A 'Donut' for Google Android Developers
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Developers can now get their hands on Donut.
The new SDK for version 1.6 of Google's Android mobile OS -- a release codenamed "Donut" -- has made its debut today, offering developers improvements that will extend the reach of mobile apps written for Google's open source platform to more wireless devices and networks.
Android 1.6 includes support for CDMA, additional screen sizes and a text-to-speech engine, among other updates, according to Xavier Ducrohet, Android developer tools engineer for Google (NASDAQ: GOOG), who posted the announcement at the Android Developers Blog.
He added that Donut will be officially making its way to phones "as early as October."
The most important feature of 1.6, which follows the May roll out of Cupcake or version 1.5 , is the support for CDMA smartphones, which means Android can now -- theoretically -- run on handsets operating on Verizon Wireless and Sprint, adding more potential partners to the mix.
At present, only T-Mobile offers Android phones in the U.S., but Sprint has already revealed plans to offer the Android-powered HTC Hero.
Avi Greengart, analyst at Current Analysis, told InternetNews.com that for the future of Android, "Support for CDMA is crucial -- though somewhat anticlimactic, since the HTC Hero has already been announced for Sprint."
The Android 1.6 SDK requires a new version of Android Development Tools (ADT). The SDK also includes a new tool that enables developers to download updates and additional components, such as new add-ons or platforms.
For users, the new version will improve search of multiple sources -- browser bookmarks and history, contact, the Web -- directly from the homescreen. The new search will adapt to show the most popular contacts or apps when a user types the first few letters of a relevant query.
Developers can also now more easily expose relevant content from their applications in the Quick Search Box under the new search framework.
An updated user interface provides an integrated camera, camcorder and gallery experience. Users can quickly toggle between still and video-capture modes. Additionally, the gallery enables users to select multiple photos for deletion.
Google also said Android 1.6 also provides a much faster camera experience. Compared to the previous release, launching the camera is now 39 percent faster, and there is a 28 percent improvement in the time from completing one shot to the next, according to Ducrohet.
The Linux kernel within Android 1.6 also gets an update, from 2.6.27 to 2.6.29. The release also provides new framework APIs and now supports version 2 of the media engine OpenCore. It also has expanded support for screen densities and resolutions and for gesture features.
Other new tools include enhanced VPN connections and a battery use monitor for apps.
The release of Donut coincides with recent improvements to the way handset owners browse and shop for apps at the Android Market. For instance, at the homescreen, users can choose among apps, games and download categories; inside a category, users can explore titles that are either most popular or new and choose between free and paid titles; and for each title, users can now see screenshots submitted by developers in addition to reviews from other users.
[cob:Special_Report]Donut's SDK comes at a time when key players in the mobile industry are competing to dominate the lucrative smartphone market with improved handsets and major updates to their respective operating systems.
These developments include the launch of Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) iPhone 3GS and the recent update of the OS to 3.1. BlackBerry maker Research In Motion (NASDAQ:RIMM) is expected to unveil a new mobile browser early next year and to introduce the update to the Storm next month.
Palm (NASDAQ: PALM) followed up the June debut of the Pre with the smaller, entry-level Pixi and is widely expected to next week issue version 1.2 of webOS, the software powering both phones.
There's also speculation that the official unveiling of its App Catalog for webOS programs will be Sept. 24. Palm spokespeople did not return requests for comment by press time.
In other Android news, Internet radio firm Pandora just released an Android app for the G1 and myTouch, and Pandora CTO Tom Conrad said the company is also working with Sprint to ensure it will run on the HTC Hero when issued next month.
"As much as I would have liked to have had Pandora out for the G1 [launch], I think we're intersecting with the Android universe at a really great point, with Donut out now and the enhancements they've made," Conrad told InternetNews.com. "I think a year from now we'll be looking at a vibrant ecosystem for Android that will challenge the established players."
Not to be left out, the world's largest phone maker, Nokia (NASDAQ: NOK) is also gunning for an edge in the wireless sector, as is software giant Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT).
Nokia is set to launch a new mobile Internet device, the N900, running on its new open-source platform Maemo 5, and is planning to offer a netbook called the Nokia Booklet 3G later this year. The company also unveiled a new line of music smartphones and opened its Symbian and Maemo platforms to developers with new APIs and an SDK for Ovi, its mobile online services.
Microsoft on Oct. 6 will host a global rollout of a slew of phones powered by the latest version of Windows Mobile, version 6.5. Carriers and handset makers listed for Microsoft releases in North America include AT&T, Bell Mobility, Sprint, Telus and Verizon Wireless, and phone manufacturers HP, HTC, LG Electronics, Samsung and Toshiba.
Update adds comments from Conrad.