Motorola Xoom Designed for Heavy Meddling

Unlike its arch-rival, the Apple iPad, the Motorola Xoom tablet is easy to open up for repairs and upgrades.

“It appears Motorola built the Xoom to be upgraded, so they have this parting line about an inch from the top on the back that lets you separate the device into two pieces,” Miroslav Djuric, who tore down the Xoom for iFixit, told TechNewsWorld.

“A large portion of the back cover that slides down just enough to expose the PCIE slot and that lets you swop out PCIE cards and upgrade the device from 3G to 4G LTE,” Djuric added.

PCIE stands for PCI Express.

The Xoom also has plastic cards in its SIM card and microSD card slots, Djuric said.

Owners will have to send the devices back to Motorola to have it upgraded to 4G LTE by installing a SIM card. That process will take six business days, but will be done at no charge.

Verizon Wireless has put up a website about upgrading the Xoom to 4G LTE. However, spokesperson Brenda Raney declined comment further.

Motorola Mobility spokesperson Kira Golin referred TechNewsWorld to the Verizon website.

Cracking Open the Xoom

“I found it interesting that they designed a tablet that looks and feels similar to the iPad but they changed the back,” Djuric said. “They’re not nearly as stringent as Apple is with design.”

The parting line on the Xoom’s case makes it less aesthetically appealing than the iPad, Djuric stated.

“Apple devices are designed specifically to be very aesthetically pleasing,” Djuric remarked. “They try to cover up any visible screws or, if there are any visible screws, they make them look pretty so they don’t look like they’re from the Home Depot.”

However, that also gets in the way of users who would want to tinker with Apple devices, Djuric pointed out.

“The first iPhone didn’t have any visible screws, and it was terrible to take apart,” Djuric elaborated. In this respect, the Motorola Xoom comes out ahead, he said.

Another feature about the Xoom that caught Djuric’s eye was the plastic cards inserted into the device’s SIM card and microSD card slots.

Generally, “pretty much every other device I’ve seen that didn’t come preloaded with an SD card” has a blank slot instead of one filled with a clear plastic card, Djuric said.

“We have no idea why they needed to put these cards in there except as a message to folks not to put any SIM card in unless it’s from Verizon,” Djuric added.

SIM City

“LTE is the evolution path for GMS devices which require SIM cards, and my guess is that there’s a plastic card in the SIM slot to prevent people from putting other SIM cards in there that won’t work,” speculated Chris Hazelton, a research director at the 451 Group.

“You might be able to fit in a SIM card from another carrier, but the problem would be that you might have the wrong card,” Hazelton told TechNewsWorld.

LTE standards in Europe differ from those in the United States, so Xoom owners can’t buy a SIM card from a European carrier and use it when they travel overseas, Hazelton added.

The Long and Winding Road to 4G LTE

Motorola Xoom owners will be able to upgrade their devices, which run 3G and WiFi, to 4G LTE at no extra charge.

They just have to back up their data onto their PCs, encrypt the tablets, and ship them off to Motorola in pre-paid FedEx envelopes, according to Verizon’s website.

That process will take six business days. Add two days for shipping and that means business users probably won’t have the use of their Xoom for up to two weeks.

It’s not clear why Xoom owners can’t just take their devices into Verizon Wireless stores and have them upgraded on the spot, a process that would take less than 10 minutes, Djuric said in his review of the device.

The lengthy replacement process may impact Xoom sales, if Motorola’s trying to get the device into the hands of corporate executives, many of whom are trying out the iPad.

“Companies that are interested in 4G will be concerned about sending out their corporate devices to be worked on,” the 451 Group’s Hazelton pointed out. “I think you probably won’t see that many people on the enterprise side going to 4G just now.

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