As expected, Google has officially announced Android 2.3 aka Gingerbread today, the next version of Google's successful mobile OS for smartphones and Tablet PCs, which comes with a lot of new and exciting features for users and developers as well as it includes new platform technologies. The user interface is refined in many ways across the system, making it easier to learn, faster to use, and more power-efficient. A simplified visual theme of colors against black brings vividness and contrast to the notification bar, menus, and other parts of the UI. Changes in menus and settings make it easier for the user to navigate and control the features of the system and device.
For instance is the Android soft keyboard redesigned and optimized for faster text input and editing. The keys themselves are reshaped and repositioned for improved targeting, making them easier to see and press accurately, even at high speeds. The keyboard also displays the current character and dictionary suggestions in a larger, more vivid style that is easier to read.
The keyboard adds the capability to correct entered words from suggestions in the dictionary. As the user selects a word already entered, the keyboard displays suggestions that the user can choose from, to replace the selection. The user can also switch to voice input mode to replace the selection. Smart suggestions let the user accept a suggestion and then return to correct it later, if needed, from the original set of suggestions.
New multitouch key-chording lets the user quickly enter numbers and symbols by pressing Shift+<letter> and ?123+<symbol>, without needing to manually switch input modes. From certain keys, users can also access a popup menu of accented characters, numbers, and symbols by holding the key and sliding to select a character.
One-touch word selection and copy/paste
When entering text or viewing a web page, the user can quickly select a word by press-hold, then copy to the clipboard and paste. Pressing on a word enters a free-selection mode - the user can adjust the selection area as needed by dragging a set of bounding arrows to new positions, then copy the bounded area by pressing anywhere in the selection area. For text entry, the user can slide-press to enter a cursor mode, then reposition the cursor easily and accurately by dragging the cursor arrow. With both the selection and cursor modes, no use of a trackball is needed.
The Android system takes a more active role in managing apps that are keeping the device awake for too long or that are consuming CPU while running in the background. By managing such apps - closing them if appropriate - the system helps ensure best possible performance and maximum battery life.
The system also gives the user more visibility over the power being consumed by system components and running apps. The Application settings provides an accurate overview of how the battery is being used, with details of the usage and relative power consumed by each component or application.
Control over applications
A shortcut to the Manage Applications control now appears in the Options Menu in the Home screen and Launcher, making it much easier to check and manage application activity. Once the user enters Manage Applications, a new Running tab displays a list of active applications and the storage and memory being used by each. The user can read further details about each application and if necessary stop an application or report feedback to its developer.
An updated set of standard applications lets the user take new approaches to managing information and relationships.
The user can now make voice calls over the internet to other users who have SIP accounts. The user can add an internet calling number (a SIP address) to any Contact and can initiate a call from Quick Contact or Dialer. To use internet calling, the user must create an account at the SIP provider of their choice - SIP accounts are not provided as part of the internet calling feature.
Additionally, support for the platform's SIP and internet calling features on specific devices is determined by their manufacturers and associated carriers.
An NFC Reader application lets the user read and interact with near-field communication (NFC) tags. For example, the user can "touch" or "swipe" an NFC tag that might be embedded in a poster, sticker, or advertisement, then act on the data read from the tag.
A typical use would be to read a tag at a restaurant, store, or event and then rate or register by jumping to a web site whose URL is included in the tag data. NFC communication relies on wireless technology in the device hardware, so support for the platform's NFC features on specific devices is determined by their manufacturers.
The Downloads application gives the user easy access to any file downloaded from the browser, email, or another application. Downloads is built on an completely new download manager facility in the system that any other applications can use, to more easily manage and store their downloads.
The camera application now lets the user access multiple cameras on the device, including a front-facing camera, if available.
Android 2.3 is now rolled-out to Google's Nexus One smartphone with more Android smartphones to expected to be supported later/early next year. Furthermore, Google announced to make Android 2.3 available as open source in the upcoming months.
Cheers ~ Arne