Android Honeycomb 3.1's a small but totally excellent update for Android tablets. A slightly smoother interface is packaged with two substantial features: improved flash performance (it's really, really better!) and USB device compatibility (like a real computer!).
Long story short, this update only makes way Honeycomb better in some key ways. Our favorite level ups:
Flash Doesn't Suck (Much):
I didn't think Adobe had it in them to improve flash like this. Flash 10.3 takes advantage of hardware acceleration on the Xoom. I'm tempted to say that it's objectively good. Watching YouTube vids on the desktop site isn't the stuttery, glitchy pile of misery it used to be. 720p vids still lag a little, but as you can see in the video, 360p videos run much smoother. Obviously, you can just use the YouTube app, which is optimized, but for video sites without an Android app, this is proof that Flash can succeed, with a little optimization (and hardware acceleration).
Previously, the bar for recently opened apps was a static stack of thumbnails. Now you can scroll up and down your list of apps you have open. Just hit the button on the homescreen and flick. Much better.
Unlike iOS, Android hasn't had the luxury of Netflix and Hulu to provide streaming video, nor has it had any sort of rental store. Netflix is a work in progress, but Honeycomb now has a movie rental store that gives you access to thousands of movies. Standard definition rentals are $3, and HD rentals are $4, with no subscription plan available. It's not as nuanced as Netflix—in selection or design—but if you need something to watch in a pinch, it does its job.
Resizable Homescreen Widgets
If you like widgets, but want more out of them, you can resize them to make 'em bigger. To do that, hold your finger down over the widget until a blue frame appears over it. then drag the diamonds to resize said widget as you see fit. A blessing for Gmail.
Pointer Device Support
For the first time, Android supports pointer devices, which includes mice, trackpads and trackballs. Apple's Magic Trackpad even works with Honeycomb 3.1, although multitouch gestures aren't supoorted. All you have to do is make your Bluetooth device discoverable, head to the settings menu and let Android handle the rest. It won't replace the need to touch the screen, but it will make things more efficient when using a hardware keyboard.
Android 3.1 now accepts USB devices as a host, meaning th...