Tethering is a function that lets users hook up their mobile phones and use them as modems in order to share internet connectivity with other devices over a USB or Wi-Fi connection, in a ‘MiFi’ mobile hotspot model.
Froyo is reported to be shipping to Nexus One customers on or before next week’s Google I/O developer conference in San Francisco. Reports claim benchmark tests show the refreshed platform is 450% faster than Google’s Android Éclair 2.1, its predecessor. If accurate, this would enable Froyo to handle tasks such as video processing and executing Web programming languages more smoothly than Éclair.
It is unclear whether carriers will enable USB and Wi-Fi tethering on Android 2.2 for a cost, or if they will allow it at all. On Wednesday, Sprint announced that it would be charging an additional $30 per month for the Evo's hotspot functionality.
Verizon offers a free hotspot on the Palm Pre, but also sells its MiFi hotspot devices for $60 per month. Notably, unlike the other U.S. carriers, AT&T hasn't enabled iPhone tethering yet. It sells separate plans for each individual device so customers with an iPhone, and iPad and a MacBook, will need to purchase three separate plans to get all three devices hooked up to the Internet using AT&T.
With Wifi being so pervasive, this next iteration of Android “has very interesting potential consequences to expand the influence of smartphones across your life, really,’’ said Mike Morgan, senior analyst, mobile devices, at ABI Research. “As homes and Wifi start to increase in penetration in the digital wireless living room, the ability to interact with your smartphone expands the use cases … turning this thing into a universal remote control.”
Google has not confirmed any details about Froyo, except that it will include integrated Adobe Flash support. Widely expected features include FM radio, color trackball notifications, additional free RAM, enhancements to OpenGL ES 2.0 and other stability fixes.
Right now, Android phone owners must manually update their applications. With Froyo, users will be able to set their phone to automatically upgrade applications in the background. There is also speculation on developer forums that Android 2.2 will let users install applications on an SD card, which has been a popular feature request, especially from those who want to install many apps, but are limited by the small built-in memory of their phone.