Android 2.2 Froyo transforms Dell Streak from giant duckling to vast swan

The Dell Streak now proudly boasts Android 2.2 Froyo, an update that fixes much of what we hated about the enormo-phone first time round. See what's new in our photo story.

Flora Graham

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The Dell Streak has updated to Android 2.2 Froyo, and it's a refreshing as a dollop of frozen yoghurt being popped down the back of your shirt. 

The software update feels like a massive reboot to the 5-inch giganto-phone's software. It's a lovely treat, because that was where the device fell down in our full review

The update deals with our complaints as if they were a to-do list pasted on the foreheads of Dell's developers. The old 1.6 version of Android is gone, which means the Streak now supports all the latest apps in the Android Market -- and you don't feel like you've spent a wodge of money on something that's already out of date, at least until the Gingerbread update comes along any minute now.

The Streak also enjoys all the updates we know and love from Froyo on other phones, including native Exchange support for connecting to your work email and faster browsing in the excellent Web browser. 

Our prayers to the dark gods of user interface were answered -- Dell's UI, called Stage, has had a total revamp. There are pluses and minuses to the change, however. The redesign sticks much closer to the default Android 2.2 user interface, and depends on widgets to give the phone something special. 

That means the phone loses some handy features that were well-suited for the huge screen, such as shortcuts to settings in the notification bar. But overall we think it's for the best, since Dell's efforts at customising Android 1.6 were generally rubbish. Its on-screen keyboard, for example, was no fun at all.

The widgets are much better, because they look good, they're easy to tap, and they work in portrait or landscape mode. The option to use the Streak in portrait mode will be welcome to anyone who prefers to treat it like a giant phone, rather than a small tablet computer.

Unfortunately, we found the Streak sometimes struggled to push its new software to full speed. The Web browser froze the first couple of times that we started it up, for example, and it's definitely nowhere near as smooth and responsive as the iPad

Nevertheless, that's just the tip of the iceberg of the Streak's improvements. Click the image above to dig into this frozen treat. 

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The updated Streak gives you the choice of the default Android keyboard, which is good, and the Swype keyboard, which we adore. Swype lets you run your fingers over the keys rather than pressing them one by one, and in our tests it's fantastically fast and easy to use.
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The music home screen widget automatically pulls your music cover art and playlists from the memory card, providing a tempting, tappable menu of music to tune into.
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The gallery widget serves up a handful of photos to enjoy on your home screen, and a handy link to turn on the camera. Unfortunately, it doesn't access photos that are synced to the phone automatically from your online Picasa account.
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There's still plenty of room for using the widgets that come with Android, or those you download from the Market.
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The addition of Flash in the Web browser means you won't miss out on Flash video and navigation on webpages, which is vital on a device that's all about surfing the Web. It's Streak 1, iPad 0 on this score.
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Among Froyo's improvements is the ability to use the Streak as a wireless hotspot, so you can share your 3G data connection with your laptop, for example.
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Using the Streak as a phone is like moving to Super Mario Giant Land -- the on-screen dialling pad is enormous.

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