Gingerbread: The confirmed, the unconfirmed and the desired

It’s been more than four months since the last Android software update, and that could only mean one thing.Gingerbread’s release is just around the corner, which could be 3 or 6 weeks away depending on who you ask. Nonetheless, we’re an optimistic bunch here at DroidDog, so we’re going to go ahead and assume Gingerbread it’s coming out around 15 days from now. In this article, I’ll summarize what features have been confirmed for Gingerbread, what will most likely come, and other crazy features I’d like to see but most likely won’t be on Gingerbread. I’ll also update this article a week from now with the best features you guys would like to see on Gingerbread. So, go to the comments section and write whatever awesome feature you’d love to have – who knows maybe somebody at Google reads DroidDog.

What’s confirmed?

WebM Support

Support for WebM – Google’s media file format for the web – is expected to arrive on Android with Gingerbread. Over time, Google will probably use WebM on every single product related to media, from YouTube to its rumored iTunes competitor. Having all Android devices out there ready to use WebM when Google decides to move away from H.264 will surely help WebM’s adoption. Not much else to say about this at this point other than it’s a welcome addition.

Improved Copy-Paste

A new way to copy and paste is coming with Gingerbread. There’s not a lot of details about this at the moment other than it is being revamped for Gingerbread. One can speculate it will be something along the lines of how iOS does copy and paste – only much better. A new and better way to copy paste fits pretty nicely with the rumors that Google is now focusing on making Android prettier and easier to use.

What’s unconfirmed?

Music (and video?) store

There’s no doubt at this moment that Google is getting ready to launch a full-on assault on Apple’s iTunes store. Media consumption has long been a sore spot for Android. While iTunes is tightly integrated into iOS, Android doesn’t share the same luck – until Gingerbread arrives that is. At this year’s I/O conference, Google showed off how you’ll soon be able to visit the Android Market on your PC, buy songs from there, and have them downloaded straight to your phone over the air. No longer will users have to worry about syncing and maintaining their endless music library.

According to recent rumors, Google’s rumored music store will also likely include a la carte downloads and a digital locker where users can store their songs for $25 a year – or about $2 per month. If the rumors are true, this digital locker would scan a user’s hard drive for songs and upload them to the cloud – making the transition from iTunes or other services as painless as possible. It’ll be interesting to see how Google will integrate this product into Android. Will this music store be completely inside the Android Market? What about people that don’t use Android phones then? Will they make something more like iTunes, with apps, music, video, and books? Why not throw Chrome’s Web Store in there as well, and just call it Google World? It’ll be quite exciting to see Google and Apple fight it out in this area.

Revamped User Experience

It’s no secret to anybody that Android’s user experience is not the best in the world. It’s not that it’s an awful-looking or badly designed OS, but it’s not very easy on the eyes when compared to other – more polished – mobile OSes.  Phone manufacturers have been trying to fix this problem for a while now by shipping phones with a heavily customized version of Android, and while sometimes they get it right, often they make matters worse. How could Google stop OEMS from doing this? Well, by making Android’s standard user interface and experience so amazing that OEMs won’t need to add anything else. That’s exactly what we heard back in June. According to rumors, the Android team is “laser focused” on improving the UI for Gingerbread. The Android team is probably aiming for something similar or better than iOS’ UI – good, it’s about time.

If there’s any doubt that Android’s UI  is about to be overhauled, just remember that back in May Google snatched up Palm’s Senior Director of Human Interface and User Experience – Matias Duarte. Matias is now the User Experience Director for Android. If you have never seen a video of the Palm Pre in action, I suggest you do right away. See how intuitive and beautiful everything is, that could be Android in a couple of weeks. If Matias is able to work its magic into Android’s user experience, I think we’re in for a nice treat when Gingerbread arrives.

Tablet Support

Handset makers can try to shovel Android into a tablet all they want, but that won’t change the fact that it just simply won’t work. We have yet to see a tablet carrying Android that rivals the iPad. The Galaxy Tab is an improvement but it’s not quite there yet. Even El Goog itself came out earlier this month and said Froyo is not optimized for tablets. That could very well change with Gingerbread though. According to a rumor that surfaced back in June, Gingerbread will support a 1280×760 resolution natively on 4 inches and larger devices. If this rumor does indeed become reality, and they do overhaul the UI for Gingerbread, we could finally see an OS worthy of putting on a tablet.

Personal wish list

New Market app

Android’s Market app is one of those many things in the OS that’s long overdue for an update. As it stands today, it’s very hard for good apps to get noticed and very hard for users to find apps they might like. Also, developers have certain restrictions when uploading their apps to the Market. They can only upload two screenshots per app and app descriptions have to be less than 325 characters. These limitations sometimes impact how good developers can communicate what their app’s features are, or any prizes or recognitions the app has won. The Android team also needs to do a better job at helping users find the app they are looking for. Ironically, the Market’s search feature is not the best in the world. In the age of Google Instant, the Market app doesn’t even recognize misspelled words. A new and improved Market app will please both developers and users alike.

New Google Voice app

Back in November of last year, Google acquired Gizmo5 supposedly to add VoIP calling to its Google Voice product. Gmail users can already enjoy the fruits of this acquisition by calling any phone in the United States and Canada for free. It works flawlessly, it’s pretty straightforward and sound quality is great and sometimes better than on a cell phone. Personally, I no longer have to use my cell phone when I’m sitting in front of a computer. But what about those moments when you don’t have a computer at arms-length? Hopefully, pretty soon you will be able to use the Google Voice app on your phone just as on your desktop – free VoIP calling and all.

Detach as much as possible from the OS

Just last week, Google released a new version of Gmail for Android that’s not tied to the OS. Meaning, users with Froyo and beyond won’t have to wait on over-the-air updates to get the latest version of Gmail. In fact, back in March, a rumor surfaced that Google was working on decoupling standards apps and components from the OS. Standard apps like Phone, Contacts, Browser and even the Market would be downloaded and updated from the Android Market. Not only apps, but also the keyboard, and the UI – or theme – could be moved to the Market as downloadable apps. This way users that are forced to use Sense UI or Ninjablur, will be able to download the standard – or vanilla – Android UI. This brings us to themes.

Themes

People love to customize their phones, and themes would be just one more way to do that on Android. If the Android team does detach the UI from the OS and moves it to the Android Market as rumored, then why not let developers upload and sell their own custom themes through the Market. Users will love being able to download themes and developers will be more than happy to sell them – it’s a win-win situation. Phone manufacturers could also profit from this, by letting users try out their themes on every single phone, not only those made by them. Imagine having a Samsung phone with HTC’s Sense UI. Manufacturers could use themes as way to spread the word about how great the experience is on their devices. If the user likes the OEM’s theme enough, he or she might consider buying a phone from them next time.

So there you have it, the confirmed features, the unconfirmed ones, and what I’d love to see on Gingerbread. That’s all we know about Gingerbread at the moment, and I don’t think we will know much more than this prior to release – unless Google makes a mistake and more information leaks. Don’t forget to leave us a comment with the features you’d love to have on your Gingerbread-made phone. I’ll update this article in a week with the best ideas from you guys/gals, so don’t forget to bookmark this page or follow us on Twitter here or here.

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