Google's method of rapidly and regularly dishing out updates to their Android platform is a great way to get people more and more excited about their smartphone platform. But its negative effect is that existing owners of Android phones (other than the Nexus One) crib and cry about the delays till an update comes to their phone. For example, owners of the Sony Ericsson XPERIA X10 have gotten their Android 2.1 update just now, something Google had put out to the world in the beginning of January 2010.
The latest Android 2.2 (or Froyo as it is popularly known), was released to the masses on May 20 this year. It brought in performance improvements, Wi-fi hotspot functionality, the ability to install apps on an SD card and Adobe Flash 10.1 support.
Android's version 2.3 or Gingerbread was supposed to come out of the cookie jar yesterday (November 11) but there's no official word on it till now. However, there have been a couple of confirmed new features, like improved copy-paste and social networking features as well as support for Google's new WebM video format. There is also some speculation about it including features like an iTunes-like Music Store, revamped UI, support for bigger screens and higher resolutions (up to 1366 x 768 pixels).
Either way there are a few small things sorely missing from the most recent build of Android that we'd like to see be a part of version 2.3. Also, there are a couple of features that we think would do good as well. Read on to find out what they are.
Google Audio and Video Chat Integration
Apple brought the dying concept of video-conferencing on cellphones back to life with their "FaceTime" feature on the new iPhone 4 and the fourth iPod Touch. You can make video-calls using Wi-fi with it and avoid paying call charges by the minute, which you would have to if you were making a typical 3G video call. Now that people have started getting excited about video-calling again, this is the perfect time for Google to make the best of the opportunity. The disadvantage of Apple's Facetime, other than its inability to work over 3G networks, is that it, as of now, only works on the two Apple devices mentioned above and a Mac.
Google already has the Google Audio and Video Chat as an operational feature in their Google Talk for PCs. Let's face it, at least 70 percent of the people you communicate with online use Google Talk. It's a shame Android by default does not even support typical video-calls over 3G, something that is rumored to be fixed in version 2.3. This could very well be one of the reasons why Google is on its way to release the next iteration of their Nexus phone with a front facing camera (the Nexus One didn't have one).
But we're saying we want more than that - we want Google Talk on our Android phones to support video and audio chatting. That way not only will you be able to video-call any other Android phone, but you'd also be able to make video-calls from the phone to any PC. The best part is that you don't need to have hardware from a certain company for it to work. Google Video Chat works in any browser; in Windows, Mac and Linux!
While third party app makers like Fring are making efforts in the same direction, having this feature built-in is a nicer deal. Also, there's a angry row of people complaining about how most Android phones today don't have a secondary video-call camera. Implementing this feature will give the manufacturers a compelling reason to put that front camera sensor in their next model.
Google Docs app
At the end of September, Google announced in a blog entry that editing a Google Document will come to the Android and iOS platform. It's been over a month now with no further word on it. If you open Google Docs in the Android web browser as of today, it takes you to a mobile site where you can just view your documents, not edit them. We can understand that providing editing options on a small mobilephone screen would be a challenging task (imagine how those drop down menus and the text manipulation toolbox would fit).
There can be an app for that. A Google Docs app that lets you at least make changes to your typed documents and spreadsheets, invite others to collaborate or even e-mail it as an attachment. Making presentations on that small screen is an overkill in my opinion, but you may think differently. I think smartphones of today are definitely more than capable of just viewing documents.