10 ways Google's made Android more awesome
28th Sep 2009 | 14:54
Version 1.6 lands bringing a raft of new goodies
1-5: Quick search, text to speech, power checking
The latest version of Android (1.6 or Donut) has debuted for developers, and while Google isn't calling it a major change, it does bring a good few difference to make the OS a lot more compelling.
1. Quick Search box
One of the major changes with the new Android update is a new 'Quick Search' box that essentially exposes all elements of the phone to find the file or whatever you need, meaning you can look for a contact, application, bookmark or extend the search out to the web.
Applications developed for Android 1.6 can also take advantage of this framework too, meaning you can look for elements within them in the future too, which will be handy when your menu list gets as long as your arm.
Some of you may think this is a little like Apple's new Spotlight feature on the iPhone - you'd be right, as it's pretty much identical. But Google = search, so it makes a lot of sense to put it on Android too.
2. Faster camera and improved gallery
Google is also improving the way you interact with your media in the Donut upgrade, as it's pretty basic at the moment.
The main difference is starting up the camera (which currently takes an age) will be 39 per cent faster, with processing up to a quarter faster, meaning you can move on to the next snap much quicker.
And when you inevitably take oodles more rubbish photos you'll be able to delete multiple pictures with the new upgrade, which will make life a lot easier.
3. Easier to get to the camcorder
One of the problems the Android OS faces is the fact it has a very limited camera interface, and that's been slightly addressed in the 1.6 upgrade.
The camera screen now allows you to toggle between the camera and the video recorder with a little touchscreen button, meaning you don't have to mess around in the menu system when you want to capture something funny your cat's doing in real time.
4. Text to speech
Android's picked up a new function thanks to a speech engine called Pico, making it possible to talk to your phone and make it do things.
The new speech synthesis engine will even be able to recognise accents within different languages, making those from the more obscure regions with odd dialects as audible as anyone else.
If you're using legacy devices such as the G1 and the Magic, you'll need to download a new element to bring the voices to the phone, but we assume Google will make this obvious when the time comes.
5. Checking your power
If you've ever wondered where all the power has gone on your Android phone, with the battery running down faster than Usain Bolt, then this feature will please you.
The new function won't be able to stop the problem by itself, but it will give you a list of all the running applications and how power-hungry they are.
So if you find that Twidroid is nabbing all your battery, perhaps you can turn it off in the evening rather than watching the wibblings of your drunken friends.
6-10: More screen resolutions, gestures, VPN
This is something we're very excited about, as it means that the phone will now be able to respond to more than just your touch.
The idea is that the OS, as well as the applications contained within it, can respond to your gestures. This presumably means not only will the accelerometer be able to control applications as it does now, but that certain finger squiggles on the touchscreen will be recognised to start or interact with programs.
7. More screen resolutions
You may not know this, but Android is only set up to work with HVGA screen resolution at the moment (the same as the iPhone, but only 320 x 480 pixels).
This means that the likes of LG can run roughshod over the Android devices with pin-sharp WVGA screens (800 x 480), making video and menus look amazing.
But the new upgrade will see more screen resolutions supported, meaning QVGA for the budget efforts and higher resolutions for the more advanced versions.
Not only that, but developers can now specify which screens can be used with different applications. We'll be interested to see how this is marked in the Market, but basically if something is only meant for a four-inch plus screen, this can be achieved.
8. Prettier Market
The Android Market might be a good place to go and get a glut of applications, but it looks very basic at the moment, and deciding what to buy can be very hard.
However, the new upgrade looks to address that, with new categories differentiating between applications, games and the mysteriously titled downloads.
Within each will be the same options to choose between free and paid for applications, but the bonus is you can now see screenshots as well, making it a lot easier to choose the right one for you.
It may scare you to know that some regions can't actually use Android phones because the handset is incompatible with the mobile phone signal.
The UK is fine because we run on GSM (Global System for Mobile communications), the most popular standard for mobile phones in the world. However CDMA (Code division multiple access), the technology behind a few networks in the US and other regions, is not supported.
But never fear! Google has added CDMA compatibility to the new 1.6 upgrade, meaning more countries will be available for the G-wave, and it will now be able to run on other networks too.
We'll be interested to find out which regions this applies to, as CDMA is a pretty broad term, but more countries means more developers, which in turn means more awesome applications. And we all like that.
Interested in browsing the old corporate intranet, but stuck with a stupid Android phone? Worry no more, as the new 1.6 upgrade offers a range of ways to interact with your corporate VPN.
L2TP/IPSEC pre-shared key based VPN, L2TP/IPsec certificate based VPN, L2TP only VPN and PPTP only VPN are all in the list, and if you don't know what any of those random letters mean, ask your IT department. They'll look stressed at having to add a new phone to their support list, so you'll know you're right.
And if you can't be bothered to think about how all these things might affect you, check out the video below - it explains it with the help of the little Android 'bot as well:
Liked this? Then check out A complete history of Android
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