Android Honeycomb 3.1

Android Honeycomb 3.1 was an innovative new Android OS release.

Close-Up Of Dry Honeycomb On Wooden Table

Michele Gazzella / EyeEm/Getty Images 

During Google's May 2011 developer's conference, Google announced that they were rolling out an upgrade to Honeycomb (Android 3.0). This upgrade, Android 3.1, was rolled out to Android tablets and Google TV.

Android Honeycomb 3.1 was the last update prior to Ice Cream Sandwich update that unified Android tablets and phones. This all seems very obvious now, but in 2011 it was innovative. 

Joysticks, Trackpads, and Dongles, Oh My

Android Honeycomb 3.1 allowed you to type or tap with something other than your finger. It supported pointing devices and clicking actions beyond basic finger dragging and tapping.

This support for USB peripherals included:

  • Gampads
  • Joysticks
  • Storage devices
  • Musical equipment
  • Exercise equipment

Android tablets were starting to become popular, so game makers wanted to add joystick controls, and tablet makers wanted to extend the netbook idea beyond a virtual keyboard.

As it turns out, many devices couldn't support powering USB peripherals right away, and the reality of this functionality didn't pan out until Android TV. 

Many Android OS features are released before many devices are able to support it. This was certainly the case when it came to Android Honeycomb 3.1 support of USB devices.

Resizable Widgets

Android Honeycomb 3.1 added support for resizable widgets so that users could capitalize on the larger Android smartphone screens coming out on the market.

Not all widgets used the feature, but optimized widgets could resize by dragging and take up more or less home screen real estate.  

Android Honeycomb on-screen keyboard

Honeycomb also introduced a redesigned keyboard specially tailored for large screen devices like larger smartphones or tablets.

Android Honeycomb 3.1 was released at a time when larger device screens were just coming out. This meant many of the features designed for those screens didnt' work on all devices.

Android Movie Rentals

The Android 3.1 update installed a Video app that browsed the Android Market (now Google Play) for video rentals.

This was a new service for Android at the time. You could plug your Android phone into your TV using an HDMI cable (for supported devices) and watch videos on the big screen. These days, you'd just use a Chromecast for this purpose.

The Android 3.1 upgrade supported content protection over HDMI, which was an industry requirement before they'd allow users to purchase movie rentals. 

Google TV

Google TV got a Honeycomb makeover as well. This included an improved interface for Google TV. However, the new Google TV service was eventually killed in favor of Android TV (which is really just a rebranding of the same concept).

Other Android Honeycomb 3.1 Features

Some additional features introduced in Android Honeycomb 3.1 included:

  • Two-pane user interface for the Email and Contacts app.
  • New gallery app with full-screen mode and photo thumbnails.
  • Browser with tabs, incognito mode, bookmarks, and history.
  • Enhanced multitasking with a Recents app.
  • Up to five customizable home screens for extra app icon space.

All of these features made the entire Android experience more intuitive, it capitalized on larger screen space, and created a more flexible environment for Android users.