Google Android upgrade offers improvements in UI and rich multimedia

Android 2.3 Gingerbread also features a redesigned software keyboard and mobile payment capability

Google is unveiling on Monday an upgrade to its mobile platform, Android 2.3, which features refinements to the UI as well as capabilities for rich multimedia, mobile payments, and faster text input.

Version 2.3 also is known as the Gingerbread release of the platform. The UI, the Android developers blog said, is "easier to learn, faster to use, and more power efficient." A visual theme of colors against black enables more vividness and contrast to the notification bar, menus, and other parts of the UI. Menu and setting changes make it easier to control features of the system and device.

[ Google is being sued by Oracle over Android. | Learn how to manage iPhones, Androids, BlackBerrys, and other smartphones in InfoWorld's 20-page Mobile Management Deep Dive PDF special report. | Keep up on key mobile developments and insights with the Mobile Edge blog and Mobilize newsletter. ]

Version 2.3 boosts its multimedia environment for games and other applications by supporting the VP8 and WebM video formats along with AAC and AMR-wideband encoding. "The platform also provides new audio effects, such as reverb, equalization, headphone virtualization, and bass boost," according to a blog post by Xavier Ducrohet, Android SDK lead.

A new media framework replaces OpenCore, maintaining previous codec/container support for editing and decoding. Also, support has been added for communications via front-facing camera, SIP/VOIP, and near field communications, which can be used for making mobile payments. The Android software keyboard, meanwhile, has been redesigned for faster text input and editing. "The keys themselves are reshaped and repositioned for improved targeting, making them easier to see and press accurately, even at high speeds," the Android developers blog said. Users of the new keyboard can correct entered words from suggestions in a dictionary.

For developers, the Dalvik VM introduces a concurrent garbage collector that minimizes application pauses, which can boost development of games and similar applications. Faster event distribution is featured as well, along with updated video drivers. Native application enhancements let native code process input and sensor events directly to improve responsiveness. Version 2.3 offers improved 3D motion processing as well.

Improved power management capabilities manage applications that keep the device awake too long or consume CPU while running in the background. "By managing such apps -- closing them if appropriate -- the system helps ensure the best possible performance and battery life," the Android developer blog said.

Along with the platform upgrade, Google is releasing updates to SDK Tools, Native Development Kit, and the Android Development Tools Plugin for Eclipse, featuring simplified debug builds and HierarchyViewer improvements, such as an updated UI.

This article, "Google Android upgrade offers improvements in UI and rich multimedia," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Follow the latest developments in business technology news and get a digest of the key stories each day in the InfoWorld Daily newsletter.

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