Android This Week: Acer A500 Reviewed; Android 2.3 Arriving; PayPal Deposits

Starting this past week, fewer cars could be on the roads due to a mobile application upgrade. Android device owners that use PayPal on a handset gained a feature that’s been in the iOS version since October: the ability to deposit checks through a smartphone. Will this new function eliminate trips to the bank? I took the software for a spin and can vouch for the gas savings, although it can take 3 to 5 days before checks clear and the deposited funds are available in a PayPal account. The funds can then be transferred to a bank account at no charge.

The process to deposit a check is simple and took me less time than it would to warm up my car for a trip to the bank. Using the integrated camera on an Android smartphone, the application captures an image of both the front and back of a signed check. You have to manually enter the amount of the deposit within the PayPal app using a calculator-like interface and then the data is sent to PayPal for processing. Even over a mobile broadband connection, my test transaction took fewer than 10 seconds to transmit. During the check clearing process, you can track the deposit status from directly within the application.

While I saved some fuel by not having to drive to the bank, I still had to hit the road to return the Iconia Tab A500 tablet on loan from Acer. After two weeks with the device, I shared thoughts in a detailed review and called the device a hefty tablet for those on a budget. The Honeycomb tablet performs similarly to other devices on the market, such as the Motorola Xoom and T-Mobile G-Slate, but by forgoing a mobile broadband radio and limiting internal storage to 16 GB, Acer kept the cost down to $449 for this 10.1-inch slate.

At 1.69 pounds, it gets tiresome to hold the A500 for any length of time, but the company does offer a dock. One unique feature can help with text input as well: Acer equipped the A500 tablet with a full-sized USB port which can be used for a wired keyboard. The company says that USB mouse support will come this summer in the form of an upgrade as well. Although Acer originally told me that Honeycomb 3.1 would arrive on the Tab by the end of May, it appears that the update won’t arrive until next month.

As Android tablets wait for a newer version of Honeycomb, many Android smartphones are waiting for Gingerbread, or version 2.3. Surprisingly, one of the handset makers known for being slow to provide updates is now taking the lead: Samsung announced Android 2.3 will be made available for all Galaxy S smartphones. A global rollout will begin in Europe this month, with other regions to follow. Galaxy S handset owners in many countries will receive the firmware directly from Samsung, although that scenario is unlikely in the U.S. Due to carrier testing and customizations, Galaxy S owners here should expect their carrier to provide the software, which may delay the timing.

Samsung is also providing Gingerbread in a phased approach to owners of the 7-inch Galaxy Tab, but I couldn’t wait. The company released Android 2.3 firmware in Italy and I was able to install it to my T-Mobile Galaxy Tab with a simple process in roughly 15 minutes. The device performance shows a slight increase, especially in the native browser: pinch-to-zoom is much smoother, for example. The browsing experience is so improved that I haven’t yet installed Dolphin HD, my favorite third-party Android browser.

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