Android 3.1 now available for Verizon XOOM owners


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In what will be an interesting release schedule, Google announced today that owners of the Verizon Wireless XOOM will be getting treated to the new Android 3.1 update today. Included in the new update will be USB host functionality, resizable widgets, the new Google Movies, updates Google apps, and a new faster web browser among other minor enhancements. The USB host functionality is pretty nice to have. This will let Android owners (tablet only) have the ability to plug in their digital cameras and unload their pictures and video on the device as you would a normal computer. This definitely brings the tablet crowd one step closer to full tablet use. Of course, the update is for Verizon users only at this point. No word on when it will be available to existing XOOM wi-fi owners, which really ticks me off. Hit the jump if you feel like reading a rant.

So with all of the excitement that Google IO brought today, I have to say that there are definitely some things that bug me. Now we can start to see Google doing something about the fragmentation. They did announce their partnership with multiple carriers and hardware makers to “guarantee” timely updates for Android phones for the phones first 18 months after release. That’s a great step in the right direction to take care of some of these ridiculous fragmentation issues plaguing the system. But, after they announce this partnership, what does Google do? Announce a 3.1 update for the Verizon Motorola XOOM with no mention of other Android tablets getting the same update!

Now to be fair, they did decide to give away 5,000 limited edition Samsung Galaxy Tab’s to developers present at the conference, which will be released to the public in about a month. Upon this announcement, they stated that the Galaxy Tab would get updated to 3.1 in the following weeks, even though developers should have access to it today. Why not? The Verizon XOOM is getting the update today, and the developer Galaxy Tab is vanilla Android.

Which brings me to another level of frustration, as Google is already walking the developers away from the XOOM to the Galaxy Tab. What does this all mean? Well, for many reasons (poor sales, better hardware from Samsung, kind of a fresh start) this might make sense to Google. I’m sure Samsung worked a nice little deal to get them to shift from the XOOM to the shiny new Samsung Tab, which leaves the XOOM as old news. In typical Android fashion, Google is already on to the next piece of popular hardware even though the XOOM has only been available for a couple of months! Doesn’t look good for Motorola now does it?

Going back to the Verizon XOOM only update….why the heck do they get preferential treatment for an open OS? I’m guessing Verizon paid a nice little sum of money to Google, or worked some background deal to seal the update for awhile before anyone else. This isn’t the first time this has happened, look at the Nexus phone series. The Nexus One, which I previously owned, was THE Google phone. It was supposed to get updates before anyone else, as soon as they were available straight from Google. It did, until the Nexus S from Samsung came out. It took about 2 months for the new update to hit the Nexus One, while the new Samsung Nexus S was sitting pretty with the new update. That’s pretty poor management in my eyes.

Is the XOOM wi-fi not good enough to have the update immediately? Are other tablets not good enough to warrant the same premise that they too are Android tablets, which Google wants people to buy? Should they not receive the same support across the board? What makes one tablet more superior to another in Google’s eyes? How do I really know which tablet to buy, if the wi-fi XOOM (which was THE Google tablet) can’t even get first dibs on the update scene? Do I really have to partner with a carrier and get the latest and greatest Android hardware to actually receive the latest updates when they become available? And perhaps more improtantly, why should I bother with all of these questions when your competitor (Apple) offers updates to everyone on the day it’s made available?

I don’t know when the new 3.1 update will reach all Android owners. Apparently it isn’t coming quick enough to warrant an announcement at the keynote today. All I know is that it’s available for Verizon XOOM owners, and that currently excludes XOOM wi-fi, Acer Iconia, Asus Transformer, and other Android tablet owners. I don’t like the way this is starting to shape up for Android. As exciting as the platform can be, it might not be worth it to many people, me included. I for one am waiting patiently to see what the HP Touchpad will shape up to be, as I continue to have issue after issue with the half baked platform they call Honeycomb. Now lets all start the timers to see how long it takes for all Android tablets to receive 3.1. Remember, it’s May 10th.

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Allen Schmidt

Allen is a former contributing editor at Nothing But Tablets, which was merged with Pocketables in 2012.

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