Motorola XOOM review: The Big Bang

GSMArena team, 26 May 2011.
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Android market

The additional applications are the heart of every modern mobile platform. The more and the higher-quality they are the better the market prospects of their OS. For the XOOM this is a two-sided tale.

You get a customized Android market interface that lets you browse and search the hundreds of thousands of apps there quicker than ever before. The productivity is probably the best there is on the market and gaming is second only to the App store.

Motorola XOOM Motorola XOOM
The Android market has been nicely optimized for tablets

On the other hand though only a handful of those apps are actually optimized for the XOOM. WVGA ones aren’t too pixelated but they are not perfectly smooth either. As to those meant for lower resolution – you need not bother.

Motorola XOOM
Searching for an app

The performance is really a mixed bag with quite a lot of the apps we installed suffering mysterious lags. We are speaking of apps that run fine on single-core WVGA handsets and that we would’ve assumed to be a walk in the park for the XOOM. Alas, optimization is needed before the Motorola slate can really enjoy the same kind of freedom its smartphone cousins are getting.

Motorola XOOM Motorola XOOM
Checking out app details

The thing is those optimizations take time and developer commitment and, with the XOOM hardly selling in millions, we can see why coders are still sitting on a fence here. In that sense Motorola should probably be glad that competing Honeycomb tablets are released left and right nowadays – only a sizeable market share will bring enough developer attention to the slate-friendly Android.

Motorola XOOM
The My apps screen

Final words

The Motorola XOOM certainly is a must-see device. With powerful hardware and the custom-built tablet-friendly version of the world’s most popular handheld OS on board, the XOOM was supposed to be the standard-setter. And that’s not even taking into account its impressive connectivity set and good looks.

And by the way, while the apps designed for the XOOM’s screen resolution are far less than what the Apple iPad 2 can use, things aren’t quite that bad. Regular Android apps designed for WVGA screens do scale up just fine so they will do until developers fix that.

Apple iPad 2 Wi-Fi + 3G
Apple iPad 2

Yet, even with all those boxes ticked, we wouldn’t quite recommend the XOOM at this point. While it might as well hold a hardware advantage over the iPad 2, the user experience is mediocre at best.

And for all we know, tablets are more about the user-experience than the functionality. Users who do need all the oomph will go for netbooks or ultra-portables, which are cheaper and can do more tasks than the current crop of tablets.

And the tablets, well, their thing is being fun to use and snappy with their lightweight operating systems. Sadly, the XOOM fails to deliver on those exact expectations. And sales may continue to be slow for a while.

Motorola seems to have overlooked a key ingredient of the Android market success. Android smartphones are usually priced below their iOS competition and have much better value even if they don’t always manage to deliver an equally silky handling.

The XOOM is in fact more expensive than the iPad 2, which makes it reallly hard to forgive any of its shortcomings. An exceptionally loyal user base allows Apple to charge more for their products and get away with it. For Motorola to be competitive, they need to play by the market rules.

The XOOM’s price tag implies a product that’s notably better than the current market leader. But despite the added functionality and purpose-built interface, the XOOM just doesn’t quite cut it in terms of actual handling, speed and number of available apps.

So while Honeycomb shows some promise, it thus far feels more like a beta. And Motorola should be trying hard to get the user experience up to scratch before it’s too late for the XOOM.

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