Looking at Android 1.5--and beyond

This week T-Mobile USA will finally unveil its long-awaited Android 1.5 update, promising G1 users a host of new feature enhancements and upgrades. The revamped Android OS now runs on the Linux kernel 2.6.27, translating to stronger security, improved stability and a range of core application enhancements; the update also features SIM Application Toolkit 1.0 as well as SD cardfile system auto-checking and repair. Most notable of all, Android 1.5 offers programmers a wealth of additional APIs and manifest elements--too many to list here (check out the Android Developers site for a complete rundown), but highlights include the new AppWidget framework, a media framework featuring video and photo sharing intents, and miscellaneous enhancements like LocationManager, WebView and GLSurfaceView.

The Android update coincides with a flurry of related headlines--on Friday, the GigaOM blog interviewed T-Mobile USA CTO Cole Brodman, who proclaimed the operator will launch multiple Android devices in the second half of 2009 in conjunction with three different manufacturing partners. In addition, Dell is reportedly mulling the introduction of an Android-based netbook, and images said to depict HTC's next Android-based smartphone have also hit the web.

To top it all off, research and consulting firm Strategy Analytics is now forecasting that global Android smartphone shipments will grow 900 percent in 2009, thanks to healthy support from operators, vendors and developers--by comparison, Apple's iPhone OS, the second fastest growing smartphone operating system, will experience just a 79 percent growth rate in 2009. While Strategy Analytics admits that Android is expanding from a low base (the G1 was only on sale for the last few months of 2008, and just recently passed the 1 million sales benchmark), the firm contends the platform's relatively low-cost licensing model and semi-open-source structure, as well as Google's support for cloud services, will galvanize industry interest. Apparently Android 1.5 boasts an unadvertised feature: Generating renewed interest and hype. -Jason