Android's Gingerbread goodies

Gingerbread, the latest update for Google’s Android smartphone operating system, is now just weeks, or perhaps even days away from release. The Android 2.3 release was rumoured for November 11 but Google CEO, Eric Schmidt, speaking at the Web 2.0 summit earlier this week, said Gingerbread would only ship “in the next few weeks.”

Gingerbread will be the next major update to the popular smartphone OS and the latest with a food-related codename. Gingerbread succeeds the likes of Froyo, Eclair and Cupcake.

So, what tasty changes will Gingerbread bring with it when it is released?

One of Gingerbread’s most noticeable changes will be in the user interface. A neater, more consistent look can be expected from the new release as developers add polish to the underlying OS. Google will also no doubt be hoping that a more polished interface for Android will reduce the number of handset makers opting to customise the interface for their own devices. Consistency across all Android-based phones is an obvious goal for Google.

Copy and paste is expected to get some much needed changes. Android does already include a copy and paste feature but it’s not as user-friendly as many would like. Primarily the improvements are likely to be in copying and pasting between applications.

On the multimedia front users can expect WebM support for Gingerbread. WebM is Google’s royalty-free video format that it is pitting as an alternative to Flash video and the proprietary H.264 format being promoted by the likes of Apple. If this is the case it adds the option for high-definition video on Android devices.

Better social networking is also likely to be on the cards. Android is pretty good at connecting to most popular social networks, such as Facebook, Twitter and so on, but Google will undoubtedly be eyeing out better integration of these. It’s also very likely that Google will start integrating video and audio chat through the likes of Google Chat and Google Voice.

The Android marketplace will also see some updates. The marketplace has boomed over the past year and is now close to 100 000 applications strong. However, Android has faced some criticism over the marketplace around the quality of applications and their usability.

Already Google has rolled out some changes in the marketplace which will improve the way that users access and search for applications. These are specifically aimed at developers but they appear to be encouraging application makers to provide more information for users, a move which will hopefully improve the overall experience for end-users, and those that are paying money for applications.

An exact date for Gingerbread’s release has not been set, but it can be expected in the next couple of weeks.

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Android's Gingerbread goodies