Of all the smartphone operating systems, Google’s Android seems to bend and change most quickly, with major updates coming out every few months. Android 2.2, codenamed “Froyo,” just launched over the summer, but details are already leaking about the OS’s next iteration, codenamed “Gingerbread.” (Google likes to name its products alphabetically and after food items.) Phandroid has announced the first set of rumored features for Gingerbread, including a very blurry picture of the OS.
The biggest new feature will be the inclusion of video chat, speculated to be based off of the same technology that runs Google Chat on PCs. This means that the next set of Android devices will likely ship with more front-facing cameras. Apple first introduced video chat on its devices with the iPhone 4, which is the company’s most successful phone yet, while Android phones like the HTC EVO 4G already support video chat through the use of apps.
Stepping ahead of Apple, Gingerbread will have SIP support, allowing users to receive Google Voice calls over Wi-Fi and cellphone data plans (providing the carriers allow it).
Other changes are more visual. Google hopes to level the aesthetic playing field between Android and the iPhone by streamlining its design. The main app icons have been redesigned to look and feel more consistent, as has the interface of many core apps, like YouTube. The search giant has also added some visual flourishes, like a glowing rubber-banding effect, so when users switch between screens, the screen bounces into place, similar to the iPhone. The Android multitasking bar is now black instead of grey and the company has begun introducing green into the design of the OS. Despite these visual upgrades, the new version is said to be quicker thanks to the possible inclusion of hardware acceleration, which allows the OS to take advantage of the unique features of the hardware it’s running on.
These are all still rumors, but all are logical next steps for the OS. Gingerbread is scheduled for release in late 2010 or early 2011.