Google Gives Developers Preview of New Android SDK

Google has previewed the software development kit for Android 1.5 that will become available around the end of this month. Android 1.5 will come with improvements such as the open-source WebKit browser and the SquirrelFish JavaScript engines. An on-screen Android keyboard will work in both the portrait and landscape modes.
Google has unleashed a preview version of its software development kit for Android 1.5 to give developers an early look at the new features and capabilities coming in the mobile platform's refresh. The final SDK for Android 1.5 is expected to become available to software developers around the end of this month.

Android 1.5 integrates performance Relevant Products/Services improvements such as faster camera startup and image capture, support for video recording and playback, smoother browser page scrolling, and speedier acquisition of the user's GPS location. The SDK upgrade introduces APIs for on-screen keyboards and speech-recognition applications, said Android Open Source Project team member Xavier Ducrohet.

A Fully Baked Cupcake
Though Android is an evolving open-source product, some software development has been continuing in a private development branch. During the past few months, the Android Open Source Project began pushing these changes to a read-only mirror of the private Android branch called the cupcake.

Android 1.5 is expected to include all the changes previously featured in the cupcake, together with others not yet specified. "Cupcake is still very much a work in progress," the Android Open Source Project team said. "It is a development branch, not a release."

Android 1.5 comes bundled with several home-screen widgets such as an analog clock, calendar, music player, and picture frame. The new SDK offers developers a framework for building their own home-screen widgets as well as the ability to populate live folders with their creations.

The Android Open Source Project also has changed the structure of the SDK. "Future Android SDK releases will include multiple versions of the Android platform," Ducrohet said. "For example, this early look includes Android platform versions 1.1 and 1.5."

One benefit of this change, Ducrohet said, is that developers can target different Android platform versions from within a single SDK installation. "Another is that it enables developers to install Android SDK add-ons to access extended functionality that might be provided by OEMs, carriers or other providers," Ducrohet said.

New Features
Android 1.5 includes the open-source WebKit browser and SquirrelFish JavaScript engines. Among other things, upgrading will allow users to copy and paste Web content as well as search within a page.

Android aficionados also will like that the on-screen keyboard featured in the new SDK will work in both the portrait and landscape modes. Also on tap are support for the user installation of soft keyboards from third parties and accelerometer-based application rotations.

On the telephone side, Android 1.5 shows the user's picture to favorite contacts, displays a date/time stamp for specific events in the call log, and provides one-touch access to a contact card from any call-log event. Stereo Bluetooth headsets are also now supported through the integration of the A2DP and AVCRP profiles.

What's more, Android 1.5 users will be able to view the current status of their Google Talk friends from within the platform's contacts, SMS, MMS, Gmail and e-mail applications. Additionally, Android 1.5 enables videos to be delivered directly to YouTube or photos to be uploaded directly onto the Picasa Web site.

The new Android 1.5 SDK should help Google boost the 'wow' factor for next-generation handsets from HTC, LG Electronics, Motorola and Samsung, among others. The expectations for the T-Mobile G1 from HTC were high because it was the first Android phone, but the results were modest, said IDC Research Manager Francisco Jeronimo.

"T-Mobile G1 was not a revolutionary device in terms of hardware Relevant Products/Services, despite the good impressions users get when they use it," Jeronimo said.

BY Mark Long

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