The next version of Android, 2.2, code-named Froyo, short for frozen yogurt--Android versions are named chronologically after desserts (Cupcake, Donut, Eclair)--isn't far off now. Google put a giant statue of a cup of frozen yogurt on the front lawn of their Mountain View campus, next to the huge eclair and donut, which is, adorably enough, a good sign that Android 2.2 is close to release. What do we know about it?
Not much, truthfully. We know it'll pack full Adobe Flash 10.1 support, a new launcher, and the ability to save apps to an external memory card. Now, TechCrunch got their hands on a screenshot showing two veeeery interesting new features: tethering and mobile hotspot.
Tethering is when another device, usually a computer, is connected to a smartphone to use the smartphone's mobile network as its own. It's usually banned, since it costs the networks more bandwidth and thus more money (think of how much more Internet-intensive your computer habits are than your smartphone habits), although some OSes have ways to get around it. Jailbroken iPhones can tether, as can Windows Mobile phones, and Android phones can tether without even unlocking them by using certain apps in the Android Market.
Mobile hotspot is a similar feature. Some phones, like the Palm Pre Plus and the HTC Evo 4G, can output their mobile connections as a Wi-Fi signal. This is better than tethering, since more than one device can use it at the same time, and a greater variety of devices support Wi-Fi than can tether a phone. (You can't tether an iPad to a phone, but you can use a phone's mobile hotspot).
The mobile hotspot feature is, like tethering, very bandwidth-hungry, which is where we may run into problems. Just because a phone supports these features doesn't mean a wireless carrier is going to let you get away with using them for free. The HTC Evo 4G's mobile hotspot feature costs $30 per month extra, for example.
These are great features to have built in--but we're going to keep our excitement level low until we see how wireless carriers plan to deal with Android 2.2's new features.