Google tonight slipped out an early version of Android 1.5, the next major update for its mobile operating system. The upgrade rolls in features from the previously nicknamed Cupcake update and is the first official version of Android to support a software keyboard, enabling iPhone-like devices rather than require a hardware keyboard. Appropriately, it also now supports accelerometers to rotate the display or otherwise control the phone through tilt.
Other changes are equally major and add video recording along with playback outside of YouTube, Bluetooth stereo audio and a much faster web browser with support for copying and pasting text. Many user interface elements have also received minor updates, and developers can now readily create their own widgets in addition to those that have already come with Android.
Many of the updates bring Android up to par with either iPhone OS 2.0 or 3.0 and are seen as critical to expanding Android to slimmer, smaller devices in the same vein. Lenovo and other Chinese manufacturers in particular are looking to Android as an open-source option for devices like the iPhone.
Google doesn't mention when Android 1.5 will be available on shipping devices or when the 1.5 SDK will be fully finished. However, at least some code from the update is considered essential to the HTC Magic, which is due for Vodafone in May and could be announced for the US on April 21st at T-Mobile's special event.