May 31, 2009

10 little features: Android Cupcake

We've been hearing about Cupcake for a while and so the feature set is probably no mystery. I got tired of waiting for T-mobile to push the update down and so after a few false starts I decided to update myself (instructions here. After playing around, I found a few things which I thought I'd share in case you hadn't gotten the update yet. Here are a few of the minor things you've got to look forward to when it does finally come over the air.

1. You can now mute threads in Gmail. This feature is even more handy when you're on the road than when in front of your desktop. Nothing worse than sitting in the middle of a thread you care nothing about when travelling. I wonder how Google Wave will handle this..

2. Most applications will auto-rotate now. Auto-rotating had been disabled initially (rumored at Apple's request) but it's now been enabled. Almost all the apps, from games to the browser take advantage of this. If you're an app developer be sure to see what your app looks like when in landscape mode...

3. There's a software keyboard with autocomplete options and you get the ability to enable haptic vibrate response. T-9 on Android is still not possible due to patent issues, but luckily they've found another way to get the job done. As you type a small toolbar appears with a number of guesses on what you're typing. It's pretty effective. In fact my typing speed on the software keyboard quickly matched how fast I peck using the HTC G1 hardware keyboard.

4. If you hard press the power button it will let you both silence and enable airplane mode on the phone. Not much more needs to be said about this. It's nice to have and allowed me to uninstall the ToggleAir application.

5. When you press the any button other than menu and your phone is locked, it will show the wallpaper background. This helps identify your phone even when locked. Especially useful if you work in an office with multiple Android phone owners..

6. When you are on the phone, instead of having the screen black out and the dialpad disappear, it now stays on but makes you double tap to access the dialpad. Since the G1 doesn't have a hardware proximity sensor like the iPhone, it has no way of knowing when you hold it up to your ear and when you take it down to push a button (Apple really thought of everything didn't they!). This new behavior tries to do as best as possible given the lack of sensor.

7. The Email IMAP client now really deletes email from the IMAP server. If you spent a lot of time on the G1 without using the Google account as your mail email provider, you probably noticed right away that you couldn't really delete emails. Thankfully, this is now fixed.

8. Camera improvements: Speed to launch the camera has improved as well as the speed of taking a picture. It's almost usable now.. just missing a flash. Hopefully future Android phones figure this out. Plus, you can now just hold down the camera button to launch it. No more going through the app menu and clicking the camera icon.. As covered elsewhere, there is also a camcorder now.

9. Live folders and widgets: We've got calendar widgets and a live folder that will launch various things like 'contacts with phone numbers'. It's a small thing but it does add to the usefulness of the phone.

10. There are now animations when moving between screens and lots of minor polishing has been done. You can unlock even more here if you install the "Spare Parts" application from the market.

Overall Cupcake is an excellent update. I'm really looking forward to Donut though. I especially want the ability to have the phone turn itself on if you have the alarm set. Google: think of how much energy you would save the world if you enabled this!

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