Google has taken the wraps off the next major version of Android: Android 2.0 (also known as "Eclair"). This is the first of a series of 3 articles covering what the new release has to offer. In part 1, I'll cover user features and availability. Part 2 covers developer features, and part 3 will try to answer any other questions you might have about the new platform.
New user features This video from Google shows off a few of the new features:
Eclair features include:
- The most important new feature in Android 2.0 is support for multi-touch devices. Up to 3 fingers can be tracked on the screen at a time. Among other things, this allows for faster typing on the virtual keyboard and multi-touch gestures for zooming and scrolling.
- Android 2.0 has a single, secure interface for managing multiple online accounts. You can enter your credentials once (for example your email address and password) so that applications don't have to prompt you for those individually.
- The email and contact apps support multiple accounts, including Microsoft Exchange Server. (Note: Exchange support is optional and some carriers might not offer it, but the Motorola Droid will have it).
- Support for soft keys. Some new Android devices will not have hardware buttons for HOME, MENU, BACK, and so forth. Instead, they'll either have touch-sensitive areas on the front of the device, or dedicated widgets or soft key areas on the main display.
- An updated browser with a refreshed user interface, web page thumbnails, and better support for HTML5 (including the <video> tag).
- An enhanced camera app with features like digital zoom, flash, color effects, and more.
- Searchable SMS and MMS messages.
The Android 2.0 Software Developer's Kit (SDK) is available today so that developers can verify their programs will work with the new operating system. The first retail device running 2.0 will be the Motorola Droid. It's expected to be announced tomorrow at a Verizon event and is scheduled to come out sometime in November. The second device with 2.0 will probably be Sony Ericsson's Xperia X3/Infinity/Rachael (it's traditional for every Android phone to have at least 3 names). A release date for that model hasn't been announced but it's widely expected to be out before the end of the year as well.