In this article I'll answer some frequently asked questions about Android 2.0 from regular users and developers. Just for fun I've tossed in a few questions about the new Motorola DROID phone as well. This is the last of a 3-part series.
This is the last of a series of articles on Android 2.0 ("Eclair"). In part 1, we examined the user-oriented features of the new release, and in part 2 we discussed several features intended for developers. For this final part we'll switch gears and answer some frequently asked questions about Eclair from both users and developers. Just for fun I've tossed in a few questions about the Motorola DROID as well.
By the way, if you have any questions that I didn't cover, just ask them in the talkback area.
Q. When can I get Android 2.0?
The Android 2.0 Software Development Kit is available now. This includes an emulator that lets you run a virtual Android device on your desktop computer.
The first phone with Android 2.0 installed is the Motorola DROID, which will be carried by Verizon in the US starting November 6th. The second one will probably be Sony Ericsson’s Xperia X3/Infinity/Rachael . 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.
Q. Will the Acer A1 Liquid phone with Snapdragon have 2.0?
It has been rumored that the first Android phone, the HTC G1/Dream, doesn't have enough memory to run 2.0. However, I don't think that will necessarily be the case. If you remember, they said the same thing about version 1.6. Like 1.6, 2.0 is a little too big to fit into the G1's memory. But with a few optimizations, 1.6 was slimmed down enough to fit, so the current speculation is that 2.0 can be made to fit also. ...
The HTC Magic/Sapphire/MyTouch3G/Ion has more internal memory than the G1 so that's not an issue. It's up to the carrier, though, whether or not they want to go through the trouble of an over-the-air update.
Luckily with Android you don't need to wait for Google or T-Mobile or whoever to update your phone - you can do it yourself. If you're a highly skilled hacker, that is. Or just know one, like Steve Kondik (aka Cyanogen). Modders such as Steve are certain to come out with their own installable images of Android 2.0 just like they did with 1.6 and 1.5 before it.
Q. Does 2.0 come with a terminal emulator?
No, but "There's an app for that" in the Android Market. More than one, actually. I've heard ConnectBot is good but I haven't tried it. Also, if you're using the emulator you can find a terminal inside the Dev Tools program.
Q. Are there any books that cover 2.0 yet?
Gimme a break, 2.0 just came out this week. :)
I happen to know there is a new book for Android 1.5 and 1.6, hot off the presses. The changes from 1.6 to 2.0 are much smaller than the changes from 1.1 to 1.5, so aside from a few cosmetic differences like directory names and tweaks to the Eclipse plug-in, any 1.6 book will work just fine for 2.0 development too.
Of course a 1.6 book won't cover new topics like Sync Adapters and Quick Contacts but you can pick up those things from posts on blogs and newsgroups. As far as I know, there won't be any 2.0-specific books in print until well into next year. Just before the next Android version is released, no doubt.
Q. Does Google's new Navigator app require Android 2.0?
In case you missed it in all the other news, Google Maps Navigation is a voice-activated turn-by-turn GPS application that Google is giving away. According to Google, it is "currently only available in the US on phones that run Android 2.0, including the DROID".
Q. Will there be an iPhone version?
Google says it's entirely up to Apple. But Apple loved the Google Voice app so much, I'm sure they wouldn't mind approving the Navigator.
Q. How about a Nokia/Blackberry/Palm/Windows Mobile version?
Q. Since the DROID has twice the resolution of the iPhone, and yet the screen is only a little bigger, won't all the text be too tiny to read?
Nope. The user interface (including the text, icons, etc.) is scaled according to the density, or dots per inch, of your display. It will actually be more readable because DROID uses those extra pixels to make the fonts and everything else smoother.
Q. What do those two little blank buttons on the bottom of the DROID keyboard do?
The one on the left activates the Death Star and destroys Alderaan, and the one on the right brings up a Twitter application. Or maybe it was the other way around; I get them confused.
Actually, they don't do anything. They're not even keys, just plastic tabs.
Q. Will the GPS be functional if I don't buy the Verizon data plan?
The GPS chip would be functional; in other words the phone would know your longitude and latitude. However that wouldn't do you much good because Google Maps will not be able to function if you don't have any kind of internet connection.
A more common scenario is that you have a connection but it's unreliable and cuts in and out. In that case, Google Maps Navigation still work for the most part. The program will continue to give you directions ("turn right in 300 feet", etc.) because some pre-fetched map data for your route is downloaded and stored locally in the background. However your underlying map tiles may not load and you won't receive a reroute if you deviate from the original planned route. Depending on how bad your connection is, you may not notice the difference.
Q. Does 2.0 allow for more than 3 home screens?
No, not in the standard home screen app that comes with the phone. Of course, you are free to put your own home screen program on there that supports more screens or any other kind of navigation you like. Some manufacturers or carriers will bundle in a non-standard home screen app to help differentiate their phones from the competition. For example the HTC Hero has its Sense UI, and the Motorola CLIQ has MotoBlur.
If FLAC is important to you, be sure to vote for the enhancement request to add the FLAC codec to the regular Android distribution. Some Google Android team members have expressed interest, but there's a little issue with the license to overcome and the library would need a "thorough security review" because it's native code.
The Android 2.0 API includes the android.bluetooth package, which among other thing allows you to create an RFCOMM socket. See the documentation on the BluetoothDevice class for more information. You could do it in older releases, but 2.0 is the first one that makes it a public and supported part of the platform.
Q. Will Verizon allow tethering on the DROID phone?
Tethering (using your phone as a modem for a laptop) has always been possible on Android phones if you were willing to do a little hacking. But during a press call, Verizon officials said that that while the DROID does not support tethering out of the box they would support tethering as an "over-the-air upgrade for customers". Verizon is also said to be working on a device that will combine Android with MiFi for a wireless tethering option. MiFi is Verizon's popular little gadget that converts their 3G signal into WiFi so your laptop computer, iPod Touch, Nintendo DS, or other device can use WiFi to connect to the internet.
Q. Is there any vendor producing an unlocked Android phone that can be used with any carrier just by inserting the SIM?
Both the ADP1 and Google Ion are unlocked development phones. You can get one on ebay.
Other than some kind of jailbreaking, I've heard that T-Mobile will unlock your phone after you've been a paying customer for a few months. I tried to get my G1 unlocked and they said they would but never got around to responding with the unlock codes, so your mileage will vary. Call your carrier and see what they say.
Q. Hey, why didn't you answer my question?
See that talkback area down there at the bottom of this page? Insert a question and if I deem it worthy (read: know the answer) then I'll move it up here and answer it. And if you see somebody else's question and know the answer, please share with the class.
Q. Ew, then I'd have to fill in that yucky registration form?
It's not yucky any more -- just a name and email address (which will not be shared, even with me).