Sunday, October 4, 2009

Android 1.6 "Donut" - simply amazing

Today I flashed my system with the new Android 1.6 "Donut" release and I have to say that it was well worth the 30 minutes it took. My device is a HTC Ion (the one Google gave us at I/O) and I have been relatively pleased with it in terms of features and form factor. My biggest complaint and disappointment of the Android OS is its lack of responsiveness when it starts to get a heavy workload -- particularly with regard to the virtual keyboard. When more than a few apps were loaded on the phone it was at times an absolute nightmare to write an email or perform a Google search.

I had high hopes that a lot of these performance issues would be addressed with the 1.6 release of android and after test driving it for the past hour and putting it through everything I could think of, Donut has far surpassed my highest expectations. Keyboard lag is virtually gone. The home screen is snappy and responsive even while running a browser, a game, gmail, gtalk, and many other apps. In addition to this much needed performance boost in the home screen and virtual keyboard I found that all of my other apps fired up faster. Google Sky Map was up and running in just seconds and performing better than it ever has before.

The best improvement in my opinion was not one that I expected to see. I found that the browser's rendering performance in 1.6 was in my estimation at least 50% faster than Cupcake's. Utah just got a 3G network a couple weeks ago, but web pages were still loading slow. And now I realize what the bottle neck has been all along.

There are a lot of cool new features in Donut as well. The universal search box is very useful. I can't wait to expose some data from one of my applications for it. I'll make a post later on this. The new Android Market is also a major improvement. I've found that the new user interface is more inviting and intuitive. It also tends to emphasize paid apps over free apps. I think this is an important milestone in the Android road map. I don't think the platform will really take off unless there are tons of compelling apps for the device, and those apps won't come unless the best developers have a financial reason to build apps for the platform. So the market update is huge as well.

On the downside, I have found that in one of my applications, Donut does not draw my GridViews in the same way that Cupcake did. I'll have to do some investigation on this issue, but it's probably something that I did wrong to begin with.

In conclusion, Donut is a solid release.  The performance jump over the last iteration provides some exciting foreshadowing of what is to come for Android. With a powerful open platform that is easy to develop for, multiple devices on the market all running the same software, and performance that approaches the iPhone; I think the Android could give the people at One Infinite Loop a run for their money.

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