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With the recent release of Android 2.2, codename Froyo, Google has focused on usability and speed.  Showing its new-gained maturity, it is nice that Google can work on optimizations.

And the optimizations payed off….the phone is snappier and the browser is much faster.  Which is good as the N1 should have all the rocket juice a phone needs and it is a relief to see it living closer to its potential.

Flash works as expected.  The browser has a new setting to only use plugins upon user request, it works much like flash block on Firefox.  I played a couple of games on Kongregate and watched some video on CNN, worked just like the desktop (although a full screen option would be cool).  Hulu is blocked, but works if you modify your user agent.

The new Exchange functionality and enterprise features will put the bite on RIM, but means little to me.

The Market changes are an improvement, but more is needed.  Particularly missing is advanced filtering (or any useful filtering for that matter).  Allowing group updating of apps, along with auto-updating, is appreciated.  The token gesture of SD card app installation is also appreciated, but a more holistic approach is needed for Gingerbread.

The most useful update was what Google calls “Android Cloud to Device Messaging Service”.  This is basically push notifications on steroids.  It is supposed to work with all sorts of stuff, and I am sure that it will once developers start taking advantage of it.  Right now it pays off in a new extension for Chrome, Chrome to Phone, which basically lets  you send an open internet page (or video or map) to the phone.  It utilizes push technology to make it immediately available in the correct app.

The tethering/wifi hotspot capabilities are useful and appreciated, this gives Android a leg up over the competition (depending if the carriers allow it).

Fixing the Gallery was a no-brainer (I can’t believe it went live in Eclair looking the way it did) and the camera improvements are noted.  I liked the old layout for the car dock app, I am sure usability experts like the new layout better, but esthetically, the old one was better.

All in all, Android makes another stride forward.  And combined with HTC’s hot hardware, and Verizon’s marketing might, it is looking like a bright future.

Edit: Another feature for which I am grateful, although it pains me to admit that it had previously been MIA, is proper support for bluetooth voice dialing…finally a hands free device. With the improvements in Google’s voice recognition, this is a real boon to users.
Also of note is the minor changes to the keyboard, you can now swipe up on the keyboard to access punctuation and numbers. This feature is completely hidden, no visual clue what-so-ever. I don’t know what’s up with that, Google must be expecting folks to read about it somewhere. This new functionality, while seemingly trivial, will have a huge impact on my typing. No more tap and hold to access punctuation!! (tap and hold is a terrible modifier for typing input…it needs to be banished into oblivion, I offer up double tap as an alternative)

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