Blog Post

Everything You Need to Know About Android 2.2, aka Froyo

Google (s goog) today released the final version of Android 2.2, aka Froyo, through an over-the-air update to Nexus One devices. I’ve been using earlier versions of Froyo for several weeks on a daily basis (see my first impressions here), and while many of today’s improvements are behind the scenes, I find this version to be the best yet. Here’s a rundown on everything you need to know about Android’s latest upgrade for mobiles.

Better Usability — While there aren’t a lot of usability tweaks in Froyo as compared to the prior version, switching between applications is significantly easier. The best example may be in the Gmail application. I use multiple Gmail accounts in the same client, but switching between them was a chore prior to Froyo because it required me to use the handset menu button. Now I just have to tap the email address at the top right of the Gmail client on my display.

Adobe Flash 10.1 Support – Love it or hate it, Flash is everywhere on the web and with Froyo, Flash (s adbe) comes to the handset. It works reasonably well, in my experience. It’s too early to tell if battery concerns are legitimate, however, and currently, it’s only available on the Nexus One.

Market Improvements — Android finally uses the same web “smarts” that Google’s browser search has when it comes to misspellings. Prior to Froyo, searching for an app in the Market required users to know the proper spelling or keywords. Now you can spell an app name incorrectly and Froyo will make a “Did you mean this?” suggestion. Google also added app storage on SD cards, although developers must enable it at the application level, removing internal storage constraints. These are small steps to make the Market better, but more are needed.

Portable Hotspot — Froyo turns your phone into a portable hotspot by sharing the 3G signal over Wi-Fi with up to eight devices in about 15 seconds. While the feature is native to Froyo, carriers could remove it or find a way to charge for it — just not on the unlocked Google Nexus One.

Performance Boost – The Dalvik JIT virtual machine where Android apps run — third-party apps are built using Java — gains a speed increase of 2-5 times, according to Google, although my own use found the increase to be on the lower end of that range. Google also leveraged the latest V8 JavaScript engine from the Chrome desktop browser for faster web browsing, especially with JavaScript-heavy sites.

Cloud-to-Device Messaging — Through an API, a web app on the desktop can now send data directly to your Froyo phone. Perhaps you want to send an address or directions from Google Maps to your handset, for example. Clicking a button on the desktop version of Google Maps will do just that.

Enhanced Microsoft Exchange Functions — Key native features required by many enterprises debut in Froyo, including remote wipe capability, improved security and passwords, Exchange calendars and Global Address Lists.

When and How Do Other Phones Get Froyo?

Only the Nexus One is getting Froyo directly from Google via an over-the-air update; all other Android-based handsets are at the mercy of the carriers and handset makers. Even if a carrier does decide to offer Froyo, the software must be integrated and tested with the current build offered since carriers often add their own software or tweaks. This process takes time and Google only provided Froyo to its carrier and handset partners last week. Few of Google’s partners have yet committed to specific delivery dates, so watch for upgrades over the next 1-4 months for most.

There are currently 60 Android-based handsets available via 59 carriers by way of 21 handset partners — and with Froyo, there are now four versions of the OS in the wild: 1.5, 1.6, 2.1 and 2.2. Some call it a legacy issue while others like me believe this situation to be a fragmentation challenge. Call it what you want, but if you’re in the market for an Android device, I recommend it comes with or will eventually see Froyo.

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

Google’s Mobile Strategy: Understanding the Nexus One

31 Responses to “Everything You Need to Know About Android 2.2, aka Froyo”

  1. onecallednick

    @ChaChi I really don’t get the “desktop linux” comparison. Linux is in use in millions of homes and countless businesses. There’s not a single thing I can’t run on GNU + Linux that I want to, aside from Netflix, and that’s Microsoft’s fault. Any of the modern distributions but particularly Ubuntu have a fast learning curve and a simple application that links to thousands of powerful free and open source programs. So why exactly is desktop linux a bad thing?

  2. Darwin

    These are really underwhelming changes especially since the new iPhone has improved in so many ways. Google needs to fix their horrible UI and clean up the app store. 2.2 is still not even close to being ready for corporate use although I doubt Google cares but the carriers do. it my never be since corps don’t want a smartphone that collects so much user data and allows apps to do the same.

    • Yup, 160,000 people a day are making a huge mistake by activating a new Android device. They must have overlooked how the iPhone has improved in so many ways. ;)

      Kidding aside, it will be interesting to see if more enterprises adopt Android devices now that native Exchange functionality has improved with Froyo.

      • ChaChi

        You mean 80,000 a day with all those 2-for-1 free deals? ; )
        Ah, good ‘ol WalMart…

        Kidding aside, it will be interesting to see if Android security holes and its lack of localization can motivate the admins to support a third platform after RIM and Apple. Not looking good for this year, anyways.

        It’s starting to smell a lot like desktop Linux…

      • @ChaChi You Apple fanboys seem to be seriously offended when you realize that other similar products cost less. Why? You are the only ones with truly magical devices, so is it not then reasonable that they should cost a little more? Also Steve Jobs drinks only organic smoothies, and those cost more than regular smoothies, so you see, there is the higher cost involved in production, too.

  3. Froyo’s staggered release reiterates the importance of Nexus One. With the unlocked device and a series of leaks, Google got at least thousands of copies of the Android upgrade into the market before iPhone 4 arrived, including features that will probably be disabled by carriers when they upgrade their phones months later.

    Hard to imagine that people have been arguing over whether Nexus is a success or a failure, or trying to measure its success in financial terms. 200,000 Nexus One users are now showing millions of people cool new Android capabilities, creating pressure for carriers to open up features and offer premium services for less money. Even making a few iPhone users jealous here and there. Given this, we can expect a Nexus Two.

    • +1, Paul! The freedom and updates brought by the Nexus One have kept me on the same phone for 6 months now — a new record! :) I’ve bypassed slightly more capable handsets — both Android and the iPhone 4 — for this very reason.

  4. onecallednick

    Anyone smart enough to be reading your column in the first place is fully capable of going to and installing one of the many froyo builds which will soon be available for all those android phones carriers would rather forget about. Hell, they already have an android 2.1 build for windows mobile phones! I’m disappointed that you aren’t mentioning that.

    • I understand your point, but not your disappointment – this isn’t a how-to get around the carrier control post. It’s a cue on the news that Froyo is official and what it means to both current and future Android device owners. Besides — how do you think I’ve been running Froyo for the past 5 or 6 weeks? ;)

      I’ve written about and tweeted on the dozen-odd ROMs I’ve been using from XDA and Modaco, so there’s a better place for that info than in this post – just my $0.02.

      • onecallednick

        I get that, but it still doesn’t make sense to me to create a post entitled “everything you need to know about froyo” and not mention the fastest, most sure-fire way to get Android 2.2 free of carrier-mandated restrictions and unnecessary crap.

  5. Smartphone Fan

    Hmm, I wonder if the Portable Hotspot support also extends to supporting the 4G networks on the Evo. Or whether that comes later.

    Either way – Froyo is looking very cool !

    • Good question, but my thought is that it won’t. The EVO 4G already has an option for tethering / hotspot usage via Sprint, which charges a $30 monthly fee for the feature. Sprint likely would eliminate the native portable hotspot feature in Froyo as a result.

      • Jack C

        This is sort of an interesting conundrum for carriers. Android provides a free platform to work with, but as Google builds features like tethering into releases, the incentives of rooting build significantly. If someone walked up to you and said, I’ll give you $350 if you root your EVO and install Froyo on it, would you?

        The days when data and sms can be relied on for huge profits are numbered.