Android This Week: Gingerbread Installed; Cloud Music; Great Keyboard

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I spent this past week taking a taste of Gingerbread on my Nexus One, which is baked from a custom ROM I found during some downtime at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES). While Gingerbread officially arrived when the Samsung Nexus S debuted in December, all other handsets are still waiting for this version, which is Google Android 2.3.

The build is based from the AOSP, or Android Open Source Project, effort and I’m finding it to be very solid, as I’ve used it full-time for the past seven days. I have yet to find a feature that isn’t working; I love the old-school way the screen shuts off (like an old tube television set); and the new Gingerbread keyboard is much improved. For Nexus One owners that use custom ROMs — and I’m betting that’s a reasonably large community — this Gingerbread ROM can be installed and removed at will with any recovery image.

Since my 7-inch Samsung Galaxy Tab is still running on Android 2.2, I’ve been looking for alternative keyboards that work better for me on the larger screen. Our video review shows that Swype is a good option, but as we discussed on our weekly podcast yesterday, I’m not a fan of Swype on larger screens; tablet devices have enough room for me to thumb-type faster. After trying several keyboards, I’ve settled on SwiftKey, which is currently on a half-priced sale for $1.99. Even at the regular price, it’s well worth it, due to support for skins and a stellar word prediction algorithm that behaves like a talented mind-reader and learns your typing habits.

This week, a number of tech blogs are revisiting Google’s potential launch of a music streaming service for Android devices. I discovered the Android music-sync feature last month when I installed the leaked beta of Google Music on my tablet, and I then set up my music to be synced to the cloud. While the sync mechanism has been churning away successfully for weeks to my Google account, I haven’t yet seen exactly where in the cloud my music is being stored. Presumably, Google will add music streaming to its Google Music web service, and I’ll be ahead of the game, because I expect web-based copies of my music collection to be there at that time.

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