Android 2.2, if your phone was able to support the over-the-air update to begin with, gave a sense of maturity to the Android OS. Since the first launch of Android 1.5/1.6 there have been questions about memory management, application management and a lack of media playing performance. Eclair was supposed to put an end to this but sadly Android 2.1 (Eclair) was ultimately a damp squib. This focused the media, the customers and the industry's attention towards Android 2.2 or Froyo.
But all this aside Android 2.2 didn’t quite reach the mark and as such tech heads, geeks and general Android fans have been waiting with baited breath for Android 2.3. December 21st Google started OTA updates for Nexus One handset owners and in January 2011 LG, HTC and Samsung have all confirmed they will be releasing OTA updates once system checks have been done. Which means by the end of Q1 the flagship Google, HTC, Samsung and LG Android-based phones will be running Gingerbread Android 2.3.
But what will Android 2.3 mean to users?
One of the most important tasks a smart phone can do is play games! The lack of quality games in the Android market as oppose to the heaving App store for iOS which has developers from EA, Capcom and Sega developing content has resulted in questions about quality. The Android market has focused on 'gimicky' or at worst fake copies of game content. Mobile Andro anyone? This apparent lack is primarily due to the Android OS being unable to use Gyroscope rotationary-vector based content. Android 2.3 changes this completely.
The UI will be different as Android 2.3 will be a 'simpler' visual experience and will also, finally, include a multi touch/gesture keyboard that will allow near perfect touch typing facilities which has been lacking in Android OS releases.
The future? Near Field Technology. NFT means your phone becomes your wallet. Think about it this way. You go to the corner shop and buy a soft drink you pay with your mobile, then you jump on the tube and pay for it using your mobile your destination is a cinema where you buy your ticket, yes you guessed it, with your mobile phone. NFT has been trialled in Japan for the last four years and has been trialled in Switzerland and Spain successfully with Orange/T-Mobile. In the UK Orange and Barclaycard along with Tesco, Argos and Transport for London have all been working on trialling this technology.
Camera improvements meaning LED flash technology can allow HD Camcorder filming on smart phones along with improved 'intelligent' app functionality whereby the phone can 'sense' which camera, be it front facing or outward facing, camera is required.
Application management is a key component of your Android life. Before 2.3 one of your first downloads was either an App manager or an anti-Virus app. Now the incorporated App manager will allow the user to conserve memory and battery life by getting an analysis of power/memory munching apps in detail.
Cut and paste is still a primary function of all IT systems from prehistoric tower PCs to iPhones the functionality of being able to cut and paste content can be a deal maker when it comes to mobile phones. Alas, Android had up until 2.1 no cut and paste facility in Eclair the function was included but only in certain browser situations and on Froyo it was extended but on Gingerbread the function works on all the platform.
These new functions will make sure Android 2.3 will be one of the most advanced OS available for smart phones in the world. These technologies have already seen Samsung, LG and Motorola start talking about Gingerbread-based phones and all the major phone manufacturers have agreed that their flagship handsets will get the update in the first part of 2011. But what about 'Honeycomb' or Android 3? What does the release of this mean to Gingerbread and Smart phone users?
Android 3 is Google's attempt at making a Tablet PC friendly variant of Android. Motorola Xoom will be the first tablet to incorporate Android 3 which is being released in Q1 of 2011. The importance of this is that Google is attempting to create a hybrid OS whereby it can be installed on phones and tablets alike. This will create the scope for developers to create more apps and also allow users more scope in the day to day operational functionality of their hardware.
2011 is an important year for Android. It is nearing maturity and old excuses surrounding its lack of heritage as oppose to BlackBerry and iPhone after the release of Honeycomb doesnt stand up as a valid argument. As such, Android now needs to coherently release and support the OS in a more centric fashion and manufacturers need to work in alliance with Google to bring about a more fluid update environment. But these issues aside Android will have a successful 2011 all the same. Are we entering a new era in portable communications technology and will it be called the Android era?
Android 2.2 see http://www.techradar.com/news/phone-and-communications/mobile-phones/android-2-2-features-more-html5-fastest-mobile-browser-691051 for media views and official data can be found at http://developer.android.com/sdk/android-2.2-highlights.html (accessed at 14/02/2011)
Android 2.3 see http://www.t3.com/feature/android-2-3-gingerbread-best-features, http://www.cnet.com/8301-19736_1-20024702-251.html and http://www.zdnet.com/blog/btl/android-23-gingerbread-feature-list-screenshots-and-video/42599 for Google's own data see http://developer.android.com/sdk/android-2.3-highlights.html
Android 3 see http://www.zdnet.com/blog/burnette/android-3-honeycomb-why-this-changes-everything-and-nothing/2169