Google Android 1.5
Despite Android's huge initial promise, there's still just one U.S. smartphone running the OS: the T-Mobile G1. That device is now almost a year old—and it didn't look particularly cutting edge when it was released, either. Luckily, that situation will soon change, as Motorola, Samsung, and others have stepped up with promises to release Android-powered handsets. But Google itself hasn't rested, either. The latest version of the OS, Android 1.5, features a number of major enhancements, including video recording and playback, faster camera and GPS performance, and support for home screen widgets. Collectively, it's still not enough to overtake the iPhone's stellar media playback and broad third-party app support, however. And Android 1.5 isn't as flashy as Palm's new, multitasking WebOS on the Palm Pre, either. But version 1.5 is a big step in the right direction.
For current T-Mobile G1 owners, installing the OS is dead simple. If your handset doesn't already have it now, head to Menu > Settings > System Updates, and then tap Install and Restart. The T-Mobile G1 automatically reboots, downloads the 32MB installation package, and installs the new OS. On my test G1, the installation took roughly 10 minutes running EDGE; a Wi-Fi download would have been much quicker.
advantages over the iPhone was a slide-out hardware QWERTY keyboard. Having said that, sometimes it's a chore to flip out the keyboard for just one or two words. The on-screen keyboard eliminates that problem, and offers rudimentary predictive text to boot. The new virtual keyboard is a little crunched in width compared with the iPhone's, at least vertically. It does rotate to landscape mode, but first you have to enable it (by checking the box next to Settings > Sound and Display > Orientation). Either way, it's certainly better than nothing, and you always have the hardware keyboard for extended typing chores on the G1. The on-screen keyboard will come in especially handy for upcoming Android devices without a keyboard.
On the wireless front, Android 1.5 can now automatically pair with any nearby Bluetooth 2.1-enabled headset. It also adds support for stereo Bluetooth headphones. In one music test, Marcus Miller's electric bass guitar threw a wide stereo image, but sounded surprisingly muffled over a paired wireless set of Motorola S9-HDs, which are normally brighter and crisper sounding. The automatic pairing worked great with the S9-HDs, however. I also really liked Android 1.5's Bluetooth setup screen. It showed all nearby devices right away, along with whether they were paired, connected, or both. It also showed the Bluetooth profiles each one supported. These are welcome improvements, but, note: you still can't pair with an external Bluetooth keyboard.—Next: Android Camcorder