Android 2.2 has landed in Crave towers, and we've never been so excited about an incremental software update. Codenamed Froyo, the latest version of Google's Android operating system is as cool and tasty as its deliciously creamy namesake.
The most exciting Froyo feature is its support for Flash Player 10.1. We've seen Flash on mobiles such as the HTC Hero before, but that was Flash Lite, which is as weak as a kitten compared to the prowess of Flash 10. You could see Web page elements, such as the dreaded Flash ads we inflict on you, but videos were unwatchably jerky and most games were not even close to playable.
Flash 10.1 for mobile promises to use half the memory of Flash 10 for desktop PCs, while taking advantage of hardware acceleration to make movies and games as smooth as a Galaxy bar dipped in baby oil.
But it's not all Flash -- Android 2.2 also has a surprising number of new features for an incremental release. The phone dialler, applications menu and Web browser now have dedicated shortcuts on the home screen, there's all kinds of extra support for Microsoft Exchange and you can use the LED flash when shooting video. The photo gallery has been spruced up too, with new buttons to change
settings. You can even make your phone into a MiFi, if it has the right hardware, and share your 3G Internet connection with your laptop over Wi-Fi.
Google also showed off some treats that are still baking in the oven, including a Web version of the Android store, where you can buy apps online and have them sent wirelessly to your phone. Thrillingly, you'll also get media streaming from your desktop computers to your phone.
Flash 10.1 beta is already in the Android Market for Google Nexus One phones running Android 2.2, and Adobe says we can expect the final version for Android and desktop PCs to arrive in mid-June. Froyo itself is on its way "in the coming weeks", said Google, although you can grab the SDK from the Android developer site right now.
Phones running customised versions of Android, such as the HTC Desire, will have to wait until manufacturers sort out their own versions of Froyo, while phones such as the Nexus One and the Samsung Galaxy should see updates sooner. We'll let you know as soon as we have firm dates for the update.
Click 'Continue' to see more of Froyo and the many wonders of Flash 10.
Update: We said that Flash 10.1 uses half the memory of Flash Lite, but that stat should refer to Flash 10.1 for mobile compared to Flash 10 for PCs.
If you have a phone that supports Flash 10 -- that means Android 2.2 and an ARM Cortex A8 or A9 processor -- but if it didn't come installed on your phone, the link to install Flash will automatically redirect you to the Android Market to download it. You can also search for it from the Market directly.
The full Web version of BBC iPlayer has already been tweaked to work with Flash 10 on Android. Even though the pre-production phone we tested didn't have hardware acceleration working, video was still much smoother than when using Flash Lite and very watchable.
Even sites that haven't been optimised for Flash 10, such as CNET UK, worked very well in our tests. The play and pause buttons worked reliably and the movie streamed quickly and reasonably smoothly while embedded on the page. Navigation elements on the page worked perfectly too.
Using Flash has plenty of benefits for Web sites, which can track stats such as who's watching and for how long. They can also use overlays such as this menu, which adds social-networking options to movie trailers on the Sony Pictures Web site.