updated 02:25 pm EDT, Mon October 18, 2010
Gingerbread may match iPhone with video chat
Google's next release of Android, better known by its Gingerbread codename, may make video chat an important staple of its design based on a leak on Monday. What may become Android 3.0 has received only a single blurry photo from a Nexus One but word that it should use the same video format as behind Gmail's feature. The technique described by Phandroid could theoretically let Android users talk to Gmail desktop owners and not just other mobile devices.
Video chat has been a sore point for Android 2.2 to date. Devices have had the option since the HTC Evo 4G and soon the T-Mobile myTouch, but the lack of a common standard has left companies turning to third-party apps like Fring that don't always interoperate or are limited to mobile hardware. Apple currently has the edge in the arena; FaceTime is currently limited to the iPhone 4 and iPod touch but should ultimately be an open standard and may come to the desktop, whether through Mac OS X Lion or an in-between software update.
Gingerbread could also make mobile Google Voice independent of cellphones, since it would adopt the SIP voice protocol and let users take an incoming call over 3G or Wi-Fi, even if on a data-only device like the Americanized Samsung Galaxy Tab.
Many core apps should also get significant treatment, the insider said. Every app getting a makeover would be designed to resemble more of a core feature of the OS than an external component. YouTube would be one of these and, in the same breath, would serve as a remote control for YouTube Leanback on a Google TV device.
Other changes would focus mostly on polish that has been considered lacking. Android would finally get an iPhone-style "bounce" when scrolling to the very end of a list. Buttons and checkboxes would get a more visually pleasing look, and numerous monochrome elements would get touches of Android's signature bright green to make them stand out more. In spite of the added visual treatments, Gingerbread might run faster than 2.2 (Froyo) since it may turn on wider hardware acceleration for the interface and speed up the perceived speed on recent devices.
Google was rumored to be introducing the SDK this week, but it's not clear that the company would be ready. Rumors have suggested that the new release might not be ready until early 2011.
Much is riding on its appearance now that Google has said 2.2 isn't suited to tablets. Many would-be rivals to the iPad, like the Motorola Stingray and HTC's future hardware, could be waiting on Google before they can even launch.