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Savoring Froyo

The day Android 2.2 'Froyo' becomes available on the HTC Evo 4G, CNET takes the much-anticipated update for a spin to examine its new features.

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Bright and early this morning, just as RIM was announcing the new BlackBerry Torch, I downloaded the hefty Android 2.2 "Froyo" update to the already impressive HTC Evo 4G. As I said last week, Sprint is pushing Froyo out to Evo customers beginning Tuesday, and expects to be fully rolled-out by the middle of the month.

Froyo adds a long list of new features, each of which I've explained in detail below. You'll also find my general assessments on how the additions have been integrated onto the device. Most notably, however, Froyo fixes two longtime drawbacks of the Android OS: you now can store apps on a memory card and you can make hands-free voice calls over Bluetooth. On the downside, though Froyo can add Wi-Fi hot-spot functionality, the update will not change the Evo's current hot-spot feature. You'll still need to shell out an extra $29.99 per month to make that happen.

The update will arrive in waves, so not everyone will get it at the same time. Once it hits your Evo, you'll be notified via a message on the display. But if you can't wait--and there's no reason that you should--you can check for the update manually by accessing the "HTC software update" option under the "System update" folder in the Settings menu.

Froyo is here!

Voice dialing over Bluetooth
The lack of hands-free voice dialing has long been a burr in the side of many Android users. The problem was particularly painful for drivers and anyone using a Bluetooth headset on the go. So you can understand why we consider the feature to be one of Froyo's biggest wins. Indeed, we were able to pair the BlueAnt T1 successfully and dial both by phone number and contact name.

App storage
We've long complained that Android let you store apps on only a handset's internal memory. Thanks to Froyo, however, you can store titles on a memory card while saving room on your phone for other content. The only caveat is that you can't install a title directly on your memory card during the initial download. Instead, you must download it first to the phone and transfer it to the card later.

The process is easy, but we admit that it took a couple of minutes to figure it out. First, access the "Manage applications" tab under the Applications page in the main Settings menu. Then, after choosing the application that you want to move, select the "Move to SD card" option. The actual transfer takes only seconds and you can move the app back to the phone in as many steps.

Camera and camcorder
When using the display as a viewfinder, the icons for the flash, camera, zoom, photo gallery, and shutter control now rotate as you turn the phone. They won't change position on the display--so they'll stay on the side closest to the navigation controls--but they'll always be right side up. Also, you now can use the flash as a light for recording video at night or in low-light conditions.

Share applications
In the main menu, you'll find a new icon for "App Sharing." After selecting it, you'll see a list of available applications that you then can share via Bluetooth, Facebook, Friend Stream, Gmail or other e-mail accounts, text message, or a Twitter app. Recipients will receive a link for accessing and downloading the app in the Android Market.

Facebook and calendar
Once you've synced your Evo with your Facebook account in the handset's Settings menu, your Facebook events and friends' birthdays will show up in the calendar app.

The camera flash now doubles as a relatively bright flashlight. You can choose from three brightness settings and there's a nifty image on the display that reminds us of a Maglite. The feature is accessible through a dedicated icon in the main menu.

FM radio
You won't see any changes in what the feature can do, but the interface is cleaner and a bit more attractive. We continue to like the full channel list that allows you to jump directly to your chosen station without scanning.

Without leaving the photo gallery application, you can access your Facebook photos and those of your friends. You can also look at photo comments and write a new comment. It's all quite user-friendly.

A new option in the widget lets you search only for Web results, only application results, or both. To access the list of choices, hit the Google icon next to the search bar.

If you like, you can set a numeric or alphanumeric password for securing your Evo.

Alarm clock
Set the alarm volume level by adjusting the volume rocker in the alarm sound settings menu.

Web browser
Froyo promises improved browser performance with a faster JavaScript engine and Flash 10.1 support for a better video experience. So far, it looks great, though I don't have an Evo without the update on hand so it's difficult to make a solid comparison. I'll delve it into more on this over the next few days and report back.

Other features
Froyo also adds a couple of minor features that we have yet to test. These include sending a contact as a vCard in a text message and adding unknown users in Facebook as friends in Friend Stream. I was confused by that last one at first, so I checked with Sprint for more details. As the carrier explains it, you now can add new Facebook friends directly from the Friend Stream application.

We'll continue to add new features as we find them, but that's what we've tabulated so far. On all accounts, Froyo is a welcome and solid update and we can't wait to see what comes next.

Which Froyo changes have you found and which new features do you like best?