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In what's becoming a tale of two tablet sizes, Netbook News notes that Samsung's new Galaxy Tab 10.1 will ship with Android 3.1 while Acer is reportedly delaying its seven-inch A100 tablet due to screen challenges with Android 3.0.Samsung is a key Google partner, having been the showcase Android device provider at this month's Google I/O developer event, at which all attendees received a Galaxy Tab 10.1 tablet. The potential delay for Acer's seven-inch tablet reinforces the idea that some Google partners have earlier access to Android code than others, but it may also mean that smaller slates aren't suited for Google's tablet platform.
Motorola was likely the first device maker to gain such access. As Google unveiled Android 3.1 during its developer conference, Motorola announced that its Xoom tablets for Verizon's network would soon receive it via software update. That update has since been rolling out, with many Xoom owners able to take advantage of the improvements. The Samsung tablets handed out during the same event didn't have Android 3.1, but the company said it would be "coming soon." The product page for the new 10.1-inch tablet now says the device will ship with version 3.1 when it launches (in "a few days," according to Samsung Mobile's Facebook page).
Samsung's situation stands in sharp contrast to that of Acer. I recently reviewed the Acer Iconia Tab A500, another 10.1-inch Android 3.0 tablet. I found that the $449 price tag makes it a decent device for those on a budget. Like other Android 3.0 devices, however, it suffers from some issues directly related to Google's operating system. Android 3.1 should help and an Acer representative told me via e-mail that the A500 would gain Android 3.1 by the end of May. However, various reports indicate that the upgrade has been pushed back into June. Early on Wednesday, May 25, Acer confirmed this to me.
That may have repercussions for the A100, a 7-inch Android 3.0 tablet that was expected to launch as early as April.DigiTimes today cites industry contacts as saying that the A100 is now scheduled to launch in August or September. The cause of the reported delay? DigiTimes says Acer is struggling with app compatibility on the smaller screen and will resolve the issues with Android 3.1. My Acer contact wouldn't confirm this development, saying that the company doesn't comment on unannounced products.
If DigiTimes is correct, the news suggests that Acer may not yet have, or has only recently gained, access to Android 3.1 from Google. That's a possibility. It causes me to wonder if Android 3.0—or 3.1 for that matter—is suited to a lower-resolution display. Google designed a completely new user interface specifically for large-screened devices, although there are some features that can help bring the operating system to smaller screens. The Fragments API, for example, arrived in Android 3.0 and allows apps to be independent of screen size or resolution.
Since Android 3.1 doesn't bring new user interface features that would benefit smartphones or smaller tablets, access to the code may be irrelevant. Google has already announced that the next major version of Android, known as Ice Cream Sandwich, will unify the mobile platform across large-screen tablets and smartphones with smaller displays.Seven-inch slates fit squarely in the middle of those extremes, so my educated guess is that the smaller tablets will see an optimized user experience with that version of Android, currently targeted for issue in the fourth quarter of this year.Personally, I find the prospect of waiting a little sad, because I prefer the added mobility of a 7-inch tablet over a larger device.
Also from GigaOM:
A Media Tablet Forecast: 2011 - 2015 (subscription required)