Android 2.3: A Developers Perspective
Let’s face it. Froyo didn’t bring much new features for developers, the real benefits were preserved for the end-users. Gingerbread does it an whole other way, giving the developers the same amount of new features as end-users, or even more. Gingerbread brings a bucket full of new and cool stuff with it. Let’s take a look after the break.
Enhancements for gaming and multimedia
Google has optimized Android for gaming, and there clearly is a connection to the Playstation Phone that we have seen numerous times before. The Dalvik-engine has been improved again, this time with a concurrent garbage collector. It minimizes application pauses, thereby avoiding unnecessary freezes and lag and improving responsiveness in games and multimedia applications. A faster event distribution system has also been added to Gingerbread. This means Android handles input much faster, improving responsiveness and speed for all applications that use touch input, but especially apps that use touch input in combination with 3D graphics or CPU-heavy tasks. Last en surely not least, there is are new drivers for video codecs. Google has actually picked third-party drivers and put them in their newest platform. It may sound a little silly, but this is also boosting applications that use a 3D environment.
Google has also added support for new sensors for more complicated 3D movement processing, like the gyroscope for example. There’s even support for a barometer! Combined with the accelerometer the gyroscope is able to recognize complicated gestures, this might even turn your Android phone into a little Wii. Your phone has got to be able to access those sensors of course, if you don’t have them, you can’t use them.
The rest all or minor updates, not worth discussing here. Nevertheless they are handy, of course.
New forms of communication
Apps can access an API for calling over the SIP network without having to configure all the things behind it. There’s only one big drawback, and that’s the fact that most carriers will probably block this feature if you don’t pay for it. Always the same story with those carriers, but it’s better than replacing Google for Bing anyway (Verizon!?)
But here’s were it gets interesting. Did you ever hear of NFC (Near Field Communication) ? Probably not, but it’s a chip that can let your device interact with other NFC chips. Imagine things like paying with your cellphone in the supermarket or accessing a link from an ad you saw outside. Applications using the NFC API can respond to nearby NFC chips as they get activated when the user touches them. Once the API has received the message, a tag which certain applications can work with is collected. Now the app can do something with the tag, like opening a web page for example or paying your daily cup of coffee at the coffee shop.
Rich multimedia features
Developers can do much more with audio from now on. They can add all kinds of effects and equalizations to the audio track as a whole or to one or multiple parts. The supported codec list has also been extended. The famous VP8 video compression system has been added, as well as support for AAC and AMR Wideband encoding, giving applications the possibility to capture better audio than before.
There’s just one feature that’s almost like it was only meant to be funny. I’m talking about the ability to switch between the front and the back cameras. Users can take photos of themselves, and you know as well as I do that that feature is only used to take weird pictures with a friend.
Gingerbread is the first release since Donut (1.6) that brings a lot of new and really handy features. Sure, Eclair brought a bunch of features too, but that was all some fun-stuff, these are serious improvements and additions. I say: Way to go, Google!