Android 2.2 Review: A Deep, Delicious Dive Into Froyo

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Performance And Usability



Google promised a lot of speed increases with Android 2.2, and we won't beat around the bush: Froyo is the fastest Android build, ever. Hands down. There's simply no debating it. Our in-house Nexus One actually felt faster from the moment Android 2.2 booted up for the first time. Mind you, we didn't tweak anything on the inside hardware-wise. Android 2.2 simply makes more of what's already there thanks to code that runs things more efficiently. Even flipping from home pane to home pane felt faster, as did opening applications and switching from app to app.


Google promised an improvement in the Web browser speed as well, and we definitely felt it. Pages rendered faster, tabs opened faster, and we even managed to load a Flash website or three. With all of the debate raging between Adobe and Apple, seeing a Flash site load on Android's browser was somewhat of a treat. And while some of the video-heavy sites we visited did have some lag issues, the standard Flash-based sites that weren't loaded down with video embed codes managed to load fine. Did they take a bit longer than standard, non-Flash sites? Of course, but they didn't take too terribly long. And they looked nearly perfect.


Why Apple refuses to allow the iPad and iPhone 4 to render Flash sites remains a mystery. If a Nexus One can do so with relative ease, we're confident that those two Apple devices have the horsepower to do it as well. Either way, this is a major win for Google and a serious setback for Apple. There are thousands upon thousands of Flash sites on the web, and while HTML5 may eventually replace it in many instances, Google will have a huge leg up on Apple until that day comes.

And then there's the small icon changes on the home screen. New Phone and Web Browser soft buttons have been added along the bottom on the left and right sides of the application grid button. We really like this addition. HTC's Sense user interface has added this to Android 2.1, but Google is finally following suit on their own in Froyo. This seems like a subtle change, but it's great for usability. We'd guess that most everyone had the phone app icon and the browser app icon taking up two grid spaces on their primary home pane, and now that these two have been added beneath, you can now stuff two other app icons on your home pane, without losing any functionality.


What about that new Tethering option? Put simply, it works great. USB Tethering is supported on Windows and Linux platforms, but not on Mac OS X just yet. We wish it worked on Macs as well, but it's not the end of the world. Why? Because there's a new Portable Wi-Fi HotSpot option, which allows users to create a mobile hotspot with a simple, single button click. The feature does just what it advertises: it connects to your 3G network (AT&T, in our test case) and then projects that data connection out via Wi-Fi. This feature is included on Verizon's Palm Pre Plus and HTC's EVO 4G, but the difference here is that there's no extra charge.


You still need to be careful when using this to not go over 5GB or so per month, otherwise you may get an unfriendly call from your carrier, but it's great to have as a free option in a pinch. It worked perfectly in our testing, and we had 3 Wi-Fi devices connected at one time without any issues whatsoever. The hotspot was started up in a matter of moments, and it didn't cause the phone to freeze up or lag at all. This obviously has a negative impact on the phone's battery life; leaving the hotspot on constantly will kill the battery in around 2-3 hours, but if you have it plugged into a computer or outlet, you can obviously keep it alive for longer.


We also liked that we could schedule our app updates to "Update All." That's a massive time saver, and it greatly improves usability. As you'd expect, it worked like a charm and ran perfectly in the background downloading and updating while we plowed through our e-mail backlog in Gmail.

We ran our Android 2.2-equipped Nexus One through three well-known Android benchmarks and saw nice gains compared to the same phone running Android 2.1. Click the images below to see detailed results, but if you're looking for the short version, here goes:  Linpack, which measures MFLOPS, showed a 37.078 on Android 2.2, while Android 2.1 displayed a 7.033. BenchmarkPi, which measures calculations of the irrational number, scored 1353 on Android 2.2; it took over twice as long on Android 2.1 at 2987 (Lower is better). Benchmark, which runs tests on the CPU, Memory, Filesystem and Graphics have their detailed scores below.

         

         


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