Sprint set the Android universe on fire last week when it announced that the HTC EVO 4G would be the first widely available handset to gain the Android 2.2 system update. Not to be outdone, Verizon Wireless announced that the Droid will soon be feasting on Froyo, too.
The Motorola Droid first went on sale in November 2009 and was the first Android 2.0 device to reach the market. Verizon updated the Droid to Android 2.1 Eclair just a few months ago. Now the time has come for the Droid to gain Android 2.2, the latest and greatest version of Google's mobile operating system. Verizon only committed to "this week." It didn't say exactly when the update process will start.
This is good news for the enterprise. Android 2.1 is not recommended by Gartner for businesses, as it still lacks several vital security features. Android 2.2 solves most of the security problems inherent in Android 2.1, and Gartner's Ken Dulaney has given it a tentative thumbs up for enterprise use.
There are several primary reasons why Android 2.2 is a vital upgrade for any mobile professional and/or business that plans to deploy Android handsets. Android 2.2 has a device policy manager. Google says the new device policy management APIs allow developers to write "device administrator" applications that can control security features of the device.
Android 2.2 really ramps up security with much better password support. Exchange administrators can enforce password policies, which now include numeric pin or alpha-numeric password options to unlock the device. Remote wipe is the other big one. Exchange administrators can remotely reset the device to factory defaults to secure data in case the device is lost or stolen.
Those are the big ones for IT admins to be concerned with. There are also some user-facing changes that will fall into the "thank goodness they finally did that" category. For example, Exchange Calendars are now supported, which syncs enterprise calendar data with the devices. Android 2.2 also adds global address lists. This means users can search through their corporate directory from within the handset's e-mail application.
Perhaps the single biggest new feature is the built-in support for tethering and Wi-Fi hotspots. These tools worked flawlessly, allowing me to turn a 3G network connection into an instant Wi-Fi hotspot for my laptop and other Wi-Fi enabled devices. It is simple to use, and just works. Turn it on, find the AP, connect, and you're good. Well done on this, Google. Verizon Wireless has said that the Droid X can support up to five other WI-Fi devices. Verizon hasn't spelled out how this feature will work on the Droid, but don't expect to be able to use it for free.
Other notable changes for Android 2.2 include a serious update to the Android Market. Google has revised the way it works so that users can update all of their applications at once. Rather than painfully updating them one at a time, users can update in one fell swoop. What's more, if users wish, they can set it so that applications update automatically.
Other nifty features include a native task killer. This is a solid addition. Previously, users had to wander around the Android Market looking for task managers.
Last, Android 2.2 Froyo comes with Flash Player 10.1 baked into the browser. That means a whole new world of web content is available to consumer. It isn't a perfect experience, but it works pretty well.
In all, Android 2.2 is a great improvement for the Android platform, and should make Droid owners a happy lot.
Verizon has yet to announced when the HTC Incredible and Droid X will receive the Android 2.2. Froyo update.