If the list of features added to the forthcoming Android 2.0 operating system (code-named Eclair) leaves you drooling, there is a way to get a taste of one of the goodies coming in Google's Eclair release.
No, we're not sending you a Motorola Droid (live review).
Rather, Asurion's free AddressBook beta, newly released in the Android Market, is a socially connected alternative to Android's native address book. It shares a similar focus with Android 2.0's Quick Contact concept, and with other social address books, namely, that of being able to quickly communicate with a person in multiple ways from your contact list.
While Android 2.0 will offer a pop-up ticker that lets you e-mail, text, or call, AddressBook, which was announced at Demo 2009 (story), can also get you socializing with friends via Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, YouTube, and others. AddressBook doesn't include a widget at this point, but it does get you inside social networks.
You pair a friend with their social networking account by setting up plug-ins, or MixIns, as Asurion calls them. Setup takes some patience. You'll first select the social networks you want to incorporate through the Market screen. After downloading each separate MixIn as its own Android APK file, you'll need to install it, then log in. If you ask AddressBook to automatically match contacts with social-network accounts, it'll take a few minutes longer. In this case, the wait is worth it, especially if you have a sizable Gmail contact list to begin with.
The Facebook plug-in can also fill in your address book with Facebook profile pictures. Facebook integration was good, but not perfect, though you'll have the option to review matches. However, we missed a few incorrect associations, which we found difficult to fix after the fact.
In addition to following and contacting friends, the AddressBook application can also add a business listing, like your favorite coffee shop chain. Having added the listing, you can then plot it on a map.
As with the Android 1.6 default address book, the AddressBook application includes a dialer, history, contact list, and favorites. While it doesn't replace the Android's address book, Asurion's app does integrate with it, using the Android call screens and honoring edits between Android's native address book and the AddressBook application.
The AddressBook application has some fairly large holes. In addition to the unintuitive editing of mismatched contacts, the application doesn't support landscape mode and it force-closed after we integrated Facebook details. AddressBook's focus is decidedly on reaching people and not on managing personal profiles; we didn't see ways to update your own status in this app, for instance.
As for the future of the young application in the face of Android 2.0, Nancy Benovich Gilby, Asurion Mobile Applications' VP of Engineering remains positive. "What [Google is] doing with Contacts," Gilby wrote in an e-mail, "will give us more power and make it easier to provide deeper integration of content and services."
It will be interesting to see how AddressBook's social address book plays out once Android 2.0 becomes more widely available. In the meantime, if you've tried the app, share your thoughts in the comments.