If you’ve recently had your ear to the tracks of the smartphone railroad, then certainly you have been aware of the emerging [dominating?] Google Android presence. The summer of 2007 marked the dawning of the Apple cell phone era. Three years later, perhaps not unlike Julius Caesar’s long ago, the Steve Jobs-lead empire may be finding itself ridden with dissention and unrest. Many long-time loyal followers of the Apple iPhone are emigrating to Android smart phones like the Droid Incredible, EVO 4G, Ally, Droid and the popularly un-branded and unlocked Google Nexus One. The features chronicled below in no particular order may be good examples of the reasons why.
Android 2.2 is a feature-packed powerhouse of juicy new features and just plain telephonic glory.
- Native tethering support including Wi-Fi hot spot function for up to 8 devices simultaneously.
It bears little explanation as to why this features kicks [donkey]. While an Android user might need to be selective about which carrier and device to choose in order to use it to it’s full potential, Android now packs the heat necessary to provide wired or wireless internet connection to a laptop or desktop in exile. In the case of the Nexus One for both AT&T and T-Mobile, Android 2.2 delivers 3G to your computer without inherent cumulative bandwidth or speed limits . I personally have the AT&T-supporting version of the Nexus One and have found it not only easy to use but a surprisingly fast internet connection – that is, when I’m in an area where AT&T is providing a strong 3G signal.? Luckily I am “grandfathered-in” to the now discontinued unlimited smartphone data plan on my carrier. Unfortunately, those of you seeking to use Android 2.2 on a device procured from your carrier or branded with its mark may have no choice but to contend with mandatory fees or caps in order to use this feature.
- Flash 10.1 Support – embedded videos can now play in your browser of choice!
Despite recent propaganda dished out by the fruit-named giant, Adobe Flash is not dead nor is it antiquated. I will admit it isn’t necessarily recent or cutting edge technology at present, but Flash is alive and kicking. And perhaps more importantly [Are you listening Steve?]: the people want it! Before I step off my soapbox, I’ll offer just just one personal theory as to why Apple doesn’t plan or want to permit Adobe Flash on their mobile devices: Flash is difficult if not impossible to put on a leash. In essence, the media machine’s iTunes sales of both multimedia and applications would be severely challenged if Android developers could deliver Flash-based apps and streaming media without the proprietary clutches of a market like the App Store or iTunes.
- Enhanced Exchange Server support
That now means corporate businesspeople can see beyond their Blackberry phones. In recent months when asked the question “so what’s the difference between a Blackberry and an Android phone?”, my usual reply highlighted that Blackberry was usually the best choice for the employee of a large business that relies heavily on a MS Exchange Server while Android is often best for those who want virtually everything else. Namely, Android has been very strong for music and video delivery and has had the 2nd largest marketplace in the world for applications. Now that Google is making the stride into Exchange Server support, even working stiffs can have fun on a killer smartphone.
- Performance improvements – now often clocked at over 400% faster on some handsets.
- Permanent home screen buttons for most widely used functions: Phone and Browser apps.
It seems simple, but it has improved the Android experience to have these buttons dwelling in the intuitive location at the bottom of the screen. Now a user can remove both the phone application and browser shortcut icons from their custom home screens. Previously it felt not unlike making a phone call over VoIP on a PC having to launch and “run” the phone application on my… well… phone. Now both surfing the web and ordering a pizza are much closer at hand.
- Greatly improved Camera Application functions – especially those relating to navigating through it.
If you had asked me a month ago to name a weak link in what should be pivotal functions of Android 2.1, I’d have named the camera application. On the fly, in order to play photo snob while snapping a photo of my kitty, I had to awkwardly slide out a drawer from the left side of my screen. Therein one would find the essential camera controls such as flash mode, white balance and others. As of 2.2, the camera app has been intuitively improved to have buttons ever present on the right of the screen that can call toggle such functions with much greater ease and consumer camera-esque simplicity. Whether these functions are new or just previously buried, I can now easily turn on and off the flash or geotagging, toggle the digital zoom, focus mode or white balance settings and adjust exposure. In brief: it’s sweet!
- Bluetooth contacts sharing now enabled.
This is pretty neat seeing as previously Android was a bit more stingy about sharing contacts to other phones. There are, of course, other methods to share this type of data such as with apps like Bump and over both email and SMS.
- Installed applications can now be stored on external media such as a MicroSD card.
It used to be that you had to store all your apps on the Android device’s internal (and finite) memory. Version 2.2 now allows the user, provided that the app developer approves and has enabled the function, to store their apps on inserted or external memory. This feature allows a greater array of apps to remain installed concurrently on the device with a conceivable storage limit in gigabytes rather than megabytes.
- Applications can now be included in cloud-destined backups.
This new feature lends the user a greater potential for peace of mind and security to know their apps are being backed up to remote servers along with other previously-permitted data. Like the above mentioned feature, this requires the consent and inclusion by the application developer. Users switching to a different device or replacing a destroyed/lost/stolen device can be back in business with greater swiftness when using this feature.
- Application bug reporting helps to improve the user experience.
Developers have a hard time fixing things they don’t know about or that they can’t see occur in the field. With 2.2’s bug reporting abilities, diagnosis will be easier for developers to accomplish and application enhancement will likely be well benefited.
Certainly there is more to Android 2.2 than I have thought to name. Stay tuned for more as it is discovered.
Supporting sources for this article included: developer.com, cnet.com and laptopmag.com. Thanks to the authors for their education postings!