UPDATE (5/25/2010, 3:29 PM EDT): Is your phone eligible for Android 2.2? Find out in our guide to compatible phones!
UPDATE (5/22/2010, 5:27 PM EDT): Android 2.2 is officially announced! Read all about its features in our new tell-all.
If there’s one thing smartphone enthusiasts really love, it’s a firmware update, and the Android ecosystem is about to get a big one: Android 2.2. Primed to launch later this month, Google has remained pretty mum about what to expect, but that hasn’t stopped the good word from making its rounds.
Codenamed FroYo (as in “Frozen Yogurt”), Android 2.2 follows Eclair (2.0/2.1), Donut (1.6) and Cupcake (1.5) as the fourth and newest dessert-themed edition of Android. Android 2.2’s official unveiling is expected at the Google I/O conference, which runs May 19-20.
The need for speed
If the performance of past Android releases was faster than a speeding bullet, then Android 2.2 is a hypersonic fighter jet bolted to a sixer of cruise missiles. Exclusive testing by the Android Police site has revealed that Android 2.2 is up to 450 per cent faster than Android 2.1 on the HTC Nexus One.
How Google did it: Android 2.2 comes packaged with a little piece of code called the just in time (JIT) compiler. A JIT compiler will increase the speed of Android and its applications by translating their code into a form that’s much faster for your phone to run.
It’s also believed that Google has performed some good ol’ fashion code improvement that would make Android quicker even without the JIT compiler.
Finally, it has been confirmed that Google has updated Android’s kernel (what is a kernel?) to a newer version that consumes less RAM. More RAM for users means better application performance.
While Apple has openly shunned Adobe’s Flash technology, Google has embraced it with open arms. It is confirmed that Android 2.2 will hit the streets with Adobe Flash 10.1, which will allow users to experience content like Farmville, PopCap games or Kongregate on the go.
How Google did it: Google and Adobe have been working overtime to make sure that the mobile version of Flash 10.1 is ready for the limelight. Early previews of the technology on the HTC Nexus One, such as the video below, give a tantalizing glimpse of things to come.
Another report from the Android Police site confirms that Android 2.2 will allow phones to serve as a WiFi hotspot for other wireless devices. Using a phone’s unlimited data plan, the WiFi hotspot feature could provide the Internet for you and your friends anywhere a 3G connection is available.
The catch: Mobile carriers hate tethering, because a tethered laptop will use more data than a phone ever would. Don’t expect the WiFi tethering feature to be free.
Android Police yet again delivers with news that Android 2.2 will also offer USB tethering. Faster than WiFi, USB tethering turns your phone into a surprisingly snappy modem that can make quick work of basic web browsing.
The catch: Carriers still hate tethering.
Better app storage
Android 2.2 will likely allow users to finally store applications on a microSD card. This has been a popular feature request amongst Android users, particularly those with phones offering limited onboard storage.
Why it matters: The best and brightest Android phones offer about 512 megabytes of onboard storage, but recent versions of Android use more than 60 per cent of that space, leaving limited room for a user’s applications. As Android apps continue to grow in size and number, moving them to the SD card may soon become a necessity.
Gaming on the go has been a big push for Android. It has been said that Android 2.2 will feature enhancements to OpenGL ES 2.0, which will pave the way for faster, better-looking 3D graphics.
Next up, it has been widely speculated that Android 2.2 will finally activate the FM radio chips that lie silent in many of today’s popular Android phones. The same bundle of “experience” improvements, it is said, will also improve the accuracy of your phone’s touchscreen.
If you don’t own an HTC EVO 4G, Droid Incredible, Desire, Nexus One, Legend or Motorola Droid, it’s pretty unlikely that your carrier will ever work to bring Android 2.2 to your handset. Carriers like Verizon are already showing that older devices are on their last legs by retiring the Droid Eris this month.
Even if you are rocking one of Android’s newest phones, some patience will be needed. It takes time to design and test an OS upgrade that millions of users will depend on each and every day.