My First Bite Of Froyo Is Tasty

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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

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