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Flash: Android 2.2 Release Offers What Apple Won't
The latest version of Google's Android OS is officially numbered 2.2 and was nicknamed "Froyo," as in frozen yogurt. But it could also have another, just as appropriate nickname -- the "I'm not an iPhone" update.
That's because two of the mobile operating systems' most-heralded updates are features conspicuously lacking on Apple's iPhone: tethering and, more importantly, Flash capability. Apple has consistently said it disallows Flash on the iPhone because of concerns about its resource usage, which is high, and its record of insecurity; for years, Flash has been a well-known attack vector for malware.
Those concerns weren't enough to dissuade Google. Android 2.2 uses Flash version 10.1 for multimedia functionality. As for tethering -- the ability to link a phone with a laptop, which acts as a modem for online access -- Apple has said it's a feature that will be added in future versions of the iPhone OS, without giving any specific timeframe.
Apart from those two upgrades in Android, most of the changes are fairly minor. The home screen has added two new icons at the bottom, surrounding the applications symbol in the center: a phone symbol (i.e., dialer) on the left and a globe (i.e., browser) on the right. In addition, the video player has added a red "HQ" icon, for an alleged higher quality viewing experience. But initial reviews of the new setting indicate that the picture is about the same on Android 2.2 as it was on Android 2.1, also known as "Eclair."
The other upgrade important for consumers and developers alike is the improved speed of the OS. Android 2.2, claims Google, is two to five times faster than 2.1, a difference that will be especially noticeable under heavy CPU loads.
Ultimately, Android 2.2 is a more polished, more complete OS than its predecessor, and does some things that its main competition, the iPhone, doesn't do. It's already garnered a large amount of market share. It also increases the ability for mobile developers to leverage already-existing applications with Flash functionality, and to build that functionality into as-yet-unreleased applications. It will be interesting to see how Apple responds with its own iPhone upgrade, which is expected to be announced at its Worldwide Developer Conference, set to begin on June 7.
Keith Ward is the editor in chief of Visual Studio Magazine.