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Android 2.3 Gingerbread: the browser

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I’ve to admit: I had a high expectative for new APIs and feature support in Gingerbread. After the iOS 4.2 update, and the last Google IO announcements for Gingerbread, I was expecting more HTML5, accelerometer, full-screen webapp and SVG support. Is Android Browser 2.3 supporting this? Let’s see.

What’s new on Android 2.3 browser?

While I am still waiting for the 2.3 OTA (over-the-air) update for my Nexus One, I’ve tested for one hour the Android Browser in the emulator available with the SDK, following the installation and localhost usage guidelines I wrote in Chapter 4 of the book.

Back in July, I’ve talked about Google’s promises on the browser and Froyo (2.2) browser updates. And a week ago, I’ve also talked about iOS 4.2 Safari updates with great surprises.

Therefore, my expectations were high. And I have to be honest: I’m disappointed.

The new browser does not support any of the promised and expected features. It seems to be the same browser with some minor core updates, such as support for better exception handling with new object constructors like SyntaxException, EvalError or URIError.

There is still no support for SVG, Animated GIF, Web Sockets or other HTML5 stuff (besides HTML5 compatibility in 2.2). And there is no support for Device Motion, accelerometer, camera or speech support, as promised in Google IO (see video1 -starting at 6:00- and video2).

UPDATE: We can find now WebM support for the video tag on Android 2.3.

We can access many of these features from Flash Player 10.1, however the user needs to install it from Android Market first.

android-keyboard

There is one big change affecting browser typing: the new virtual keyboard (see image at the right). It’s a great opportunity to use the free service I’ve launched a year ago: Mobile Tiny URL. You can short a URL optimized for numeric keypads, like the new Android’s one. Of course, it also works on other keyboards as well.

Waiting Android 3.0 Honeycomb

I have a request for the Android team for Android 3.0 Honeycomb: you need to empower your webapp platform. There is a lot of innovation to do in this topic and the Chrome team is leading this innovation in the desktop world with great success. You need to be at least in the same level in the mobile world.

I will continue with my testing on the browser. If you know any other feature working or missing, use the comment box below. If you want to check what’s new in the native environment, this is a good post.

If you want to know about HTML5 and other stuff for Mobile Web in Android, iOS and other 15 platforms, remember to look at Programming the Mobile Web book, from O’Reilly Media.

The Mobile Zone is brought to you in partnership with Apptimize.  Learn more about app optimization methods that help teams identify user preferences, decide the next iterative changes to make, and validate them through testing.

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