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What Is Froyo?


It’s a mobile platform…

Google’s out with Android 2.2—codename: Froyo—and so far I am impressed and excited. But what is it, exactly?

Froyo (following Google’s adorable alphabetized dessert naming convention) is the latest iteration of Android, Google’s mobile operating system. Simple enough! If you bought an Android phone recently, Froyo’s what it will eventually be running.

…with a slightly different look…

Aside from the nice touch of being greeted by an Android icon at start-up, Froyo users can also expect a new homescreen widget. There are some other minor aesthetic changes, and transitions and animations seem a bit smoother, but the user experience isn’t all that different from using 2.1 on a Nexus One.

…that supports USB tethering and acts as a portable hotspot…

Froyo lets you turn your phone into a hotspot—including for your Wi-Fi iPad, if you’re so inclined. (Or any other Wi-Fi device.) It’s still not confirmed if every Android carrier will support tethering (AT&T?), but Froyo’s definitely capable. As of now every Froyo equipped device like the new Motorola Droid 2, HTC Evo and the Nexus One have this feature, though there are extra carrier charges imposed for that.

… that’s way faster than its predecessor…

It was already demonstrated at this year’s Google IO that Android 2.2 is ridiculously faster than Android 2.1, and boy its true: Froyo is up to 5x faster than Eclair, thanks to a just-in-time (JIT) compiler. And that’s just the OS; Google’s also claiming that Froyo has the world’s fastest mobile browser, period. Froyo on the Nexus One is blazingly fast with no lags or delays between swiping screens or opening applications. The browser too was very responsive; panning and zooming on the Nexus One was definitely better than it was in Eclair.

…that supports Flash 10.1…

Android 2.2 supports Flash 10.1—important, because Flash 10.1 is optimized to run on mobile devices. And more than finally killing off those little question mark cubes that litter the web on your phone, it’ll also be a huge differentiator for Google in the fight against Apple. There’s a line in the sand, and Adobe and Google are on the same side of it. Flash performance on Froyo equipped phones like the Nexus One, HTC Evo or the recent Droid 2 have been appreciated, finally lauding Adobe’s effort to bring flash to the mobile devices.

…that updates apps and music OTA…

Speaking of leapfrogging the iPhone: with Froyo, when you download an app to your computer you don’t need to tether your phone. Instead, the update will automatically be installed over-the-air to your device – we finally get the option to update all our apps simultaneously with the “Update All” button. Same goes with music you buy. Hear that, iPhone users? No syncing required.

…that streams your music…

You’ll also be able to stream your (non-DRM) iTunes library wirelessly to your Froyo phone.

…that lets you send data to your phone OTA…

The new Cloud to device messaging API lets developers create apps that send messages that trigger actions from the cloud to your device. That sounds boring. It’s not. Here’s what it means: You can view a map in your desktop web browser, hit a button, and driving directions will automatically open up on your phone. You don’t just get an email or a text message with a link to click. The navigation app opens up and starts giving you directions.

You can also use this API to do things like click a button to open the web page you’re viewing in a desktop browser on your mobile device, it should be interesting to see what other uses developers come up with.

…that’s introducing a bevy of new app features…

Froyo gives hardware compass access to the browser, handy for orienting maps according to which direction you’re facing. You’ll be able to access the camera from the browser, as well. Google continues to blur the difference between native and web apps.

Other tidbits: voice recognition for search and for Google Translate—the latter of which, when plugged into text to speech, makes a handy speech-to-speech translator. There’s also a handy new application manager that’ll let you move apps to and run them off of an SD card and allows background updating.

…and that’s coming soon to most of the handsets (depending)…

Congratulations, Nexus One users! You were the first one to get the Froyo update. The HTC Evo has already got it OTA and the Motorola Droid 2 came with Froyo pre-installed. Everyone else, you’re just going to have to hold tight; firmware updates are largely up to the carriers and OEMs, and some poor saps only got their Android 2.1 upgrade. The more recent Android handsets should see an update in the next few months.



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