Android 2.2, or "Froyo", was announced months ago, but it's just now rolling out to popular Android phones like the Droid, Incredible and EVO 4G. So what new and improved features should you look for now that you've updated? Take a look.
Note: Gina originally covered Froyo's coolest features on May 24, shortly after an unofficial download was available for Nexus One owners. We're bumping it back up the queue for the bulk of Android owners actually seeing Froyo for the first time and adding in a few extra items.
Android 2.2 (code-named "Froyo", the next alphabetical installment of dessert-named releases after Cupcake, Donut and Eclair)
is now previously rolled out to Nexus One handsets. Whether or not you've received your update just yet, here's a quick look at our favourite new features.
The biggest "Thank heavens" change in Android 2.2 is found in the Market. In previous versions, you'd get a notification about updates being available. Then you'd head to the Market's Downloads section and have to click just one app you wanted to update, see notes about the udpate, hit the Update button after seeing the permissions the app needed — and then do that all again for each update. With Froyo, you simply hit the "Update all" button in the Market and you're good to go. You might have to individually approve an app or two, if a new feature requires a new permission or a license agreement has changed, but otherwise this process is much, much easier. Image via Ars Technica's own in-depth review of Froyo.
Another not-so-obvious Android 2.2 feature is its ability to connect to Google's cloud servers in ways that make very cool apps possible. This will mean some seriously cool music and picture syncing in the future, but for now, you get access to apps like the Chrome to Phone and Android2cloud apps, which send links, Maps, and even text back and forth between your Chrome (or Firefox) browser and your Android.
Portable Hotspot and USB Tethering
Froyo obviates the need for an application like PdaNet or rooting Android to use your phone's data connection to get online with your laptop. You can get your laptop, iPod touch or iPad online via Android 2.2 by turning your phone into a portable hotspot a la the MiFi. Enable your portable hotspot in the Wireless settings area. Name your access point, optionally assign a WPA2 PSK password, and any Wi-Fi enabled device in the area will be able to see and connect to it. I'm not sure what any provider-imposed limitations on this are, but up to eight devices can connect to the Froyo access point.
USB tethering — that is, using your phone as a modem to get online — is available on Windows and Linux (not the Mac). Windows XP users have to download a driver; Windows 7, Vista and Linux users are good to go by just enabling tethering on the phone and connecting it via the USB cable to your computer.
Select Text on Web Pages, in Email
While it's not as well-implemented as the iPhone OS's select text feature is, in Froyo you can now select text that's not in a text field and copy it to clipboard. Gmail and the browser are the only two apps I've seen this available in, but hopefully there will be more to come.
On either a web page or in email, to select text, hit the settings menu and tap "More". (Yes, already it's too many steps.) Choose "Select text" from the menu, as shown.
You'll notice a little mouse pointer on screen. Tap and drag your finger around the text you want to select, which will turn pink, as shown. When you're done, text gets copied to the clipboard automatically.
This process is too buried in the Settings menu and involves too many steps right now, but it's better than nothing.
A beta of the Flash 10 browser plug-in for Froyo is available in the Android Market; search for Flash there to download it. It works just the way you'd expect. With the plug-in enabled, you'll see Flash-based ads and embedded video and be able to play games. I played Google's homepage Pac-Man on my N1 and with the Flash plug-in enabled I could hear the game's music (which is the only part of it that involves Flash). I could play YouTube videos on-page. However, despite some tinkering, I couldn't get a Hulu or Vimeo video to play. On Hulu I got a "your device isn't supported" message, and Vimeo told me I needed to download Flash 10. So Adobe's Flash 10 plug-in for Android 2.2 is indeed beta.
If you don't necessarily want to see every Flash bit of every web page, you can change your settings to enable Flash on demand. To do so, in the Browser's Settings panel, tap "Enable plug-ins". There, if you choose "On demand", when you visit a page with Flash content you have to tap it to activate the Flash plug-in. I haven't done much Flash testing yet to get a handle on battery usage and performance, but I imagine the "On demand" setting will be a battery-saver for Flash users.
In the native Gmail client, you can easily move to older or newer conversations using left and right arrow buttons at the bottom of an open message. You can also configure Gmail to auto-advance to older or newer conversations when you delete or archive a particular message. To do so, in Gmail's settings, tap on "Auto-advance".
Most of my friends are on Twitter, not Facebook, so I'm liking that my friends' latest tweet appears in his/her contact card automatically, as shown here under Anil's name. Android 2.1 started this type of social network integration with Facebook, and this is the same functionality. If a user has both a Facebook page and a Twitter stream, the status shown at the top of the contact card is the most recent status update from either network.
My wish: that Froyo had Flickr integration the way that the HTC Sense UI has it on my new EVO.
The Android Google search box — which I use constantly — now has a menu that drops out from the G logo which lets you narrow down your search results by type. Android 2.1 introduced this visual style of menu on people inside Gmail and in the contacts list; nice to see it extend to other UI controls.
Improved Application Manager
Froyo's Application Manager (Settings>Manage Applications) has a nice new tabbed interface which lets you see apps by what's been downloaded, installed, what's running, and what lives on the SD card.
Better Camera Controls
The camera controls in Froyo are much easier to get to and they flip based on the phone's orientation. In 2.1 you had to slide out a panel to change camera settings. In Froyo small icons always line the side of the frame and give you one-tap access to zoom, focus, exposure, location, flash, and white balance settings. Zoom isn't available for the video camera, just the still camera.
Update: Froyo also offers Microsoft Exchange support but I don't have an Exchange setup to test it with, sorry!
The more I use Froyo the more new stuff I discover. What'd I miss? What's your favourite improvement? Let me know in the comments.