Acer Drops The Ball On Android 3.1 Update

In our review of the Acer Iconia Tab A500 last month, the CRN Test Center reported that an update to its Android 3.0.1 operating system would be available soon. And while an update to Android 3.1 has been available as an over-the-air download since around July 5, some device users have been unable to get it.

A couple of issues came into play to keep users from updating, according to Lisa Emard, Acer's director of media relations. "The first was due to the large file size of the software update and the huge number of units we've shipped worldwide. The server was overwhelmed," she said, "and the first push was a little slower than we anticipated."

The second issue affected a small batch of units, which she said did not have their software version properly recognized by Acer's update server. "Based on this issue, the company created a second software push to update those units," she said, and for those, the update was being pushed Monday.

Based on what we've seen on the Android Developers' Web site and elsewhere, the update is well worth having. Android 3.1 increases the number of standard apps that have been optimized for its larger screen, simplifies the general user interface and makes it a bit more intuitive, although we've already found Android 2.3 a thing of beauty, and a far cry from prior iterations.

Sponsored post

According to Android developers, transitioning from one area of the UI to another and moving into and out of apps has been improved. Animation of the Launcher has been made faster and smoother when moving in and out of the app list. Now resizeable, app icons and other interface elements have been further revamped to make them easier to see and understand, and audible feedback has been added throughout the interface. Users also can now customize the touch-hold settings, more easily see and manage internal storage and home navigation now recalls (and returns to) your most recently used home screen.

Building on one of its advantages over iPad, its full-sized USB host port now supports a larger number of devices and device classes, including digital cameras, game controllers, keyboards, and mice. This gives solution providers a tremendous edge when building custom apps with Android 3.1. Also new on the USB port is the ability seek and execute an application or present a URL or download link when first connecting to USB devices. This opens the door to control over USB-attached devices such as kiosks, robotics, card readers, musical equipment and an endless array purpose-built electronics. The HDMI port now supports full HD (1080p) output.

There's also a WiFi lock, which prohibits those pesky power saving features from shutting down the network connection along with the system. This lock allows apps to force WiFi to remain active even when the screen is off. When WiFi is present for long periods, power usage is preserved with support for the Preferred Network Offload background scanning specification. Android 3.1 also now permits HTTP proxy settings to be access point-specific and includes those settings in its backup and restore routines.

Once Acer irons out its update infrastructure wrinkles, Android 3.1 on the Iconia Tab A500 will be well worth the wait.