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Android 3.0 Gingerbread: is Google overdoing the updates?

Android 3.0 Gingerbread: is Google overdoing the updates?

Android 2.2 FroYo hasn't even started its full roll-out yet, with only the Google Nexus One feeling the love from the new edition of the OS and the HTC Desire getting some action at the end of June. But already, attention is turning to Android 3.0. Dubbed Gingerbread, it's being lined up for the end of 2010 - its festive name suggesting Android owners will be getting a techie Christmas present to push their phones ahead of the competition once more.

So what will Android Gingerbread bring? At the moment, Google is keeping schtumm about most of its plans - unsurprisingly perhaps considering how fresh FroYo is in peoples minds. However, mobile watchers expect that along with tweaks to the new Flash support to make it load faster, there'll also be some much-needed extras as part of a wholesale update.

Music syncing is still something that needs addressing, with playback on Android still letting the side down in comparison with the peerless iPod app on the iPhone. Google has said that there'll be support for its new WebM video format as well, which will help to separate it further from Apple. Steve Jobs has already suggested the new video codec is not up-to- scratch, but some of the world's biggest players, including Microsoft, are getting involved. It should mean Gingerbread brings even better video support and helps Android pull away from its competitors in this respect.


But the wider question has to be whether Google is confusing Joe Public with the deluge of Android updates? And what's more when a small tickle such as FroYo commands such attention from tech hacks and gadget nuts, then what can we expect as Gingerbread edges ever closer?

While Apple is a fan of annual updates, Google has taken a step-by-step approach. Since October last year, we've seen three updates, including Android 2.0. Google evidently believes that these updates keep Android ahead of the competition. It's certainly the case that Android is pulling away from the iPhone, although that's also largely thanks to skins like HTC Sense, which generally take longer to get the updates working on them. But it's a balancing act and one which Google needs to get right. Tech fanatics know all about these updates and what they can do for their slabs of cellular gold. Average users who tend to ignore updates unless they're more spaced-out might well be alienated by constantly being asked to change what their phone does.

Ultimately, Google's approach makes more sense, especially in business terms, as it can let its updates slip out regularly and give users a more complete package. But that does make Android always feel like a work- in-progress rather than the finished article for the end user. Google can't build as much hype as Apple, seeing as updates come thick and fast. It boils down to what users want: do they want to be in the loop and try new features that might not be quite at their best, or wait and get the real deal, as iPhone owners are getting with 4.0?

Complaints about Apple's slow introduction of features such as multitasking and MMS show that most user prefer the former. Google has therefore got its approach right. However, it needs to take care that all these updates don't become the sole story. There are some pretty neat handsets rocking Android that could use the headlines too.

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