Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Motorola Xoom a huge disappointment

I couldn’t resist the temptation to get my hands on the first Android 3.0 (Honeycomb) device and wanted to explore the tablet world outside of iOS a bit, so I bought a Motorola Xoom the day it came out. I’ve now spent a couple of days with the device, downloaded apps, explored all the features, and come to the conclusion that the Motorola Xoom and Android 3.0 are a huge disappointment.

Let’s start with the Xoom hardware problems first:

  • It is rather heavy
  • The battery life is too short (about 5-6 hours rather than the 10 advertised)
  • The power-button is in the most ridiculous spot on the back of the device (next to the camera & flash)
  • The plastic snap-on cover is bulky and adds weight and thickness to it

Yes, the screen with HD resolution is nice. But that’s about the only thing that is better than the original iPad.

Now let’s talk about the Android 3.0 issues:

  • There are only about 16 apps available that are designed for an Android tablet form-factor. Robert Scoble goes into great detail on that issue in this blog post today.
  • When you run a few apps (and download some that are more designed for a phone) you inevitably arrive at a state, where the UI starts to feel sluggish – despite the dual-core CPU. The way that background applications can eat processor cycles and make your foreground application feel incredibly slow is a design flaw that I’ve already observed in the Motorola Droid a year ago. And it hasn’t been fixed in Android 3.0.
  • In using the device for a couple of hours, I got multiple apps to crash on me.
  • The Android app store is still extremely difficult to navigate and you cannot easily tell the good applications apart from the “me too” junk.
  • When connected to an Exchange server and trying to archive a piece of e-mail, the list of available folders is shown by flattening the entire folder hierarchy instead of displaying it properly. Therefore, I have to scroll down for 4-5 pages until I find the folder I need.
  • The idea to put widgets on the home screen that are more than just an icon is nice. But the implementation is ridiculous. There are plenty of apps that claim to be a widget, but all they are is an icon. Other apps, such as Twitter, have a widget view, but you cannot control the update frequency. With the CNN widget this leads to flickering and nervous screen updates. Then, when you tap on the widget, it takes forever to load the app and display the news.
  • Flash player isn’t available yet.
  • There is no movie availability other than YouTube. Nothing even remotely similar to the iTunes store where I can simply rent or buy a movie anytime.

I could go on for a long time. It is simply ridiculous how far from the truth the TV commercial for the Motorola Xoom is.

And, of course, now that the iPad 2 has been announced today, the Xoom looks even worse…


Arunram said...

Interesting! Their website says the flash player would be available as a download from the market, dont know when that is going to be though! Have you had the chance to try out the atrix yet?

Personally, I like the way iOS handles multi tasking. google should look into reducing the mem cycles background apps use.

-Arun (@looneydoodle)

msa said...

You could try our free Android port of Reiner Knizia's Labyrinth. It supports higher-resolution graphics on larger screens. Unfortunately, we don't have a Xoom yet so I can't vouch for it working.

We also have Knizia's Through the Desert for Android available with an enhanced UI on larger screens. Much fun!

ceilingfish said...

I feel kind of similar about the Samsung Galaxy i9000. Yes, obviously it's not a tab so the comparisons aren't direct, but my problems are more specifically with the Android OS. Apps just take way too long to start up, shut down, respond, etc. I guess this is the price that we pay for an open market, the apps aren't going to be well tested on a selection of devices.

That said, I really think something has got to give in the way Google are running the app store at the moment, because you're right, there's way too much cruft in there, and with the latest malware debacle they are really going to start battering consumer confidence unless they start policing the community somehow.

Dennis said...

"Yes, the screen with HD resolution is nice. But that’s about the only thing that is better than the original iPad."

I don't own a Xoom and have no intention of buying one. However this statement above is so completely wrong on all fronts that I question what your motives are. Did you, perhaps, have a predetermined conclusion (note that you call the Xoom "rather heavy". It is mere grams heavier than the iPad1).

At the most basic, the Xoom has good quality, stereo speakers. The iPad has a very poor quality, mono speaker. It has a gyroscope. It has a *significantly* faster processor, and a magnitudes faster GPU. It has 1GB of RAM (specs don't matter until they impact the real world, which RAM most certainly does).

I could go on but it seems fruitless. Your base claim was simply, to put it bluntly, ignorant. The Xoom's hardware still comes out on top when compared to the greatly improved iPad2.

And you complain about the incredibly useful widgets because a couple of widgets don't operate exactly as you like? Again, this just drips agenda, and your complaints are completely irrational and, I would say, pandering.

The Android universe in general is undoubtedly far behind in the apps department (especially in top tier services like Netflix, where the illusion of control in the iOS universe allows it despite the absence of physical DRM), but it is getting better by the day.

XML Aficionado said...

Dennis: the technical specs are only one part of the equation. How well the OS and apps work on the hardware to provide a user experience is a huge factor. And that is where the Xoom severely lacks.

From a user's point of view the only positive effect of the Xoom hardware that I noticed is the higher screen resolution. Despite its faster CPU and GPU it felt a lot slower than the iPad when using the same kinds of applications.

And when it comes to the iPad 2 vs. Xoom comparison, then the iPad easily wins on the technical specs side - just take a look at this side-by-side comparison on

Your allegations of an agenda is quite amusing. What would that alleged agenda be?

I just happen to love new technology and new gadgets and usually buy the latest and greatest to play with them. However, I'm alway looking for actual usability rather than raw technical data or specs.

And when I find a new gadget I write about it and offer my opinion. You can agree or disagree with that, and I'm happy to discuss it here, but please keep the conversation civilized...

bryanl said...

It appears you were looking for a better Ipad when you bought the xoom. The device that will most likely be a better Ipad is the ipad2.

The xoom is fine. It is fairly powerful, and I believe it competes with the ipad2 when it comes to hardware specs. That being said, honeycomb isn't perfect. I believe as developers get more comfortable with the new form factor and operating system, better apps will start appearing.

Anonymous said...

The page that you linked to for the comparison lays it out in plain english, so I don't know why you are saying that it says that the iPad 2 "easily wins" on the specs side. They are right next to each other, and the Xoom ties or wins on every spec listed except for thickness and weight (and yes, 100g is seriously significant here). Also probably battery life, but Apple decided to use Watt-hours instead of mAh like everyone else in the world.

Mark Kimsal said...

It appears Motorola was trying to make a better iPad when they made the Xoom.

The pink elephant in the room is that every comp manufacturer is trampling themselves to get an iPad competitor out the door (or window or attic). So the iPad is going to be the obvious yard stick for all comparisons.

If the Xoom didn't want to be held up to the iPad, they shouldn't have copied Apple play by play. Maybe be creative in what it can do? Oh, another button light, touch screen, phone OS, tablet sized device with an app store?! Oh wow, this is clearly different than the iPad and fills a different niche and solves a whole new set of problems... yeah. Please, hold off baseless iPad comparisons, this devices is in a class of its own!

Dennis said...

The technical specifications are absolutely only one part of the equation, and there is no disagreement there.

Your claim that I refuted, however, was completely wrong. In fact I would go further and say that I don't understand how you could look at that Engadget comparison and come out with the idea that "iPad(2) easily wins on the technical specs side". On weight, sure. It wins on nothing else.

Honeycomb seems a bit premature at this point. Like the Xoom with its missing 4G, it seems like they really pushed to try to get out before the iPad, and the results aren't great.

However it will improve. Of course it will improve. From a foundation perspective it easily meets if not beats the capabilities of the iPad2, so they're in a very good position.

Terry said...

Its heavy, its poorly made with cheap buttons, the screen is washed out, its overpriced. Android 3.0 has a poor interface and uses hardware resources poorly. SD slot doesn't work, flash doesn't work, LTE doesn't work. But Moto says they will...someday. Maybe they should have released it someday instead of half baked. It won't sell well. The iPad 2 will kill it.

Benjamin said...

All of the people leaving comments here, including the you own a Zoom? How long have you used it?

It's rather hard to gain credibility on a very limited window of time to use a device, or just going on specs from websites. I have not used the Zoom at all, reserving my comments until then. On the Atrix and Inspire, I spent a few hours playing with them and they were an excellent experience.

Ian said... If the iPad2 runs at the same 3.75V as the original, then 25000mWh translates to 6666mAh; so the iPad may *just* edge out the competitors. (And we'll find out the voltages in a week or so, when ifixit strips one down, I'm sure)

The real test, of course, is whether the others can get the same sort of battery life out of their power reserves. Power management is more of a software than a hardware issue these days, so tech specs don't tell the whole story.

XML Aficionado said...

Benjamin: yes, I do own a Xoom. I wouldn't write about it, if I hadn't bought one. I count myself as an early adopter and alway like to play with new devices. I've had mine for 5 days now and - being a software industry veteran of 27 years - I can figure out devices and software very fast.

TomK said...

Hmmmm, that's a bit disappointing. I really wanted to get one, but to be honest I started thinking differently in last couple of days. I am a huge fan on Android and like it's fetures like simple usb file transfer, wifi hotspot, etc. Google is much more open on this and doesn't force you to use their products if you dont want. This was a huge turn off when I had an iphone.

Now I have android and I realised there arent that many great apps. There is a lot in terms of numbers but just like you said to find something good its like searching for a needle in the haystack.

With tablets I fear it will be even worse. Not that many apps, not optimised for tablets (Ive got Galaxy Tab now) is simply going to make the experience dull. It's like having a ferrari but no petrol.

Other thing is I am a flash/flex developer and Steveo won't be telling me if I can run flash on my tablet or not :)

There is a great potential for developers to actually monetize on those upcoming Android tablets, but at this point overall experience is probably better on the ipad and will be even better on ipad2.

Sad but true.

Dazweeja said...

@Terry, I think the interface on Honeycomb is far superior to iOS. Why should I have to close an app and then open another to get something simple like a news item or sports score? Why can't I have my email client open and see a live widget at the same time? I'm not sure you can say that Honeycomb uses hardware resources poorly. It's more likely the developers of the background apps that are doing that. The SD Card and Flash will be operational within a month. 4G within a few months. Surprised that you mentioned these as negatives when the iPad 2 will never have any of these.

Petr said...

It is interesting, how users accepts unfinished products and even considers this as an advantage. This started mobile phones manufactures some years ago with FW update, now we buy mobile phone and it lacks basic features and has many issues, but you must trust them, they will fix it in a year or two - but beware, this is true until they will release its successor, because then they will stop this.

And this is same with Moto and other manufactures, they needs to be on market even products are not yet ready for consumers, products have great tech specs, but who cares about faster CPU, if interface is slower, who cares about much RAM, if more apps causes crashes and lagging? Sorry, but Moto is fail, yes, it was first with Honeycomb, maybe this is enough for Moto, but can not be enough for customers.

smirkingdevil said...

Wait a second:

Can't run Flash?
Doesn't do 4G?

Sound JUST LIKE an iPad 3G. ;-)

Benjamin said...

Now that I am really looking at the disabled functions, and looking objectively, why did they put the Zoom out unfinished? That within itself is a self-kill to the device. I can see why you (XML) are saying the Zoom sucks to a degree.

Even with the minor changes on the iPad2, Apple at least releases products that are 90% or more mature.