A new version of Google's Android operating system for slates and smartphones has arrived. Otherwise known as Gingerbread, Android 2.3 promises a host of new goodies, including tweaks to make the user interface "easier to learn, faster to use, and more power-efficient." Based on what I've seen from Android-based devices, the UI is a definite step behind what's available with webOS and iOS. The latest revision should be an improvement, although I suspect some handset makers are going to continue slapping their own interface on top of what Google provides.
In addition to streamlining the UI, Google has revamped Android's on-screen keyboard, made it easier for users to monitor the power consumption of applications and OS components, added support for SIP-based internet calling, and developed an application that can read near-field communications tags. More interesting is the laundry list of enhancements aimed at improving gaming on Android-based devices. The OS update includes updated graphics drivers that are said to improve 3D performance, API support for gyroscopes and other motion sensors, and a new "garbage collector" that's said to smooth animations and increase responsiveness by minimizing application pauses. Speaking of responsiveness, Google also claims that Android 2.3 handles touch and keyboard input more efficiently than previous versions, making games and other applications feel snappier.
All this gaming goodness lends further credibility to rumors that Android 2.3 is coming to a Sony smartphone that will wear PlayStation branding. Such a device could be announced as early as this week, although there's been no official confirmation from Sony. In the meantime, you can get your hands on Android 2.3 in Google's new Nexus S handset, which features a 1GHz "Hummingbird" Cortex A8 CPU, a 4" 480x800 Super AMOLED screen, 16GB of solid-state storage, and a claimed 6.7 hours of 3G talk time.