Hands-on With Android 2.2 (Froyo) and Flash 10.1

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Google’s I/O Conference kicks off Day 2 with the official unveiling of Android 2.2 aka Froyo. We’ve had a review build of 2.2 with full Flash 10.1 support on a Nexus One for under a week. Here’s what we found.

The bump from Android 2.1 to 2.2 isn’t as significant as the bump from 1.6 to 2.0. There’s been a slight UI tweak and a handful of feature enhancements. Full support for Flash 10.1 is the biggest feature enhancement to come from outside Google but it’s far from perfect. That’s not meant to be a dig on Adobe at all. But more on that later.

(More on Techland: Android Gingerbread Slated For Q4 2010)

From what I can tell based on the review unit, the following are the new things in 2.2. Google declined pre-briefs ahead of the announcement so I will likely make changes throughout the announcement.

• The Google Search bar is now universal. In other words, you can search through everything on your device including apps, contacts, music, etc. Users can also opt to search just the Web, Apps or Contacts. It’s a bit redundant but I don’t have too many contacts on this particular device other than what’s being pulled in from my Gmail and Facebook accounts.

• The Launcher now includes shortcuts to the browser and phone dialer.

• Added support for Exchange that now includes Calendar and Contact sync. Other than that I’m not sure what else is included in this area. Syncing my e-mail account would wipe the device, which means I’d most likely lose the installed Adobe Flash 10.1 app.

• Support for USB tethering and portable Wi-Fi hotspot is pretty wicked. Setup is a breeze. But it Android does not support USB tethering for Mac OS X. It only supports Windows Vista, Windows 7 and Linux. Turning your Android device into a hotspot kills your ability to run apps that connect to the Internet via Wi-Fi. And there’s no shortcut.

• Under Settings, Sound & Display have been split. No clue why.

• Text-to-Speech is now Voice input & output. You can now tweak the voice recognizer settings – input language, SafeSearch (basically a filter for GIS results) and you can block offensive words. The previous Text-to-Speech settings can be found under the Voice output menu within Voice input & output.

• Users can enable a sound when the device is docked.

Updates from I/O

• Oh, and you can move apps over to an SD card. Finally!

• Update all apps is finally here, too. You can also allow for automatic updating to all apps.

• OTA app downloads via your desktop have also been enabled.

• Remote wipe for enterprise.

• Just-in-time compilation for 2-5x speed boost for apps.

• 2-3x boost in Javascript performance.

Now let’s chat about Flash 10.1 support. It works pretty damn well. But you have to keep in mind that a lot of sites that stream video, for example, are optimized for a desktop with broadband connectivity. This is still a mobile device with a mobile browser. You’ll get notifications that some videos aren’t optimized for mobile. They still stream but they can be choppy. And it’s still in Beta. This isn’t Adobe’s problem since they have no control over which sites are built with just desktop optimization and the like. I’d love to have an Android tablet running 2.2 with full Flash support.

(More on Techland: Adobe Goes After Apple In New Ad Campaign)

Flash 10.1 is still on schedule to launch in June. The Beta will be released to the Android Marketplace today, which means Froyo could be released today. Again, this was prepared ahead of Google’s announcement so I’ll change as the press conference goes on. Users with 2.2 will be able to download the app through the Marketplace or they’ll be prompted when navigating to a Flash site. Adobe tells me that they’re pushing to have it pre-installed at the manufacturer level.

The following are snippits about performance from Adobe.

• Video playback: More than 3 hours of H.264 video playback on the Nexus One when streamed over 3G network – with hardware acceleration turned off (in software only)
• Online gaming: Casual web games experienced 4 hours of continuous playback.
• Animation and graphics benchmarking: Flash Player 10.1 runs at more than 3 times the frame rate as HTML with approximately the same battery consumption.
• Automatic Memory Reduction: Decrease content usage of RAM by up to 50 percent

The fact that I can stream music from mog.com blows me away. I’m really impressed with the Flash implementation. But it stops streaming when the browser is closed. We’ll have video shortly.

More on Techland:

Google Shutting Down Nexus One Store

A Practical Guide To Android [Update]

18 Android Apps To Get You Started

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