Google introduced its Android 2.3 platform SDK Dec. 6, with plans to release the Gingerbread platform to open source in a few weeks.
Gingerbread, as the platform is codenamed, is featured on the forthcoming Samsung Nexus S smartphone. The handset is launching Dec. 16 online from T-Mobile and from Best Buy stores for $199 with a contract, or $529 unlocked.
With the SDK and NDK available now here, developers will be able to leverage the new platform technologies and APIs to write modern applications.
Highlights of Android 2.3 include faster performance, a better user interface and an NFC Reader app for "near field communications" short-range wireless technology.
This app lets users swipe an NFC tag that might be embedded in a poster, sticker or advertisement with a phone, such as the NFC-enabled Nexus S, then act on the data read from the tag.
Google CEO Eric Schmidt said recently he expects Android developers to write mobile payment apps to leverage this technology from Android 2.3. NFC chipmaker NXP has made its open-source software stack "fully integrated and validated on Gingerbread."
Android 2.3 boosts game development capabilities.
Taking a page from Apple's iOS 4, Google added a gyroscope to let developers include "precise motion processing." Game applications can use readings from a gyroscope and accelerometer on the device to recognize tilt, spin, thrust and slice motions.
Android 2.3 features a fresh concurrent garbage collector that minimizes application hiccups in graphically intensive applications such as games. Gingerbread also uses fresh third-party video drivers for faster 3D graphics performance.
Gingerbread also supports Google's new VP8 and WebM video formats. Audio effects, such as reverb, equalization, headphone virtualization and bass boost, are also now available.
The user experience should be better, too.
The Android soft keyboard has been redesigned for faster, more accurate text input and editing. The keyboard also displays the current character and dictionary suggestions in a larger style. There is one-touch word copy-and-paste capability.