Android 2.0: Your complete primer

Feeling hungry? Try a taste of Eclair, Google's brand new Android operating system.

Feeling hungry? Try a taste of Eclair, Google's brand new Android operating system.

Google took the wraps off its tasty-sounding OS, also known as Android 2.0, on Tuesday. The software is expected to officially debut on Verizon's Motorola Droid smartphone -- you know, the one that does all those things Apple's phone doesn't -- early next month.

Android Eclair adds a host of features into the open source OS (and, despite its mouth-watering name, appears to be fairly low-calorie if eaten). Here's a look at what's new.

Quick contact for Android

Android 2.0 includes a new "Quick Contact" feature that simplifies communication throughout your phone. The feature creates a menu bar with easy icons showing your contacts' communication modes -- e-mail, instant messaging, and whatever other venues you have listed for each person. The new bar pops up every time you tap on a contact's image anywhere on the device, whether you're in your actual contacts list, your e-mail, or even your calendar. Developers will also be able to incorporate the Quick Contact feature into third-party applications.

Multiple account support

Android 2.0 lets you manage multiple accounts throughout your device. That means you can sync up several e-mail addresses, Exchange-based or otherwise, and keep track of your messages and contacts together.

Android 2.0 multiple accounts

With the multiple account support, the 2.0 OS will allow you to create a combined inbox that displays messages from all of your accounts on a single page.

Camera improvements

Android 2.0's camera controls support flash and digital zoom. The software also includes options for scene mode, white balance, color effect, and macro focus.

Better keyboard

While the Verizon Droid will include a physical keyboard, other upcoming Android devices won't (and other existing Android devices don't). The Android 2.0 edition makes typing on the virtual on-screen keyboard easier, with a tweaked layout built to improve key-pressing accuracy and allow for faster typing. It also relies on a retooled dictionary that "learns" from your typing habits and includes names of your contacts as suggested words.

Better browser

The default browser in Android 2.0 features a "refreshed" user interface. A new address bar offers support for instant tap-driven searching and navigation, and double-tap zoom is supported throughout the browsing experience. The browser also supports HTML5 standards, including the usage of the geolocation API and video tag.

Better Bluetooth

Bluetooth gets a boost in Android 2.0: First, Bluetooth 2.1 is fully supported. Second, developers will be able to better integrate Bluetooth functionality into their apps. With the Android 2.0 update, applications will be able to activate Bluetooth on your phone, search for other Bluetooth-enabled devices, and send and receive Bluetooth data. That addition, according to Google, should allow for stronger peer-to-peer communication and "proximity-based social interaction."

Other additions

Android 2.0 introduces a new graphics architecture with better performance and improved hardware acceleration. It also brings SMS/MMS search and a handful of calendar improvements into the OS.

You can take a video tour of some of the new features in Google's Android 2.0 developer's video. Just be sure to wipe your hands when you're done -- all that Eclair is bound to leave some grease behind.

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JR Raphael

PC World (US online)
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