Google intros Android 2.2, ‘Froyo’ – say hello to tethering, improved performance, and auto-updating apps

If you watched our live-blog coverage of Google’s I/O keynote this morning, you know that the search giant has introduced the latest version of its mobile platform with Android 2.2, or “Froyo.”

The latest firmware comes a scant four months after 2.1 and it adds multiple new features. One of the most interesting, and expected, features is that it will now have full support for Adobe’s Flash and AIR. You can now play your favorite games, view your favorite online videos (not Hulu though, as it’s still blocked to mobile devices) and interact with your standard websites within the browser. This gives Google’s platform a key differentiator from the iPhone, which may never support Flash.

Android 2.2 will also offer two-to-five times faster CPU performance thanks to the Dalvik JIT, a virtual compiler that should improve overall performance. The browser will also get a shot in the arm, as the V8 engine will help it absolutely blaze through JavaScript-heavy pages. The kernal memory management should also make switching apps much faster.

There are also a bunch of new tools for developers that should lead to killer apps and services. The Cloud to Device Messaging API will allow an app creators to send alerts and offer two-way syncing. One example is that you could be looking for directions on the desktop, click on a send-to-phone icon, and it will open on the device in the appropriate app (in this case, it would be Google Maps Navigation). With this, there’s no need to send it as a text or e-mail and then have to wait while the phone switches to the correct app.

Another neat new tool is the Application Backup API. If you switch between Android phones right now, your personal data and apps will come along with you but your app data won’t. This fixes that issue and you can control the granularity of it within the phone’s settings menu. You can also now save apps to your SD card, which is a godsend for users with devices that don’t have much internal memory, like the G1.

As we’ve spotted before, Froyo will let you use your Android device to tether or you can use it as a mobile hotspot. It seems fairly simple to do, as you just just into a menu and toggle it on and off. Of course, this feature could easily be nixed by the carriers or you may have to pay extra for it. For example, the EVO 4G can let you share that mobile data goodness with up to eight devices but you have to shell out $30 a month for it.

The Android Market has also received a much-needed boost, as you can now automatically update all your programs at once. Developers can also get app error reports, which should lead to less buggy apps. Business users will also appreciate that there’s now full Exchange support, remote wiping and expanded administrator options.

The camera has also added some new features: the UI for zoom, flash and other things have been tweaked and you can use the LED flash for the camcorder.

It looks like a very good, but not monumental, upgrade and it should make Android fans happy. Google also gave some previews of what to expect from future versions of Android and that could be coming as soon as the fourth quarter.

Developers can play with it now (hit the Via link below) and it is expected to come to the high-end Android handsets first. If you don’t want to take my word for it, check out the video Google has produced below.

[Via Google]

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