Friday, May 08, 2009

Yay Android 1.5 released for the G1

My software upgrade to Android 1.5 duly arrived this morning - however it took a while for the G1 to get used to its new toys.... some apps are now decidedly flaky still at present however I expect this to change as the apps get their Android 1.5 upgrades also. Many of the new features put the G1 ahead of the iphone at least until version 3.0 of the iphone software appears later in 2009. Here from PC World and the Android Developers forum is the run down on the punch that the G1 now has under the bonnet

Android 1.5 Platform Highlights (PC )
April 2009

Based on a branch of the Android Open Source Project code-named "cupcake," version 1.5 aims to smooth many of the rough edges in Android's inaugural release. The update not only polishes existing functionality, but also includes major additions like support for stereo Bluetooth using the A2DP profile, an on-screen software keyboard, and video recording and playback.

The Android 1.5 update clearly positions the platform as a solid competitor to Apple's iPhone. Though some of the new features--video playback and an on-screen keyboard, for example--are capabilities the iPhone has sported since launch, others, such as stereo Bluetooth, are due to arrive on Apple's platform in the 3.0 upgrade due in the summer of 2009. But some, such as video recording ( with the ability to upload to Youtube or send as an email attachment( see below including my rather basic date error! - also apologies for the unshaven look - I have been on leave this week!)
and the ability for users to add third-party keyboards, are capabilities that Apple has made no mention of adding to its device.

In addition to beefing up what Android can do, it appears that Google has spent some time correcting many of Android 1.0's niggling deficiencies. For example, Android now supports rotating the screen into landscape mode using an accelerometer (the G1 only flipped its screen into landscape when you slid the screen out to reveal the device's physical keyboard). Google also says it has added a layer of polish to many of the included applications and has fixed some performance issues, such as the atrociously slow camera load-time and slow scrolling in the Web browser. There are also under-the-hood improvements, like the latest versions of WebKit and JavaScript engine Squirrelfish, and an updated Linux kernel at the heart of the OS.

Google warns that the SDK is not yet finalized and that APIs could still be subject to change, so developers shouldn't release applications for distribution on 1.5 as of yet; the company says that the final release is due in May 2009 in the UK  ( it arrived Friday 8th May in the UK)

The increased functionality and polish offered by Android 1.5 could turn it into a serious competitor for the iPhone, especially if it ends up being released prior to the iPhone OS 3.0 update, which is expected sometime this summer. The release of another major iPhone competitor, the Palm Pre, is also due sometime in the next few months, suggesting that this summer could be a very contentious time for the smart phone market, indeed.

Here is the stuff that matters ( courtesy of Android developers)

Android 1.5 Platform Highlights

April 2009

The Android 1.5 platform introduces many new features for users and developers. The list below provides an overview of the changes.

User Interface Refinements

  • System-wide:
    • Refinement of all core UI elements
    • Animated window transitions (off by default)
    • Accelerometer-based application rotations
  • UI polish for:
    • In-call experience
    • Contacts, Call log, and Favorites
    • SMS & MMS
    • Browser
    • Gmail
    • Calendar
    • Email
    • Camera & Gallery
    • Application management

Performance Improvements

  • Faster Camera start-up and image capture
  • Much faster acquisition of GPS location (powered by SUPL AGPS)
  • Smoother page scrolling in Browser
  • Speedier GMail conversation list scrolling

New Features

  • On-screen soft keyboard
    • Works in both portrait and landscape orientation
    • Support for user installation of 3rd party keyboards
    • User dictionary for custom words
  • Home screen
    • Widgets
      • Bundled home screen widgets include: analog clock, calendar, music player, picture frame, and search
    • Live folders
  • Camera & Gallery
    • Video recording
    • Video playback (MPEG-4 & 3GP formats)
  • Bluetooth 
    • Stereo Bluetooth support (A2DP and AVCRP profiles)
    • Auto-pairing
    • Improved handsfree experience
  • Browser
    • Updated with latest Webkit browser & Squirrelfish Javascript engines
    • Copy 'n paste in browser
    • Search within a page
    • User-selectable text-encoding
    • UI changes include:
      • Unified Go and Search box
      • Tabbed bookmarks/history/most-visited screen
  • Contacts
    • Shows user picture for Favorites
    • Specific date/time stamp for events in call log
    • One-touch access to a contact card from call log event
  • System
    • New Linux kernel (version 2.6.27)
    • SD card filesystem auto-checking and repair
    • SIM Application Toolkit 1.0
  • Google applications (not available in the Android 1.5 System Image that is included in the Android SDK)
    • View Google Talk friends' status in Contacts, SMS, MMS, GMail, and Email applications
    • Batch actions such as archive, delete, and label on Gmail messages
    • Upload videos to Youtube
    • Upload photos on Picasa

New APIs and Manifest Elements

  • UI framework
  • AppWidget framework
  • Media framework
    • Raw audio recording and playback APIs
    • Interactive MIDI playback engine
    • Video Recording APIs for developers (3GP format).
    • Video and photo sharing Intents
    • Media search Intent
  • Input Method framework
  • Application-defined hardware requirements

    Applications can now use a new element in their manifest files,  to indicate to the Android system what hardware features they require in order to function properly. For example, an application might use the element to specify that it requires a physical keyboard or a particular navigation device, such as a trackball. Prior to installing the application, the Android system checks the attributes defined for the  element and allows the installation to continue only if the required hardware is present.

  • Speech recognition framework
    • Support for using speech recognition libraries via Intent. See RecognizerIntent.
  • Miscellaneous API additions
    • LocationManager - Applications can get location change updates via Intent
    • WebView - Touch start/end/move/cancel DOM event support
    • Redesigned Sensor Manager APIs
    • GLSurfaceView - convenience framework for creating OpenGL applications
    • Broadcast Intent for app update install succeeded - for smoother app upgrade experience.

It looks as if at last the G1 may now have the armoury it needs to make a stronger case aginst the current iphone. For me though there is still one more brick to put in place and that is a Flash player for the G1 - Engadget reports that a compnay called BSquare has a Flash Player which may eventually bring me the BBC iplayer on the G1 ( it's all I ask!)

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