The long-awaited firmware will add a host of new features, and the fourth-largest U.S. carrier said the over-the-air upgrade will be completed by the end of May. One of the most appealing features of Android 1.5 is that it will add a virtual QWERTY keyboard to the mobile operating system. This is a vital component for Android devices without physical keys like the HTC Magic and the Samsung I7500, and it means G1 users won't have to flip out their screen to access the keyboard for quick text input.
The upgraded software will enable Android-powered handsets to record video, and these clips will be easy to share with the included native YouTube uploader. The 1.5 version also will feature better integration with Google's Web services, as users will be able to seamlessly upload photos to the search company's Picasa photo-sharing site.
Android 1.5 also will put the OS on par with its competitors by adding stereo Bluetooth, improved Web browsing, home-screen widgets, and faster GPS location information. The firmware update is a clear signal that the smartphone segment is shifting from a device-oriented market to a software-oriented one. Windows Mobile, BlackBerry, and Symbian have long provided new features for their respective operating systems, but Apple upped the ante with its mobile platform.
The original iPhone was heralded as having a sleek design and user interface, but it lacked many components that its rivals offered. Apple's firmware update schedule was much faster than competitors, and the 2.0 software was released about a year after the iPhone's launch, adding third-party applications, enterprise features, and improved security. The company is readying the 3.0 version for this summer, and it will give iPhone users cut and paste, peer-to-peer networking, richer interfaces for third-party hardware, and other features.
InformationWeek published a 360-degree analysis of the first Android-based smartphone. Download the report here (registration required).