A new version of Google’s popular Android phone OS, code named “Gingerbread,” is scheduled to arrive soon – or so says the giant gingerbread man on Google’s campus.
Google’s Andy Rubin, in an interview last month, said that Gingerbread may include better social-media hooks, better gaming options, and ways to blend the Web and native applications. There’s a lot of speculation over what Android 2.3 or 3.0 should offer, but I also have a few wishes of my own.
1. Faster, better updates. Google needs to caucus with the phone manufacturers and carriers to provide a better way for users to promptly get updates to their phones. Many phones are stuck with old versions of Android; the worst example, Dell’s Aero, is currently selling with Android 1.5. Google’s Rubin said that the market will shake out laggards, but that doesn’t help the millions of people who bought phones that aren’t being upgraded. Google needs to goose its partners, maybe even threatening to remove access to Google services if they don’t get their updates in gear.
2. More, componentized Google Apps. Phones carrying the “with Google” brand should integrate tightly with all Google services, not just Gmail and Maps. The T-Mobile G2 took a step forward with Google Voice integration, and I’d especially like to see a better Google Docs experience on Android phones. Since we’re having our cake and eating it here, let’s make second-tier services like Google Sky Map user-removable, but when they’re installed, let them plug into the system at a relatively low level.
3. Google Voice VoIP and video chat. Qik and Fring have had their chance. Heck, they still have their chance. But they haven’t yet been able to provide a satisfactory video-calling solution for Android phones. Google needs to integrate both video calling and its Gizmo5 VoIP product directly into Google Voice, to show third parties how it’s done.
4. Tablets, tablets, tablets. Gingerbread may be Google’s official “tablet” release, where the company finally embraces devices with 1,024-by-600 or larger screens that don’t make phone calls. To offer a great tablet experience, Google needs to rewrite its PIM apps to support larger screens, find some way to translate third-party apps into a big-screen experience and help developers target tablet users through Android Market.
5. Fix Exchange e-mail. This is a personal pet peeve; there’s a bug in the Android 2.2 Microsoft Exchange e-mail client that batters your battery if you keep a very large, server-side inbox. I have such an inbox. Google should fix this.
There’s one thing I don’t want from Google: a unified, mandated single user interface. I’ve always felt that Google’s “stock Android” interface is a bit spare and unfriendly, and I’ve really liked what Samsung and HTC, especially, have done to innovate on top of it. I’m hoping that Google can find some way to square this innovation with actually providing frequent system updates.