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Summary:

After using Android 2.1 — and some custom ROMs — for the past five months, I’m impressed overall with Android 2.2, aka: Froyo. The user interface provides nice enhancements and the system is slightly faster. Here are some hands on thoughts from the past day.

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I’m sitting in the Philadelphia International Airport with a delay on my way to San Fran — tomorrow I’ll be speaking on a panel at the Netbook Summit — so now’s a good time to share some thoughts on Android 2.2, aka: Froyo. James offered up a video look and summary of the new Froyo features, but I’ve been using Android full time since January and can offer a different perspective as a result. I’ve also been flashing ROMs on my Nexus One for a few weeks to gain the HTC Sense interface and other features. After using Froyo for the past 24 hours, I’m fairly impressed — the operating system compares well against some of the optimized and enhanced ROMs I’ve recently used.

Some thoughts in no particular order:

  • Froyo is a little faster than Eclair on my Nexus One, but the speed difference isn’t that dramatic. The stock ROM on the Nexus One was pretty solid to begin with in terms of performance. Although I haven’t used that ROM for nearly four weeks, I did restore it yesterday for a few hours prior to installing Froyo. Nexus One owners will likely be happy with Froyo’s performance, but I find it marginally better, not exceptionally better at this point.
  • I like the new dedicated icons for the Phone and Internet next to the program launcher. But I think it sloppy that Google left the standard shortcuts for both on the main home screen — they’re simply not needed and I imagine that most every Nexus One owner is removing them. A little thing, yes, but it adds to the unpolished nature that some folks claim Android has.
  • There’s no unified inbox yet, but you can switch between accounts slightly faster in the Gmail client with Froyo. At the top left of your Inbox, you can see which email account you’re using. Simply tap it and you’ll be shown the Gmail Accounts window so you can switch. Prior to Froyo, it took a menu button press and a tap of the Accounts option for the same action. It doesn’t sound like a huge improvement, but I switch between the accounts dozens of times daily, so those extra taps add up.
  • Support for Adobe Flash 10.1 beta is nice and it works reasonably well. I haven’t played any Flash games — I never do, actually — but I did view a few videos. Even those not optimized for mobile sites offer a good experience. Playback is relatively fluid and less choppy than what I’ve seen with Flash Lite. I haven’t tested enough to determine the battery drain.
  • Although it’s too early to tell, it seems like the radio in my Nexus One is performing worse with Froyo. Near as I can tell, there was a radio update included with Froyo and I’m seeing more signal bouncing from 3G to EDGE than I did prior. Again — too early to tell, but it’s something I’ve noticed. If any other Nexus One owners running Froyo have seen the same or don’t have issues, please chime in.
  • Google may have caught some developers by surprise with the quick release of Android 2.2, right after it was introduced at the Google I/O event. Why do I think that? There were a number of apps I was using in Android 2.1 that I couldn’t find in the Android Market. I’m not sure if developers had to update their apps for 2.2 or not, but bunches are missing. I pinged the RunKeeper folks as soon as I noticed this — I use the app on a near-daily basis — and they told me today that the app is now in the market. It is and I was able to install it on 2.2, but there are still other apps not showing.
  • On a related note: I’m not yet able to move any apps to my SD card. I don’t need to do this because I have plenty of free space on my phone, but I wanted to try it. Again, it appears that developers have to enable their app to run on an SD card in Android 2.2.
  • I was using an HTC keyboard on the Nexus One, but Froyo’s input method has improved quite a bit from that of Eclair, so I may stay with the stock keyboard for a while. The word suggestion functionality is less intrusive and the overall accuracy of the keys feels better.
  • The new camera application is also improved, but I prefer the camera I was using on an HTC Sense build. With that app, I could tap to focus and meter the exposure, much like the iPhone 3GS. The Froyo camera application doesn’t support such a feature, but it does provide new options for exposure, zoom and geotagging.
  • I haven’t used the portable hotspot functionality — AT&T is providing free Wi-Fi today at the airport — but it’s welcome. I had both a wired and wireless tethering application in many of my customer ROMs and they make for a good backup 3G connection as needed. For now, I’ll still stick with my Verizon MiFi as a dedicated 3G solution and use Froyo’s hotspot feature as needed for backup connectivity. Because the Nexus One comes directly from Google and not through a carrier, I don’t expect this feature to disappear on me. It remains to be see if Android phones sold by carriers in the U.S. will see the tethering option — or if they do, what it might cost.

Overall, Froyo offers a solid performance boost and some welcome user interface enhancements. Android still lacks a little polish around the edges, but it’s a very functional and customizable operating system. I’ll likely stick with Froyo for a bit, but I find that I’m already missing the HTC Sense interface and widgets. Some HTC bits I’ll likely be able to add to Froyo, but Sense will require a completely different ROM. Once that arrives, I’ll probably flash my phone for the Sense experience.

Note: I’m not able to capture any screenshots at this time because that requires the Android SDK, which I don’t have installed on this computer.

Related content from GigaOM Pro (sub req’d):

Google’s Mobile Strategy: Understanding the Nexus One

  1. Glenn Fleishman Sunday, May 23, 2010

    Re: tethering

    “Because the Nexus One comes directly from Google and not through a carrier, I don’t expect this feature to disappear on me.”

    Your service plan is from a carrier, though, and carriers control features on unlocked phones from third party, whether Google or otherwise. Isn’t service via T-Mobile? It’s the most liberal now in terms of what it offers and allows.

    “It remains to be see if Android phones sold by carriers in the U.S. will see the tethering option — or if they do, what it might cost.”

    It’s confusing to have a feature available without a plan from carriers on the response. TechCrunch said it asked the Android point guy, and got a mixed answer.

    Verizon and other carriers that offer tethering typically charge $30/mo on top of other fees. But Verizon recently made mobile hotspot use of the Palm Pre/Pixi Plus phones free (not sure about tethering!).

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    1. Good points, Glenn, as there is quite a bit of uncertainty around who controls the tethering service native to Android 2.2. My service is with T-Mobile and yes, they’re pretty liberal.

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    2. How are carriers going to control features like tethering with unlocked phones? There is no difference between usage that originates on the phone and usage that originates on a laptop.

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  2. Pardon my ignorance, but is HTC’s Touch open sourced or otherwise offered for free from the company? Or is it just considered no big deal to steal a company’s software and use it without paying for it?

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    1. HTC develops Sense and also built and designed my Nexus One. The company doesn’t offer or sell the software.

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  3. RE: screenshots

    If your rooted, i’d recommend the app ShootMe. captures screenshots on device via shaking phone and saves to sd card :)

    again, requires root though.

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    1. Appreciate that (and the other suggestion below) but I lost root access during my flash back to stock to get the Froyo update. I’ll get it back but I’m not messing with the phone during my trip. ;)

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  4. No Android SDK on this computer? Is that because you are using the iPad, or did I misunderstand your tweets?

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    1. I brought my iPad on this trip, but also my MacBook, which is what I was using to compose the post. I have the Android SDK on an iMac at home.

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  5. Froyo came with a radio and I’m giving it one more day but I think I’m going to be rolling it back tomorrow. Keeps bouncing between Edge and 3G on T-Mobile here in Bellevue where the previous radio had been rock solid 3G.

    There is an adb configuration change to enable moving apps to sdcard, it’s on xda. What I found is that most apps would move and after moving they had significant reduction in storage size. Some of them shrank to 25% of their original size! Some apps though, Fandango as one example, are “protected” and can’t be moved at this time.

    I’ve found the browser to be significantly faster on my 50mbps Comcast. A large chunk of that comes from the dalvik JIT enhancement. I used to get maybe 6mbps on Speedtest. Now I get 14mbps.

    I’ve also got about 100MB of extra RAM showing in ATK now. And the system in general seems less laggy at random intervals as it had before. Especially noticeable to me in typing on the keyboard.

    My biggest disappointment: still no 802.11n. I’m mostly after it for the better power management available (my iPad really soaks that up.)

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    1. There’s an article on AC that states the contrary. Others seem to be connecting to N networks… but only at 2.4ghz.

      http://www.androidcentral.com/froyo-feature-80211n-support

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  6. Do you see any lag while switching apps in Froyo? It was one of the biggest complaints with Android. iPhone app switching is way too responsive (3GS). Looks like you are using AT&T, do you think Dell Streak would be a better choice? Froyo may not come to Dell Streak anytime soon, so is Froyo really superior to Eclair in your opinion? Thanks!

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    1. I don’t see any lag In app switching. Not using AT&T – I bought the Nexus One with support for T-Mobile’s 3G network. I haven’t seen anything in Eclair that’s better than in Froyo.

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  7. PicMe captures screenshots from screen to Computer Wifi driven trid to send picture will try you direct. file:///home/dmb/Desktop/PicMe.png

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  8. When you open a clean Froyo image in the Android SDK emulator, there are no Phone or Browser icons on the home screen (just a cute Android logo widget).

    I haven’t tried wiping an actual device, but I expect the results might be the same. It makes sense, however, that upgrading to Froyo from Eclair does not automatically remove home screen icons that users may have arranged and gotten used to.

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  9. Kevin,

    The reason you are missing applications in the market is because Google have not yet authorised the Nexus One’s new device fingerprint running under Froyo.

    Just as most new Android devices, it takes a little time although I would expect Google to hurry the process a little for their own device.

    I have the Desire and it took around a month for it to be authorised in the application market.

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    1. Understood. It’s definitely fixable in a short time frame – as said in the post, I pinged one developer and within a day they told me the issue was addressed, at which time I saw the application in the Market on Froyo. Note that not all applications were missing – only some.

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  10. Michael Hunter Tuesday, July 20, 2010

    I’m trying to figure out what ATT will do with the portable hotspot feature of Android 2.2 when (if?) it is supported on one of their Android phones (I’m interested in the Captivate). I like the Captivate and would buy it if I could could be fairly sure that ATT won’t do something really crazy like disable it in some sort of agreement with Apple to give them an advantage. But I’ve talked to two people at ATT and one at Samsung and it isn’t clear they even understood the question, didn’t seem to know what portable hotspot or Android 2.2 was (fwiw the term “wifi tethering” did seem to work with one person), and didn’t seem to really understand that with smartphones there is a difference between the phone and the software it is running. Any insight?

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    1. If you’re interested in the portable hotspot feature of Android, I’d wait until AT&T announces news of the Froyo update. At that time, I imagine we’ll see if the carrier will support Wi-Fi Tethering and/or what it could cost. It’s just too early to say right now and they could either disable the feature or charge more than you’re willing to pay for it.

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