Google recently announced the release of Android 2.3, known as Gingerbread. Though, as of the writing of this article it is only available on the new Google Nexus S, many Android phones could potentially receive this update, including the Nexus One and original Motorola Droid. Phones with modified versions of Android will have to wait longer for any updates, and some phones may have incompatible hardware, such as the original T-Mobile G1, which is stuck at Android 1.6 Donut.
Ease of Use
If there is one thing that many users new to Android complain about, is that Android is difficult to fully understand. There is no question that Android is a powerful and robust operating system (OS) that includes many features that are either never used or never understood by many users. Android 2.3 includes several improvements to the user-interface (UI) that are intended to make using and learning the Android OS much simpler. A new color theme will help distinguish the menu and title bars, making for easier navigation and a more intelligently designed access to settings and Android features.
Using the on-board Android keyboard is a bit of a challenge. The 2.3 update includes a completely redesigned on-screen keyboard. The keys have been given an refreshed look and the placement of keys is now more conducive to faster texting and typing. Android 2.3 also provides improvements to the spelling dictionary and allows for easier access to the user-defined dictionary.
Copying and pasting also gets easier with Gingerbread with a new feature that allows a single touch to highlight a word.
Battery Life and Power Management
Read any Android based smartphone review and the first thing that will jump out at you is how bad the battery life is. Many Android phone users feel compelled to frequently monitor and shut down or 'kill" apps in order to extend the battery life. Android 2.3 improves the ability of the OS to manage what apps are running and to shut down those non-critical battery drainers. I highly doubt that this alone will create a dramatic improvement in battery life, but any improvements will be well received.
Near-field Communications (NFC) Ability
This emerging technology allows advertisers to embed information into their product or display. Android 2.3 users will be able to touch their phones to a Near-field enabled product (such as a product display) and receive additional information about the product. Though Near-field Communications is not everywhere yet, it is growing in popularity and is much more common in European cities.
Gingerbread again shows Google's commitment to continued improvements with their OS. I, for one, am anxiously awaiting for my Droid and Droid Incredible to receive the updates. And who knows, with the incredible growth in Android's popularity, Google may even come out with another, even more exciting update by the time I am due for a phone refresh!