It's time for Donut! Android v1.6 launched for developers

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Starting to feel like Android’s “Cupcake” update (v1.5) from May is getting a bit stale? Google’s got a new treat for you. They’ve just launched version 1.6 (which, under Google’s pastry-oriented naming scheme, is known as “Donut”) of Android to developers, which packs a hefty handful of new features and polishes up much of what was already there.

The bit that plays best to our geeky-blogger side (rather than our geeky-consumer side) is whats been added for the sake of lineup expandability. Namely, we’re talking about CDMA support – which, while not immediately awesome, opens the doors to Android handsets on the likes of Verizon, Sprint, and Virgin Mobile. Beyond that, they’ve also bumped the supported resolutions list to include screens all the way up to 800×480 – in other words, Android can now push much prettier images to higher-end screens.

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With that said, v1.6 isn’t without obvious, user-facing improvements. The homescreen, for example, has been modified to include a new “Quick Search” box, which lets you dig through the web or your browser bookmarks, history, and contacts in a vein similar to that of the iPhone’s spotlight screen. The camera has seen a dramatic overhaul, improving load times by as much as 39%.

They’ve also added a new battery usage system, which is one of the more interest additions here. Think of it like the activity monitor on a computer, which keeps track of which apps are using the most CPU and RAM – but instead, it tracks how much of your battery is being gobbled up by a specific app. Battery life has been a huge complaint with Android devices so far, with much of the blame laying in the hands of applications being a bit too reliant on background processing. This lets you nail those out without having to deal with the process of elimination.
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Last but by no means least: Android Market improvements. The Android Market used to be about as visually pleasing as a funeral during a rain storm, covered from edge to edge in black backgrounds and white text. They’ve done away with the drab here, instead opting for a whole lot of white with accents of the signature Android green. It may not be everyone’s style, but at least it doesn’t make you want to curl up and cry. They’ve also filled a request that developers have been making since day one: app descriptions can now include screenshots.

There’s a ton more going on behind the scenes here, including a new kernel, support for custom gestures within applications, accessibility improvements, and a whole lot of new APIs.

This is, as usual, a developer-only thing for now. Easy (or, at least, less intimidating) installation paths are sure to pop up for existing Android devices sooner or later (they already exist, to some extent), but Google expects the first sanctioned appearances on devices to begin sometime in October. In other words, expect this on the Cliq.

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