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What we might expect from Gingerbread

As we approach the eventual announcement of Android 2.3, we look at what might be in store for the platform.

Ready to pull from the oven.

Though some of the world already has passed into Friday, the rumor that Gingerbread will launch today still could turn out to be true. Expected to be listed as Android 2.3, details of the latest build of the Android OS have been a closely guarded secret thus far. Yet, we can piece together clues and quotes from the last few months to get an idea as to what we should expect.

Interface tweaks
Early on, we learned that Gingerbread was going to focus mainly on aesthetics, providing a glossier, more consistent approach to the user interface. That makes sense given that the real nuts and bolts behind the platform are in place already. To get an idea as to what an improved experience might be like, just consider the how the Nexus One changed the image gallery feature. Thanks to a company called CoolIris, for example, we secured a much sexier interface for viewing pictures.

The recent splitting off of the Gmail application may hold subtle clues as to how menus might appear. We could see sharper graphics, better use of transparencies and gradients, and, according to Phandroid, more green elements.

As any Android user could attest, the copy and paste features can really use some help. It's nearly impossible to copy text from an email or website to paste elsewhere, say a notepad application. Yet, this could be getting remedied with Android 2.3 according to messages left on the Android issues page back in May.

Other elements that could use a punch-up include the media player, the color schematics in menus, and widgets. But if a short, hard-to-see YouTube video is to be believed, Google could be adding very subtle tweaks with the addition of a power off screen that mimics the look of an early television set.

Another feature that should make the Gingerbread cut is the WebM support that Google announced last May at Google I/O. The company developed the royalty-free, open source video format, which has an SDK and source code.

Other changes
Android founder and Google VP Andy Rubin told PC Magazine recently that the next iteration of Android could add "more forms of communication" like social networking. Though Android already integrates fairly well with Facebook, Twitter, and other networks, Rubin could have been referring to video chat or Google Voice. I also wouldn't be surprised if Skype became an integral part of the OS at some point.

Thankfully, we also should see some Android Market updates. Google I/O attendees had an early look at some Android Market features, including the ability to send apps to devices over the air and an account-based web interface. Long a pain point for Android, a fully functional website could lead to an explosion in app discovery and recommendation.

How to get it
Once Android 2.3 goes live, users are going to want to know how to get Gingerbread for their phones. My best advice is to follow the forums for your wireless providers or handset maker. T-Mobile and Sprint have terrific sites where they update developments constantly.

Say what you will about Motorola's handling of Android 2.1 for some of its phones, but at least Moto is keeping its update schedule transparent. Another great place to start checking would be Facebook or Twitter accounts. Most companies are doing a good job of conveying plans for Android, even if it's sometimes cryptic.

Assuming your handset can handle whatever the update brings, you'll likely be waiting a few weeks or more until you get it. Just keep in mind that certain hardware restrictions may prohibit you from taking advantage of the new features. Though most of the phones sold today should have no issues, older handsets may find they don't have what it takes. I can't say with 100 percent conviction, but I'd imagine that if you've bought starting last summer, you should be OK. It's just a matter of getting carriers and handset makers to work together.