Google serves hot Gingerbread, unveils Android 2.3 and Nexus S

Google Android logoGoogle has revealed Android 2.3, codenamed Gingerbread, a new version of its popular mobile platform. It introduces a handful of modest user interface enhancements—such as a more refined touchscreen keyboard—and brings some noteworthy performance improvements that are largely intended to boost Android gaming.

Alongside the release of Android 2.3, Google has also announced plans to launch the Nexus S, a new smartphone that was developed in collaboration with Samsung. Much like Google's Nexus One, the new phone in the Nexus series will be available unlocked with a pure Google experience. The unlocked version will be sold at Best Buy for $529 without subsidy, and T-Mobile will be selling it on contract for $199.

Google Nexus S

The aptly named Nexus S looks like the love child of the Nexus One and the Samsung Galaxy S. The touchscreen-only device has a four-inch curved "contour" Super AMOLED display, 1Ghz Hummingbird processor, 16GB of internal storage, and a 1500 mAH battery rated for 6.7 hours of talk time. The handset showcases some of the new hardware features of Android 2.3, such as support for near-field communication (NFC), which can be used for close-range contactless data exchange.

Sales of the original Nexus One fell far below Google's expectations, leading the company to characterize the device as a failure and withdraw it from the general consumer market. Although it never achieved mainstream popularity, it attracted a loyal following among third-party developers and Android enthusiasts who valued its relative openness compared to other Android-powered handsets.

Google Android 2.3

As a Nexus One owner myself, I think there is a very clear need for Google to continue offering its own handset that isn't encumbered by carrier lockdown, crapware, and tacky user interface customizations. The latest addition to the Nexus line handily fulfills that need.

Google Android 2.3

Android 2.3 features

Google has polished the Android user interface and developed a new visual theme with a simpler palette. The keys on the onscreen keyboard have been spaced out a bit in order to enable faster typing and better accuracy. Taking advantage of multitouch input, Google has made it possible to use the shift or number toggle keys as modifiers that can be pressed concurrently with other keys. The platform has gained native support for draggable text selection, similar to the implementations we have seen on certain Motorola and Samsung Android devices.

Google Android 2.3

Google has finally conceded the need for manually quitting applications. In Android 2.3, the application manager tool has a "Running" tab that lets the user terminate individual applications and see how much system resources each running program is consuming. This feature will be conveniently accessible from a menu item on the home screen, largely obviating the need for users to install third-party task management tools.

SIP в Google Android 2.3

Other significant new features include SIP support (which allows users to make voice calls to SIP addresses over WiFi), better support for devices with multiple cameras, support for more media formats (including WebM), and a built-in download manager. There are also a lot of improvements on the performance front. A new concurrent garbage collector in Android's Dalvik virtual machine will be less invasive and help avoid stuttering, accelerated event handling will make input processing more responsive, and updated graphics drivers will improve 3D performance.

The new version of the Android SDK brings a lot of improvements for game developers. Google has exposed more sensors and input controls to native code, allowing games to receive and process input events more efficiently. Google has also introduced much-needed native audio APIs and has added support for managing the application lifecycle from native code. For games that run closer to the bare metal, all of these new native APIs are a major win. We will be looking more closely at these APIs in a follow-up article.

Although it's an incremental upgrade rather than a full overhaul, the changes in Android 2.3 are compelling and bring some much-needed polish to the platform. For additional details, you can refer to Google's official announcement.

Tags: Android, Google, mobile phones

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