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Android Update Packs a Killer Punch

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Taking advantage of the spotlight beaming on last week's Google I/O conference, Google (Nasdaq: GOOG  ) presented a much-anticipated and pretty darn powerful update to its Android mobile operating system.

Android 2.2, or Froyo (short for "frozen yogurt") for those who prefer Google's dessert-oriented code names, is more than just another bunch of bug fixes and minor features. I told you last year that Android versions don't matter much, but this one does like a Droid.

The killer feature in Froyo is the one-two punch of tethering and Wi-Fi hotspot support. In the first case, you can hook your updated Android phone up to your computer and enjoy the Internet through the phone's 3G (or 4G) connection. In the second, the phone becomes a Wi-Fi router on demand, providing wireless connectivity for up to 8 client devices. These features are also available from Verizon (NYSE: VZ  ) Wireless, AT&T (NYSE: T  ) , and Sprint-Nextel (NYSE: S  ) today -- but then you need a separate gadget with its own data plan. Palm also made hotspot capability a key selling point of its recent Palm Pre Plus phone. Web blog TechCrunch confirmed that Android 2.2 can be modified in several ways to make tethering support a paid feature, so it remains to be seen how much longer carriers will continue trying to wring extra costs out of these features.

There's much more, including a severe speedup of both the operating system and the web browser, expanded support for those business-friendly and nearly ubiquitous Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT  ) Exchange servers, and built-in Adobe (Nasdaq: ADBE  ) Flash support. But again, the connection-sharing power looks like it could be a game-changer, a killer app, a reason to throw away your Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL  ) iPhone and get an Android. Verizon started enabling the hotspot feature on Palm Pre Plus for free, so the thought of carriers opening the door to these features has some precedent.

Froyo is not only theoretically available, but has already been installed on review copies of Google's own Nexus One phones. Handset manufacturer HTC promises to update all of its recent models to Froyo in 2010, and Google engineers say that every one of its Android handsets all the way back to the ancient G1 should be capable of running the software. Independent tests note that the speedy code breathes fresh life into old gadgets.

These days, Android versions do matter, and you really want Froyo if you can get it. This release is chock-full of selling points and should accelerate Android's already hasty market adoption. Will service providers throw a collective fit over Google's audacious free features overriding their own paid services? If not, then Google will change the business model of wireless phone services after all.

What's not to love about Froyo? Cry havoc and let slip the dogs of war in the comments below.

Fool contributor Anders Bylund owns shares in Google, but he holds no other position in any of the companies discussed here. Yes, he knows that you can make nearly any smartphone into a 3G hotspot, but it's way beyond the ken of your average user and doesn't count. Microsoft and Sprint Nextel are Motley Fool Inside Value recommendations. Google is a Motley Fool Rule Breakers choice. Apple and Adobe Systems are Motley Fool Stock Advisor recommendations. Motley Fool Options has recommended a diagonal call position on Microsoft. Try any of our Foolish newsletters today, free for 30 days. You can check out Anders' holdings and a concise bio if you like, and The Motley Fool is investors writing for investors.

Read/Post Comments (7) | Recommend This Article (13)

Comments from our Foolish Readers

Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

  • Report this Comment On May 24, 2010, at 2:10 PM, XMFTom7 wrote:

    I wouldn't chortling *too* much about that speedy Froyo browsing experience with Flash compatibility: :)

  • Report this Comment On May 24, 2010, at 2:12 PM, mdtopper wrote:

    Gotta love Google.

  • Report this Comment On May 24, 2010, at 2:16 PM, mdtopper wrote:


    did I miss something?

    From the article you referenced

    Preliminary indications based on benchmarks suggest that its speed easily exceeds that of Android 2.1 and should significantly surpass that of the iPhone 3GS.

  • Report this Comment On May 24, 2010, at 2:35 PM, Henry3Dogg wrote:

    Curious that tethering is considered a "killer app" for Android. iPhone has had it for at least 12 months. I have been using it on O2 for much of that time.

    Of course, it's up to your service provider whether they consider it falls under the "fair use" on your unlimited data contract.

  • Report this Comment On May 24, 2010, at 2:37 PM, hellomojo wrote:

    @mtopper - What you missed was that "benchmarks suggest that its speed easily exceeds that of Android 2.1 and should significantly surpass that of the iPhone 3GS." only AFTER they uninstall the built in Flash support. The OS as it ships had speed issues and interface hiccups while dealing with Flash based websites.

  • Report this Comment On May 24, 2010, at 2:50 PM, Borbality wrote:

    So you can use your Android INSTEAD of having an internet connection?!!? Am I reading this correctly?

    Now we're talking. My wife and I are on the internet all day at work and I hate paying for home internet and home phone (WTF) considering we don't use them that much. I'd love to disconnect the AT&T and use the Android when I need to get online at home. I've resisted smart phones because of the data plans, but this could actually replace my Internet.

  • Report this Comment On May 24, 2010, at 3:34 PM, omnibot wrote:

    @ TMFTom7

    You do realize that, with flash, android has a lot more content to load than the iphone in that test, which takes only slightly longer than the iphone?

    If a second or two of extra loading time gives me the full internet experinence, I'll take it. It's nice to have that option.

    Speaking of options, you can enable Flash content to load "on demand" by choosing only what you wish to see.

    or alternatively you can install "AdFree", an app in the market that acts similarly to AdBlock Plus for Firefox.

    Either of those options will level load time with the iphone if not beat it.

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