet (also a Xoom).  I thought I’d post those tips here so they might benefit others as well.  Here they are:

  • My Movies Pro is awesome for cataloging your DVDs and Blu-Rays, and it’s designed for Honeycomb!
  • The Xoom takes 48-55 seconds to boot cold, if powered all the way off.
  • Hold the power button down for a couple seconds to power it all the way down or to power it on.
  • To force-reboot instantly, press the Volume-Up and Power buttons together.  Do this only as a last resort when frozen.
  • Download the free app “NVIDIA Tegra Zone”, it includes all the great games designed specifically for your chip.
  • The “Earthquake!” app is great on the Xoom, install it and set a nice, scary, notification sound as the alert.  15-20 times a day it will scare the crap out of you.
  • The Motorola Portfolio case was a let-down for me.  I ended up dropping it and getting a blue gel cover for it.  I use many different apps that are optimized for portrait orientation and others that look best in landscape on the Xoom, and also play several games (like Burn the Rope) that require you to rotate the tablet as you’re playing as part of the gameplay.  The portfolio case (at least Motorola’s version) drove me nuts trying to do all these things.  The prop was nice, but not worth the trouble for me.  It just didn’t feel right in my hands with the case being larger and the lid flopping loosely behind the tablet. So I went with the gel (feels great in the hand!) and also got a Casecrown Suede Xoom Sleeve for storage when I take it with me.  It’s cushioned, zippered, fits the Xoom perfectly, and has an additional zippered pocket for other things.  I keep a microcloth in there to clean the screen and a stylus for notes and drawing apps.
  • “HD Widgets” are a must if you like Weather and Clock widgets.  This one is specifically designed for tablets, and the “HD Tablet Header” widget is my absolute favorite, though there are several others included, all very customizable.
  • Reminder – make sure you’re checking the Amazon Appstore daily on your Xoom for the daily free paid app – now you can install ALL of them and try them out and never have to worry about space issues.
  • Act 1 is a video player that works great on the Xoom, and is the only video player I’ve found that lets you custom Zoom to the size you want when you’re watching any video.
  • Make sure you check out the “Staff Picks for Tablets” section in the Android Market.  You’ll see the edge of the title in the upper right corner of the Market’s home page in the Apps section.  Slide left to bring it on-screen.  They update it frequently, and all of these apps work great on the Xoom.
  • All of the apps by “GLU MOBILE” are a rip.  They’re free, and some of them even look really neat and visually stunning, but they’re the type of games like Zynga’s games that get you hooked, then make you install OTHER apps or “do other tasks” like purchase something from another vendor, to earn “credits” or “Coins” to progress further in the game.  Of course, as an option they always allow you to skip the tasks completely by paying real money for credits or coins!  GAWD what a racket they got going!
  • Beware of scams.  Someone actually recently put up “Angry Birds HD”, “Angry Birds Seasons HD”, and many others, made them look authentic and set the price at 99 cents and made a lot of money.  Turns out they were selling SCREENSHOTS of the actual games!  Just a single screenshot was all you got, but it promoted itself as being the new HD version of the game!  They also had the letters LWP in them, which should have been a clue—this means “Live WallPaper”.  I guess we’re supposed to know that if it says that, it just wallpaper and not a real app. 🙁
  • When you’re ready to try a new launcher on your Xoom, the best one I’ve found for it (so far) is ADW Launcher EX.  They’ve done a lot to it to make it fully compatible with Honeycomb, including adding the top right and left homescreen links (which are changeable  too!) and an awesome scrolling app bar along the bottom (optional)!  I’m always trying out different launchers as well as apps, and this is by far the most Honeycomb-compatible to date.  You gain the following abilities with it, just to name a few:
  • Rearrange your homescreens
  • Add or remove entire homescreens
  • Plenty of effects to choose from for homescreen animations
  • Tons of configuration options, including custom grid sizes for your homescreens
  • Plenty of basic icon options like “rename”, edit, etc., that you’d think would have been built into Android already.
  • If you switch to ADW Launcher EX as your homescreen, before putting a lot of work into redesigning your homescreens, be sure to set the default launcher to ADW, then do a full shutdown and restart.  The first time you use it, if you don’t reboot after setting it as your default launcher, you can lose all of your widgets.
  • Also, switching  between multiple launchers on the fly isn’t a good idea.  I tried it, thinking I could gain the benefit of having double the homescreens that way using 2 launchers, but it doesn’t work that way.  I think it basically uses up all of the system memory and is unable to toggle back and forth quickly.  It resulted in everything just crawling and being very very sluggish.  This is another reason why you need to fully reboot after setting a new launcher as default.
  • There is a small bug in Honeycomb that you might run into occasionally.  I have 3.2.1 and it still happens once in awhile, so they haven’t fixed it yet.  Sometimes when a popup is supposed to appear  on-screen, the screen will dim, but nothing appears, as if it’s frozen.  It was very frustrating when this started happening and I didn’t know what was going on.  I scoured the web though, and eventually learned what was happening:  Sometimes Honeycomb can’t draw the popup properly, so it appears to freeze.  Easy workaround instead of rebooting or panicking: rotate the screen 90 degrees.  Once the screen rotates and redraws itself, the popup will then appear and you can continue normally.  Sheesh.  Yes, it’s annoying, but I guess no OS is 100% perfect.
  • As of last week, Netflix is now available for the Xoom (and all Android 3 tablets) in the market, and it works nicely.  I’ve been waiting for it since I got my Xoom, and even cancelled my Netflix account temporarily until it finally came out for the Xoom.
  • I actually like Google Books a little better than Kindle on the Xoom.  The way the pages turn (like a real book) is neat.  It’s pretty minor I guess, but the experience just seems nicer.  You sure can spend a lot of money on books though–I wish Google or Amazon would switch to the subscription method that Audible uses.  That would be awesome.  With Audible you pay a flat monthly fee and you get 2 credits a month.  A credit is worth 1 book–any book–no matter what the price is.  There’s also a lower-priced plan that gives you 1 credit a month.  You can still buy books at good discount prices as well, but I really like the credit model.  I can budget for it, and 2 books a month is a pretty good pace for me.
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