Mobile Phones Guide
Baking the Gingerbread Android
As we've mentioned earlier, the Nexus S is a showcase of Google's latest mobile operating system. Officially known as Google Android 2.3, and dubbed as Gingerbread along its dessert naming line, it's just a few slight updates from its earlier Android 2.2 variant. As expected, existing features on Android 2.2 will be available on version 2.3, which includes wireless tethering and Adobe Flash 10.1 player support on the Nexus S.
To be honest, Android 2.3 is more of an answer to the needs of the developers, notably for game developers with the opening up of various APIs. To put it simply, developers now have a wider access to design their games, through various motion gestures via gyroscope and better graphics rendering with updated video drivers from the 2.3 update.
As a user, will the above updates matter to you? It does, when you look at the potential apps that'll pop up on the Android Market with these new features. Speaking of which, Android users might have noticed a distinct change in the Android Market layout. This is also true for the Android 2.3 platform, which gives you a better view of the featured and popular apps in the Android Market.
Independent of the app, the changes that will directly affect your user experience are still quite noticeable. On the home page, the immediate differences aren't apparent. Perhaps you might notice the slight change in its live wallpapers, and a black background for its notifications and home page against its apps will be more apparent. Once you click on the main menu, you'll see the same stock user interface as Android 2.2, including a scrolling menu with apps at the top and bottom edges just slightly visible. We spotted a slight change in the secondary menu, with a Manage Apps option now available.
Apps management aside, Android 2.3 brings some minor upgrades to the user experience. According to Google, the soft keyboard has been redesigned to optimize typing speeds and accuracy. For the former, we can't really agree. Accuracy, however, is more towards the auto-correct programming, which managed to rectify most of our spelling errors.
Multi-touch also plays an important role in the new keyboard. For one, you can simply hold the Caps or Symbol key and type the alternative key, and it'll revert to its original state. This is also aptly used for word selection, when a cursor is used to drag across a range of words to copy or paste.
This isn't the extent of the updates that are available on the Gingerbread platform. Some features, such as internet calling, isn't exactly a new feature that we are too impressed by. Others, like near-field communications (NFC), does have some potential if the right players are involved in your respective cities. NFC basically acts as a tag collector, and should you be in the vicinity of one, the tag will be fed into your phone, and with it, information about, for example, a shop's specialty or discount of the day. On the flipside, should this be viewed negatively, it could act as an avenue to infect your Android device. Nonetheless, we believe if you exercise due caution, this should pose minimal risk.
As we've mentioned, the Gingerbread updates aren't a huge leap from its earlier versions. Yet, you cannot discount the fact that every little bit counts, such as a Downloads app that lets you look through all your downloads via the browser, email or any application with one easy glance. Further to that, one of the main grouses we had with earlier Android versions was the lack of support for front-facing video cameras. This has been addressed earlier on, and the Gingerbread update gives its camera app the ability to swap between the various cameras on the device.