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Android 2.2 - A Tasty Treat

Time for a tasty frozen treat -- Google announced the details of the upcoming release of Android 2.2 at last week's Google I/O developers conference. This is the seventh platform release since Android 1.0 was launched in September 2008.

The code names for the Android releases are desserts, in alphabetical order (Cupcake, Donut, Eclair), and version 2.2 is named Froyo, for frozen yogurt. After all, this is not just a minor point release, it's a yummy-looking treat promising a wide range of improvements, for users and developers alike.

Some of the highlights include:

- Significant speedups, promising 2x-5x improvements for processing-intensive apps, plus faster loading of web pages.
- Support for running applications from SD card, so you can install large apps like games without using up all the internal memory.
- Support for using the phone as a shared Wi-Fi hotspot for laptops or other portable devices, or tethered to a laptop over USB.
- Expanded camera / camcorder features including portrait orientation, LED flash for video, and expanded controls for zoom, flash, exposure, and geo-tagging.
- Enhanced Microsoft Exchange support, especially for security and administrator policies.
- Expanded Bluetooth support including voice dialing, sharing contacts, and car docks.
- Expanded developer support for services including messages from cloud services, backup to cloud storage, speech recognition, and "car mode" and "night mode" controls -- all now available to be built in to any Android app.

The new Android 2.2 is apparently already starting to roll out to Nexus One phones, but will take longer to move though the release process for other manufacturers and carriers, like the new Verizon Wireless Droid Incredible from HTC (see earlier post).

See the Android 2.2 Platform Highlights for more information on the new release, including screen shots and an introductory video.

See my Mobile Communications Gallery for more on smartphones

Find the Verizon Droid Incredible on Amazon.com.

More details on Android 2.2 features ...

Apps / Home screen

- Browser - Adobe Flash 10.1 support

- Android Market - "Batch" and automatic update features

- Home screen configuration tips widget

- Dedicated Home screen shortcuts for Phone, applications Launcher, Browser

Improved performance
- Browser - Enhanced using V8 engine, faster loading of JavaScript-heavy pages
- Performance boost for CPU-heavy apps - 2x-5x speedup vs. Android 2.1 with Dalvik JIT
- Kernel Memory Management Boost: Improved memory reclaim up to 20x, for faster app switching and smoother performance on memory-constrained devices

Apps on external storage
- Applications be installed (and run) on shared external storage (SD card)
- Best for large apps / games, ok if killed when card ejected
- Users can move apps between device's internal memory and external storage

Camera and Camcorder
- Faster preview doubles frame rate from ~10FPS to ~20FPS
- Camera supports portrait orientation, zoom controls, access to exposure data, thumbnail utility
- Gallery - Peek into picture stacks using zoom gesture
- Camera - Onscreen buttons for new controls for zoom, flash, white balance, geo-tagging, focus, exposure.
- Camcorder - Set video size/quality for MMS and YouTube
- Camcorder - LED flash enabled, for night or low light

Portable Hotspot (Certain devices)
- Devices like Nexus One serve as portable Wi-Fi hotspot, share with up to 8 devices
- Use device as 3G connection for Windows or Linux with USB cable

Microsoft Exchange
- Numeric pin / alpha-numeric password options to unlock, Exchange admin password policy
- Remote wipe by Exchange administrators
- Calendar - supports Exchange Calendars
- Auto-discovery to set up and sync Exchange account
- Email - Global Address Lists look-up / auto-complete

Multiple keyboard languages
- Add multiple languages to keyboard, switch between Latin-based languages by swiping - space bar. Changes the keys and auto-suggest dictionary

Media framework
- New media framework (Stagefright) supports local file playback and HTTP progressive streaming
- Continued support for OpenCore in Android 2.2

- Voice dialing over Bluetooth
- Share contacts with other phones
- Support Bluetooth enabled car and desk docks
- Improved compatibility with car kits and headsets

Developer Services
- Android Cloud to Device Messaging - Enable mobile alert, send to phone, two-way push sync
- Android Application Error Reports - Developers receive crash and freeze reports from users
- Data backup - Apps can participate in Backup Manager for data backup and restore to cloud storage; Users maintain data after factory reset or when switching devices
- "Car mode" and "night mode" controls and configurations so apps can adjust interface
- Speech-recognition interface to integrate voice recognition deeply
- Device policy management - Apps can control security features including remote wipe, minimum password, lockscreen timeout

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