Google has officially unveiled the next generation of its Android operating system for mobile devices today at the Google I/O developer conference. The SDK is available for developers today, and Google says Android 2.2 Froyo will be available to OEMs in the next few weeks.
There are a ton of changes in Froyo, but here are some of the most exciting new features:
Tethering and WiFi hot spot
As expected, you’ll be able to tether your Android phone to a computer or other device, allowing you to share a 3G wireless connection without paying separate bills for your phone and laptop connection — assuming your carrier lets you do that.
Users will have the choice of turning your phone into a portable Wifi hot spot or sharing your connection over a USB connection.
Faster app performance
Support for Adobe Flash and AIR
There’s not much more to say about this one. We knew it was coming, and it looks like Flash and AIR will both be supported under Android 2.2, making this one of the biggest things separating the Android platform from Apple’s iPhone platform.
Install apps on the SD card
Google says that people are regularly installing more than 40 apps on a device. Google has made it easier to install apps on an SD card, expanding the phone’s memory. Froyo will also automatically install apps to the SD card if it determines that would be helpful. But users will also be able to manually move apps from the main memory to an SD card.
Google has also made it easier to find apps by creating an App search tool. Developers can also plug into the search API so that you can put a widget on the home screen that lets you search within an app. For instance, if you use Mint for your personal finances, you can search your Mint data on the home screen.
You can find more new features, a ton of photos, and the official Google video introducing Android 2.2 after the break.
Access to the camera, mic, accelerometer from the web browser
Web app developers will be able to access the hardware on Android phones, which means a web site will be able to support voice input or recognize accelerometer actions.
You’ll also be able to do things like take a picture by clicking a button on a web site. One of the coolest demos Google showed off today was a web-based translation tool. You can open a web site, speak a question into your phone’s mic, and the web app will translate it into foreign language text — and then speak it out loud. Need to find a hospital in France? Your Android phone can help.
Automatic app updates
Google has added two new features that makes it easier to update apps. First, there’s now an “update all” button in the Android Market that lets you install all updates available for your installed apps.
You can also select an option that lets you automatically install updates with no user intervention required. Every time there’s a new update, it will be installed.
Android Market web interface
Google is officially launching a web interface for the Google Android Market — and it looks a lot like AppBrain, only better, because it lets you click an install button on the web site and automatically download the app on your Android device.
Music in the Android Market
You’ll now be able to purchase music from the Android Market and download it to your device. Google is also now offering the ability to stream music from your home PC directly to your Android phone.
Cloud to device messaging API
This new API lets developers create apps that send messages that trigger actions from the cloud to your device. That sounds boring. It’s not. Here’s what it means: You can view a map in your desktop web browser, hit a button, and driving directions will automatically open up on your phone. You don’t just get an email or a text message with a link to click. The navigation app opens up and starts giving you directions.
You can also use this API to do things like click a button to open the web page you’re viewing in a desktop browser on your mobile device. it should be interesting to see what other uses developers come up with.
Google has also added a few new ad formats for in-app ads. That includes expandable ads that you can click to pull down an add without leaving the app. These ads can also include rich media like videos, or click-to-call ads that will let you make a phone call to an advertiser with a single click.
Google Android progress
In other news, Google tooted its own horn a bit today, pointing out that 100,000 Android phones are now being activated every day. The Android Market now has more than 50,000 apps. And in the six months since Google introduced turn by turn navigation using Google Maps, more than a billion miles have been navigated.