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The Android 2.2 "Froyo" Roundup: Ready to Upgrade?

Android 2.2

Android 2.2, Google's mobile operating system which is codenamed Froyo and was unveiled at the company's I/O conference last week, is already rolling out for the Google Nexus One. While only a limited number of people are getting the upgrade automatically, it's available online for anybody who wants to do so manually. I haven't got a Nexus One with which to test this newest version of Android, but I do have eyes, so I'll use those instead to synthesize what all the early adopters are saying about Froyo.

It's not a huge change. Unlike the leap from Android 1.6 to 2.0, which brought Maps Navigation, a totally revamped user interface, a combined inbox, and tons of other new features, the move to 2.2 is really a lot like the move to 2.1--noticeable changes, for sure, but this won't revolutionize your phone. Says PCMag, "you get a few new flashy things, but it won't blow your mind."

It's faster, but not radically so. Androinica says "Everything loads much more quickly, and shifting between apps is super snappy," but that's the most generous praise I could find. JKontheRun calls the performance "marginally better, but not exceptionally better," which, Androinica excepted, seems to be the standard response.

That being said, everyone agrees that the browser is definitely far faster than in previous versions of Android--AndroidSpin calls it "much faster" and ZDNet says it "flies." Nobody seems to have done any kind of test, scientifically sound or otherwise, comparing the browser to prior Android versions, let alone to the iPhone's Mobile Safari, Opera Mini, or any other browser.

Flash is...okay. For all the hubbub about Flash 10.1 being viewable with Android 2.2, it's important to keep in mind that Flash was designed for neither touchscreens nor teeny mobile device screens, and that even the relatively powerful Nexus One is about a decade behind the average laptop in sheer processing muscle. So how does Flash run? Well...okay.

ZDNet tested several Flash games, and found that the majority did work pretty well, though the interface was sometimes a bit goofy. Flash-heavy websites, including blogs like Gizmodo and Engadget, often proved too much for the Nexus One, and Flash ads sometimes slowed the device to a crawl. Androinica actually ended up disabling Flash, as it offset the new browser's speed improvements. But sites like Homestar Runner (blast from the past, I know) will run perfectly.

How about video? Results are mostly good. Supported video streamed in good quality with minimal hiccups, including sites like NBC and MTV. However, the mere ability of a mobile device to support Flash isn't enough in every instance--Hulu and ABC have both blocked all non-desktop devices due to revenue concerns (these, frankly, are beyond me--mobile users still have to watch the ads, right?). It looks like the ever-enterprising Android userbase may get into a bit of a break-it-fix-it loop with Hulu, since Phandroid has already posted a workaround to enable Hulu.

It's worth noting that the newest version of Skyfire, a third-party Android browser that's available for free in the Android Market, uses some sort of fancypants offsite caching to allow Flash video support already, even for Android 2.1 and 2.0 users. It's not a perfect browser (and Hulu usually doesn't work), but it's already out there.

The UI changes are minor but welcome. It might be unfair to keep calling the app drawer by that name, since now the app shortcut is bracketed by a shortcut to the phone on the left and the browser on the right. It's a nice change, and it looks pretty good, but again, that's a feature that's been available in the Android Market for months (through third-party launchers like Helix Launcher and LauncherPro)--and to be honest, LauncherPro does it one better by adding an icon for Contacts and one for Text Messages in the area that's empty space in the official Android 2.2 launcher.

The ability to save apps to the SD card hasn't been implemented quite yet--seems like it may be up to the developers to add that feature, and they (like us) only learned about Android 2.2 a few days ago, so that may take a little while to come. Tethering and mobile hotspot features both work, but we've got to imagine the carriers will cripple them in the days to come--there's no way they'll let features that usually cost $30 per month be available for free.

All in all, the response to Froyo has been pretty good. Not great, not overwhelming, but positive for sure. The new features are welcome, and even if Flash isn't amazing, it still mostly works, which makes it a nice feature to lord over iPhone users' heads.

Android 2.2 is rolling out for the Google Nexus One now, with a release for the Motorola Droid likely to follow soon. HTC Sense devices like the HTC Droid Incredible and HTC Evo 4G will be (much) slower to get the update--the Droid Eris, for example, just got the 2.1 update last week, five months after its announcement.

Dan Nosowitz, the author of this post, can be followed on Twitter, corresponded with via email, and stalked in San Francisco (no link for that one--you'll have to do the legwork yourself).

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