Android 2.3 Gingerbread—and Later
The most recent current release of Google's Android mobile operating system—code-named Gingerbread—may be looking to replace your credit card. Android 2.3 is the first iteration of the OS to support near-field communication (NFC) chips, meaning that you could use a smartphone running Gingerbread as a "swipable" payment device.
Among Gingerbread's other intriguing new features are native support for Voice-over-IP calling, manual control over front-facing and back-facing cameras, simpler cut-and-paste controls, and improved power management.
The [[xref:http://www.pcworld.com/reviews/product/745795/review/samsung_nexus_s.html|Samsung Nexus S|Samsung Nexus S]] (shown here) is the first cell phone to offer Gingerbread out of the box, but it most assuredly won't be the last. Prepare for a wave of Android 2.3-loaded smartphones to reach stores by the middle of 2011 and perhaps earlier.
Also on the way is a tablet-specific version of the Android operating system—[[xref:http://www.pcworld.com/article/215716/motorola_xoom_android_30_tablet_announced_let_the_tablet_wars_begin.html|Android 3.0 ("Honeycomb")|Android 3.0 ("Honeycomb")]]—which Google recently [[xref:http://www.pcworld.com/article/212725/google_demos_motorola_tablet_running_android_30.html|demonstrated on an unannounced, iPad-like Motorola tablet|Google Demos Motorola Tablet Running Android 3.0]] at the D: Dive Into Mobile Conference in San Francisco. Will devices powered by Honeycomb make up ground on Apple's runaway iPad market share? That outcome certainly seems possible, as long as the devices themselves are up to snuff.