Android Gingerbread: Everything there is to know

Article copyright 2010 JR Raphael. All rights reserved.

Put on the nearest pair of elastic-banded pants, Android fans: A fresh round of Google-made dessert is on its way to the dinner table.

Android Gingerbread

Android Gingerbread, the next major release of the Android operating system, is rumored to be days away from its public debut

[UPDATE (12/6/10): Gingerbread is here! Click over to our complete
Android Gingerbread FAQ for all the official details.]

According to tech blog Android Police, Google is on track to release Gingerbread's software development kit before the end of the week.

Now, this is in no way official -- the rumor is cited only to an unnamed source and has not been confirmed or even acknowledged by Google -- but we have been hearing for some time that Gingerbread could launch within the fourth quarter of the year. Previous speculation has also pointed to mid-October as the time for some sort of Android-related upgrade announcement.

Whether or not this week turns out to be the one, we know that Gingerbread is in Google's oven. And little by little, we're learning more about what this next generation of Android software could include.

Here's everything we've heard about Gingerbread so far.

Android Gingerbread may have a new look.

One of the most consistent rumors about Android Gingerbread is that the software will introduce a revamped graphical interface. Gingerbread is said to boast a streamlined, simplified UI with a feel similar to the Android 2.2 Gallery application. A report published by Android blog Phandroid on Monday says the system icons are "simpler and cleaner," with a more uniformed look; the notification bar is changed to a "warm, slate grey" color; and green highlights are featured more prominently throughout the entire OS.

Android Gingerbread may have updated Google apps.

We've already seen Google starting to separate apps from the Android operating system, releasing standalone versions of such programs as Gmail, Google Maps, and Google Search. Some have speculated that this trend will expand even more with Gingerbread, allowing Google to directly provide updates to core Android services without having to rely on carrier-connected rollouts. According to Phandroid, the goal is to get each individual app to feel like "an extension of the OS" rather than "a tacked-on accessory."

Android Gingerbread may have built-in video chat.

Numerous rumors have pointed to Gingerbread gaining its own native video chat utility. In an interview with PC Magazine, Android head honcho Andy Rubin mentioned the use of Google Talk for PC-based video chat and alluded to a possible mobile application. "It works on the desktop," he said. "Whether that can be repurposed and made appropriate for sipping bandwidth for mobile, it's an exercise that's underway."

Android Gingerbread may have native VoIP calling.

One particularly interesting bit of Gingerbread buzz says the software could include an updated Google Voice app with built-in SIP support. That'd mean you could potentially place and receive calls over Wi-Fi or 3G/4G using your Google Voice phone number.

Android Gingerbread may be more focused on gaming.

During his PC Mag interview, Google's Andy Rubin talked about the need for an increased focus on gaming in Android's next release. His words:

If we were to carefully look at what new features and functionalities in the platform that we would need to support all forms of gaming across the entire spectrum, I think that would probably be an interesting thing to pay attention to. I think that more blending of the Web and native is probably interesting.

(Related: Improve Android battery life: Here's how

Android Gingerbread will be faster.

It probably goes without saying, but Gingerbread will include boosts to system speed and performance. Rubin told PC Mag we could expect "general improvements to the platform" that'd make it "faster and more robust." He also specifically mentioned changes to the stock Android browser that'd provide "an updated user experience."

Android Gingerbread could have added social media features.

One last nugget of info from Rubin's interview: When asked what kind of ideas were going into the next version of Android, Rubin said: "More forms of communication. I think social media is a form of communication."

Interpret as you will.

Android Gingerbread may have improved copy/paste.

According to discussion at Google's Android issues forums, rewriting and improving Android's system-wide copy and paste functionality was one of the goals for Gingerbread. We'll soon see if it made the cut.

Google Music could arrive with Gingerbread.

We know Google is working on a cloud-based music service. Recent reports suggest the service, expected to be called Google Music, will launch in time for the upcoming holiday season. Given the timing, it could very well appear alongside or as part of Gingerbread.

In addition to introducing a native tool for buying music on Android, Google's music service will allow you to stream songs directly from your PC to your Android phone.

Android Gingerbread may have a new YouTube experience.

The folks at Phandroid say Android's YouTube app gets a makeover in Gingerbread, with a new look and added support for YouTube's slimmed down "Leanback" mode.

Gingerbread could be Android 3.0. Or not. And could launch this year. Or next.

Android Power Twitter

No one's entirely sure what version number Gingerbread will end up possessing -- at least, no one who's willing to tell us right now. Some suspect Gingerbread will be Android 3.0, while others hypothesize that it could be Android 2.5 or even 2.3. As for the date of Gingerbread's debut, guesses have ranged from quarter four of 2010 to quarter one of 2011.

Remember: Aside from the hints dropped by Google's Andy Rubin, these details are all based on rumors, leaks, and anonymous sources. Some of them may prove to be true, while others may end up not panning out for one reason or another.

The one thing we can say for certain: Gingerbread is coming -- and it promises to hold some sweet surprises.

JR Raphael writes about smartphones and other tasty technology. You can find him on Facebook, on Twitter, or at eSarcasm, his geek-humor getaway.

Article copyright 2010 JR Raphael. All rights reserved.

Copyright © 2010 IDG Communications, Inc.

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