The latest sugary iteration of Google’s Android operating system, version 2.3, AKA Gingerbread was officially unveiled yesterday at the D: Dive into Mobile conference.
The software was shown off running on a Google/Samsung Nexus S by Android main-man Andy Rubin. An official video of the update being pimped out by Google engineers sporting rather cool-looking tees was released shortly after (see below).
Key features of Gingerbread include UI tweaks in the range of redesigned app icons to a “greener” colour scheme set against a darker background to make the notification bar, menus, and other parts of the UI stand out more. Though not a complete overhaul, the refinements are said to make screens load faster and hog less power.
The on-screen keyboard has been revamped with repositioned letters and symbols and is reportedly much easier to type on, while a new copy and paste feature allows you to select a word with a single touch, which displays two cursor arrows to the sides that can be dragged to select as much text as you want.
VoIP/SIP is now a built-in feature, which means users will be able to make cheaper or even free calls over the Internet natively from their phones using Google Voice or other third-party services. The camera application now supports the use of more than one camera on the phone simultaneously, doubtless to improve video chat.
Then there is the new Near Field Communications (NFC), which has been the talk of the town lately. This is a short-range, high frequency wireless technology that allows the handset to communicate with nearby devices and can potentially make the Oyster Card redundant. According to Google, it can read “any types of data format” on another product or device by just placing the phone near it.
Other subtle improvements included betters app control, more robust APIs and overall system-wide battery life optimisations.
Although a firm release date for the firmware was not announced, it will arrive preinstalled with the Nexus S, followed by an over the air update "in a few weeks".
Meanwhile, a new Android-powered tablet from Motorola also made a cameo appearance on the show and it runs on Honeycomb, the next major edition of the OS tailored for the tablet form factor. Details on its specs are sketchy but it is said to house a Tegra 2 processor and looks pretty slick, too. See for yourself in the on-stage demonstration video below.