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Old January 8th, 2010, 04:31 AM   #5 (permalink)
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Voice controls - Being able to control your phone via voice may not be at the top of everyone's list of features, but as the demo on the Nexus One showed, its implementation in Android 2.1 is immense. Not only can you demand it takes you somewhere and be presented with turn-by-turn voice directions, but you can also send Tweets, SMS messages and emails just by telling your phone what you want to say. Smart, huh?

Can't think of any situation where I would need to talk to my phone or where I wouldn't feel an absolute fool doing it. One of the reasons I prefer to text/email/Tweet/etc is that it is a lot more private when out and about than calling and shouting my message down the phone to someone.

Google Earth - The Google Earth app for Android will launch hand in hand with 2.1, and it does look mighty impressive from over here. It's pretty similar, well, to Google Earth on iPhone, but there's a new mode where you can apparently fly through the air like a bird. Nice.

Struggling to see how this is different to the Satellite View in Google Maps that we currently have, except the ability to "fly through the air like a bird".

- The phonebook on Android 2.1 devices will automatically pull in contacts from multiple sources including Facebook, and although it was a feature found on many customised UIs such as Motorola's MotoBLUR, having it natively installed makes it much smoother.

Blackberry tried to do this with an update just as I was leaving for Android. Hated it. I don't want contact pics changing when Facebook users decide to. I don't want to lose phone numbers when Facebook users decide to remove them from their account. I want control over my own phonebook.

- Android 2.1 will bring with it the ability to have more than one Gmail account working from the same inbox. This means if you have two Gmail accounts, you can get them both feeding one inbox, rather than having to set up separate accounts.

Which you can already do using the other email application which comes installed (just set up your Gmail as IMAP) or with something like K-9 Mail which offers far greater flexibility and features than the Gmail app.

Weather App
- The new weather app as featured on Android 2.1 will include dynamic weather updates that use GPS to give minute-by-minute accounts of the temperature, humidity and weather conditions in your current location.

I guess I can't comment on this one. If I want to know the weather I look outside the window.

Interactive wallpapers - OK, so this doesn't really improve the functionality of Android, but it will make Android devices look prettier. Animated wallpapers are onboard, and if you fancy it, you can interact with them too. For example, if you have an animated wallpaper featuring water, you can press the screen and ripples will appear.

Imagine this is just there as a "can your iPhone do THIS?" facility. Certainly not useful and guranateed to use up battery and processing power.

- The vanilla version of 2.1 will now ship with five homescreens rather than the measly three on 2.0 devices. It means you can cram in more apps from the rapidly increasing selection on the Android Market, and of course shortcuts and Widgets. Although customised OS Android devices (such as the Milestone, T-Mobile Pulse, HTC Magic) did previously have more than three homescreens, they're now there from the off!

Actually might be useful this one. Of course, pointless for anyone with an HTC device with seven home screens. Make more sense if they actually made the folders useable my allowing custom arranging of icons within them. Wouldn't need more than three homescreens then.

Photo gallery
- A new photo gallery feature brings a new way of viewing your pics to Android. Google took some of the functionality from COOLIRIS, allowing you to seamlessly browse your photos on a 3D wall. Albums are clustered by time, date and location too, so your gallery will be perfectly ordered.

I'll not comment on this one until I've seen it.
Current photo viewer is pretty poor, so let's hope this is an improvement.

App Launcher
- Android's App Launcher has been revamped so you no longer have to drag and pull to get to the app menu. Simply tap a button and everything smoothly zooms into place

Funny - I thought that was already the case. Is on my Hero and Magic.

Firmware upgrade - Although not directly related to the new firmware features, news is spreading that some lucky Android users will be able to upgrade existing devices to 2.1. The list so far includes the HTC Magic, Samsung Galaxy and Motorola Milestone, although we're sure most newer Android devices will benefit from the upgrade too.

"Some lucky Android users"? That's almost patronising enough for me to decide right now that this will be my last Android device.

Now, this IS the only list of 2.1 updates I have read so I may be missing out on a whole lot of other stuff, but why are Google concentrating on allowing us to "fly like a bird" and ignoring basic shortcomings in the things that really matter such as contacts (Why can't we sort by last name? Why do they think that postal addresses are so unimportant?), calendar (Why is there no useable week view?), Tasks (What tasks? They're there in Google online), etc.
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Last edited by brykins; January 8th, 2010 at 04:31 AM.
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