Android: Froyo and Flash 10.1 in the wild

Last week when Google announced Android 2.2, aka Froyo, most of us figured it'd be weeks or even months before we had it running on end user hardware. So what a surprise when some Nexus One owners started reporting that the new version was hitting their phones via OTA updates. It appears to be a staggered roll out, so if you have a Nexus One and haven't been upgraded yet, don't fret. On the other hand, if you just can't wait, there's a way to upgrade manually. Phandroid goes over how to do it step by step, and you don't need to have a rooted Nexus One to pull it off. In fact I don't think it'll work on a rooted N1, so you'll have to roll back to a production build before upgrading.

[ Get news and reviews on tech toys in ITworld's personal tech newsletter]

Those of us using Android on a non-Google phone will just have to be patient. Verizon is supposed to roll out 2.2 to Droids sometime in June (though if the 2.1 roll-out is any indication, it could well wind up being much later than that), but I haven't heard any word of when other carriers intend to deliver the update. HTC has said their phones would have it before the end of the year, for what that's worth. I'm sure carriers will first take a long hard look at tethering support and figure out if they want to block it or not; I'm guessing most will either block it, or offer it at additional cost. So what's the verdict from those lucky enough to have Froyo already? Well, it's too early to say anything definitive, but most seem to agree that their phones are a lot faster and people seem pleased with the core Froyo experience. Tethering is a big hit (and a big hit on battery life, too). That's the good news. The bad news seems to be that Flash 10.1 for Android – which is still in beta and isn't actually part of Froyo, but we're all dying for Flash on our phones, right? (note saracasm) – isn't quite the experience people had hoped for. Hulu is blocked, for you online TV lovers. Hulu apparently doesn't have the rights to deliver mobile content, so this is a legal decision on the part of Hulu, not a technology issue. You can work around it by using debug tools to change your user agent. Phandroid shows you how. Ed Clark of Andronica seems pretty happy with Froyo, but not as thrilled with Flash:

There was one disappointment for me that my iPhone friends predicted long ago. I immediately went to the Flash website last night to install the Flash 10.1 player and then tried it out. The standard browser, which had suddenly become turbocharged after the update, now took extra time on each site to load up flash ads. Fortunately, you can change the browser settings on the “Enable plug-ins” menu from “Always on” to “On demand“. In this mode, the browser works like a computer with Chrome or Firefox running the Flashblock plugin. You can see where the ads are and enable them by clicking an icon in the blank space. But going to Hulu was a waste of time. The site took forever to load, and videos weren’t viewable (message: “Your platform is not supported”) [But see above for a work-around.]. Videos I could load from other sites were a bit choppy. Ah well. Maybe some optimization will take place, but for the most part I wasn’t that excited about Flash. Yes, iPhone fans, you may have been right about this one.

Over at PCWorld, Ginny Mies says Flash Video runs well, but games are hit and miss. Essentially it sounds like a Flash game needs to be optimized for mobile browsers in order to run well. As I anticipated, games that expect a keyboard aren't much fun on a keyboard-less phone. Maybe they'll fare better on the Droid. Farmville apparently works, which is all that half the Flash gamers out there want anyway. The Google Operating System blog (not an official Google blog) weighs in on Flash, too. Once again, results are mixed:

I've tried to open many sites that use Flash and the experience isn't smooth. Animations are sometimes choppy, web pages load much slower, scrolling web pages that use Flash is slow and there's a lot of lag when zooming a page with Flash content. In some cases, the browser is no longer responsive for a few seconds and you need to wait until you can switch to another page. Fortunately, Adobe managed to optimize the code and using Flash doesn't drain your phone's battery much faster.

It might be that the release version of Flash 10.1 for Android will address some of these issues; we'll have to see. If not, well, we have the option of just not downloading Flash. As for the core OS, I haven't seen any substantial Froyo problems reported. If you're curious about what Froyo offers, Phil Nickinson from Android Central has done a nice 7 minute walk-through of some of the new features:

ITWorld DealPost: The best in tech deals and discounts.
Shop Tech Products at Amazon