Android FroYo is coming. Maintaining a strong tradition of giving its mobile OS culinary codenames (2.0/2.1 is called Eclair, with older iterations taking the names Donut and Cupcake), the next facelift for Google’s ever-growing line up of top-end devices is being mooted for release at the search giant’s I/O conference on May 19th.
But what exactly is FroYo? And why should anyone care about it when Google’s unleashing what will seem to many like a standard over-the-air upgrade?
For starters, FroYo, or Android 2.2 to give it its proper title, is more of a tickle to the background software than the huge jump from 1.6 to 2.0 which occurred at the back end of 2009. That means small tweaks like offering more RAM, more colour notifications for the Nexus One’s trackball and touchscreen fixes.
But Google is also promising to unveil “many secrets” inside Android phones once FroYo is put out into the wild. Even if this is the smallest upgrade, you can be sure that Google will be shouting from the rooftops about it, singing its praises and telling everyone why FroYo makes your Android phone even more powerful.
And getting it out in just a few weeks is critical for one big reason: the iPhone 4G. Apple and Google are staring each other down in a war which ranges not just across both companies’ mobile divisions. And Android v iPhone is the most important frontier for both players, where each one can show off its supremacy in hard sales figures and a raft of next-gen specs.
iPhone OS 4.0 has already been detailed in a major fashion by Apple. But Steve Jobs will doubtless have more to show off when he unleashes the iPhone 4G. Google isn’t stupid. It won’t want to put FroYo out at the same time, only to see it become a secondary story for tech blogs the world over. Punting it out on May 19th makes perfect sense, letting Vodafone sing the praises of the Nexus One and its new features well ahead of the iPhone 4G’s arrival, reported to be at the end of June or beginning of July.
On top of these much-hyped plans, last week’s leak of a stack of new Dell phones, which will use FroYo, will have done wonders for Google in terms of getting the message out there that it’s number one in mobile land. The release of Google Maps Navigation in the UK has also given Google plenty of positive headlines in recent days. If it can get FroYo out of the door as soon as May, and chuck in a few hidden extras to make the mobile operators shout even louder about killer phones they’re already stocking, then it’ll have the edge once Apple finally comes clean with the iPhone 4G.
That’s not to say Google will sell more phones immediately. But FroYo is huge for it. It’s the first time it’s been able to go toe-to-toe with Apple and have a better all-round OS in the run up to an iPhone release. The question is, will Joe Public realise Android’s overall skills can outsmart those of the iPhone?