Android was an eagerly anticipated mobile operating system that was launched towards the tail end of 2007, after a number of false starts. It was first created by an independent company, and later purchased by Google.
The major attraction of Android was the fact it was a mainly open source operating system, as it is built upon a Linux distribution. The appeal was intensified when it was taken over by Google and developers could use Google APIs to create apps for the devices. Initially only portions of the source code were released, however as its popularity gained momentum, the entire source code was made publicly available.
Since its release, Android has seen three major updates. Updates are intended to address issues that have cropped up after release, and to fix potential security lapses. Each update was given a whimsical name, which made them easier to remember rather than the standard version numbers. The version history has been as follows:
- Cupcake – Android 1.5
- Donut – Android 1.6
- Éclair – 2.0
- Froyo – Android 2.2
The new version of Android is packed with numerous new features, significantly improving the user experience of the operating system. The major technical improvement in the latest Android update is a new compiler, which essentially gives the operating system a huge boost in terms of speed. The new compiler harnesses the capabilities of the built-in engine better, and the results are not only visible in terms of speed, but also with memory management and improved performance in other applications. Other than that, there are a number of smaller individual improvements that have made the user interface, camera features, performance, and connectivity much better.
First off, the homescreen has become a good deal more user-friendly. Although older users of Android may not have trouble with setting it up, the multiple homescreens can be difficult for a novice to master quickly. Therefore, new tips and tricks have been added in the form of a dedicated tips widget. The widget displays handy hints in the whimsical form of a green Android and speech bubbles. In addition to the tips widget, shortcuts for the dialling application, the main menu and the web browser have been added to the homescreen. As these are the most commonly used features, the shortcuts will reduce the time spent searching through the phone considerably.
In a bid to endear the platform to power users, new Exchange support has been incorporated into Android. Setting up an account is much easier using the auto-discovery option, which eliminates the need to manually put in settings. There is improved security, as administrators will be able to set access policies and remote wipe options on these devices. Therefore if the device is misplaced, an administrator can wipe all the exchange settings off the device; thereby maintaining the security of the organization’s system.
With regard to the camera, perhaps the most notable improvement has been the addition of support for the LED flash for video recording. Therefore it is now possible to shoot videos in low-light conditions. Additionally, the gallery interface has been tweaked to allow users to look into photo stacks easily. Onscreen buttons have been added to facilitate camera control, including functions such as white balance and zoom control. This addition makes a nice change from having to delve through multiple menu levels to set the ideal conditions for a shot.
The new Android 2.2 OS allows the handset in question to be turned into an impromptu Wi-Fi hotspot. Therefore if the connection goes down elsewhere, the handset can beam an Internet signal to up to 8 devices. This is essentially an extended form of mobile tethering. It is best to check the terms and conditions of the service provider before trying this feature, especially if the mobile Internet plan is an unlimited version.
There is new added support for various languages, although they are still restricted to Latin-based ones. However, for French or Spanish users, the ability to switch keyboards without having to change the default phone language will come as a pleasant feature. In addition to the multiple language support, the predictive dictionary also changes accordingly, which is truly excellent.
Overall, the platform has received a boost in speed and performance in general. The fast processing is responsible for most of the improvement, although there are other programming tweaks that are contributing factors as well. The method of accessing web pages and memory locations has been revamped, resulting in significantly faster loaded websites and quicker responses to user commands.
A Quick Look at Platform Technologies
Although the improvements made to platform technologies may not be immediately apparent to phone users, the applications that will be released using the changes will significantly improve their user experience.
At the release Google emphasized Android’s open platform structure. One major area where developers and users alike will see a massive shift from the usual mobile operating systems is the openness to browser plug-ins. it has long been a contention of users that most phones will not support Flash in their web browsers; which leaves the users with one of two common scenarios - play videos in an external application, or skip the video entirely. Both of the options are tedious to say the very least. Froyo, on the other hand, will not only support Flash, but Adobe’s AIR platform will also run with equal ease. Stagefright, a new media framework, has been added to Froyo. It will enable HTTP progressive streaming for playback of multimedia files.
Bluetooth has been revamped to include a host of better functionality, including voice dialling and ability to share contacts with other devices. A significant amount of support has been added for external devices like car kits and speakers.
One of the more amazing features of the Android mobile operating system is its open platform. As a result, Android has become very attractive to application developers of all kinds. In terms of the end-user experience, having an open platform operating system translates into being exposed to a variety of applications. While other platforms have similar benefits, the kind of applications that can run on an open platform tend to be significantly more powerful in comparison. This is mainly because, with an open platform, the developer is allowed to access the system code in greater depth, and manipulate the functionality better within the finished application.
Perhaps a big criticism of earlier versions of Android was the inability to store applications on the storage card, thereby severely limiting the number of applications that could be used on a given device. Certain users were able to work around this deficiency, but that was done by bypassing the firmware - a proceeding not recommended under any circumstances. Froyo has the ability to store applications on the storage card, eliminating the need to jailbreak the Android operating system.