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Android 2.2 to Feature USB Tethering, WiFi Hotspots, and JIT

05.13.2010
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It's that time again.  The time when Google heralds an imminent Android release with the unveiling of oversized sweets.  We can probably expect to see the release of Android version 2.2 "Froyo" before Google I/O finishes next week.  Most news sites are putting their money on May 19th, the opening day of the conference.  It'll be a day for the record books for both Google and Adobe as they unveil the first mobile OS to run a full-fledged version of Flash (10.1).  Android engineers will also be holding a session where developers can learn how to test and tune their apps to work with the new JIT compiler.  Although some features mentioned on news sites still hold 'rumor' status, the JIT compiler, along with other features announced this week, are confirmed


Image via Androidandme.com

Let's kick it off with a list of the main new features that are expected or rumored to be in Froyo:

  • Flash 10.1 support
  • JIT compiler
  • Additional RAM (via Linux kernel 2.6.32)
  • USB tethering
  • WiFi Hotspot
  • OpenGL ES 2.0 enhancements
  • Activation of color trackball
  • FM radio
  • Performance enhancements

Now let's go over the features that we know will be in 2.2.  Just this week it was revealed that Froyo will feature built-in USB tethering, allowing users to sync their data connection with desktops.  Froyo will also be able to work as a portable WiFi hotspot; a feature that only Palm phones have had so far.  These features will definitely put Android ahead of the iPhone in certain areas.   Apple and AT&T still haven't been able to allow USB tethering in the US.  Android's WiFi hotspot support will have to be described in more detail at Google I/O because there's no indication whether or not carriers will be able to turn this feature on and off or charge for it.  The JIT compiler has also been confirmed for 2.2.


Image via TechCrunch

Flash 10.1 is all but guaranteed to be on Android 2.2 since Adobe has said to expect in the first half of this year.  There should also be free additional RAM with the next version of Android because its Linux kernel is moving from 2.6.29 to 2.6.32.  This new kernel will open up access to extra RAM.  Multicolor trackball notifications are heavily expected as well because Google advertised it during the Nexus One launch.  The feature was cut from the last build; Android 2.1.  Suggestions about OpenGL ES 2.0 enhancements in Android 2.2 (or a future build) have been floating around for awhile.  The rumors say that Google is planning to add new APIs to the Android NDK that will give Java developers full access to the OpenGL ES 2.0 library.  That's a pretty big deal if it arrives in this release.  It could drastically increase the number of Android platform developers.  As for the FM radio - it's a toss up since no significant evidence has come up other than the initial rumored feature list.

With new releases, you're almost guaranteed to have a performance increase.  However, the performance of this upcoming version could be a lot higher than the previous version.  A recent report benchmarked Android 2.2 on the Nexus One.  The results showed a 450% performance increase from 2.1 to 2.2.  Those numbers might be too good to be true, but I'm sure we can expect a decent performance boost in Froyo.