Android 2.3 (a.k.a., Gingerbread) and the 9.1 APIs were released this week with an array of new features for gaming, multimedia, communication and new platforms.  Many of the enhancements are quantitative and behind-the-scenes improvements that I won’t really notice until I have it running on my phone or do some further development.  But there were enough usability improvements to interest me in giving it a spin.  So I downloaded the SDK and previewed it in my Eclipse AVD.

Not surprisingly, upgrading my Eclipse development environment also required an ADT plug-in upgrade.  But this is a familiar and easy process where the waiting is the hardest part.  A few downloads and restarts later, I had 2.3 running in my virtual device.

I instantly noticed the subtle color and contrast differences which, apart from graininess in some areas, make things more consistent and readable.  It’s become standard MO that each Android release changes the look and feel enough that you can typically identify the version at a glance.  I really like the text selection improvements, as I had otherwise nearly given up on accurate copy/paste.  The on-screen keyboard looks and behaves differently (apart from having to turn off the default Japanese IME settings), but it’s hard to get a true feel for the changes in an emulator.

For us Task Manager / pstat junkies, access to Manage Applications – Running is now quicker than a Windows Ctrl+Alt+Delete.  The release notes boast of improvements to the battery use monitor (formerly Settings – About Phone – Battery use), but I was unable to judge this on the emulator.

I didn’t / couldn’t try some of the platform enhancements like native support for AAC (new life for my abandoned iTunes downloads?), NFC tags, and SIP calls.  Those will wait until it’s on my phone.

But thus far it looks like Gingerbread is a nice addition to the Android dessert menu, and I’ll look forward to the Droid port and Verizon pushing it out (or, if I get impatient, rooting and loading it myself).  I’d be interested in your impressions of it, or even your predictions for the J release name: jello or jalebi, anyone?

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