Update will be full of little, tasty visual treats

Back in June, we reported Google's plans to launch a major Android update, "Gingerbread" (Android 3.0), in Q4 2010. Amongst other things, Gingerbread promised to kill off third-party "bloatware" like HTC Sense UI and Motoblur, and would only be available for top-tier devices. Now, thanks to the folks over at Phandroid, we have a slightly better idea of what some of those "other things" may be.

The Android-fan website has received some new Gingerbread information from a "trusted source close to Google," particularly about some of the graphic enhancements we'll be seeing. As you may know, the lead designer of Palm's webOS, Martias Duarte, fled to Google to work on Android last May. While Palm is struggling amid executive-level shakeups (having been acquired by HP) and catastrophic sales numbers of its devices, its OS has largely been praised as sleek and innovative. Analysts saw Duarte's arrival at Android as a sign that Google would be taking some visual cues from webOS, and it appears as if they're right.

According to Phandroid, most of the visual changes to Gingerbread thus far are quite subtle. Most of the standard icons, like the Android debugging icon, have taken on a "simpler and cleaner look." The overall OS experience is easier on the eyes and the overall aesthetic has a more uniform feel to it, as if it were designed in an individual effort.

Initially, the changes are most noticeable on the notification bar. Rather than the bright white notifications present on current Android, they've taken on a warmer, "slate grey" color. While everything in the bar itself looks pretty familiar, the carrier branding is more prominently displayed when the notification tab is pulled down.

Not much has changed fundamentally on the home screen. One thing Phandroid points out is that Google is bringing in more of Android's trademark green into various places within the OS. The Browser and Dialer buttons at the bottom of the screen have gone from a muted gray to a bright lime green. But the familiar orange isn't totally gone, either. One change, in fact, embraces it. When scrolling through lists, the edges emit an orange glow and the list bounces back if a top or bottom border is reached -- similar to the "bouncy" effect on iOS or TouchWiz 3.0. 

Another visual element that Google's been working on is making the Google apps look and feel more integrated with the OS. For example, the YouTube app (upgraded to version 2.x) has been reshuffled to make it more visually appealing and will feature the ability to control the new "Lean Back" feature. There's even the possibility that the app will allow control of the feature as it plays on Google TV, but no details have been given.

But it's not all eye candy either. While Android 2.2 significantly boosted app performance thanks to a Davlik JIT compiler, it's been rumored that Google would be implementing additional hardware acceleration into Gingerbread. Though none of these changes/implementations have been confirmed, "it sounds like that just might be the case with Gingerbread," Phandroid reports.

Unlike in the past, when Google didn't stipulate any hardware requirements, Gingerbread is implementing minimal hardware requirements (similar to Windows Phone 7). All Gingerbread-powered devices will be running on at least a 1 GHz processor, 512 MB RAM, and 3.5" display (4" displays and larger require resolutions of at least 1280 x 760).

There's also the addition of "support for video chat using the same protocols that powers video chat on the desktop version of Google Talk." SIP support for Google Voice is also added, allowing users to receive calls on their Google Voice number over WiFi or cellular data. 

Overall, though, Gingerbread is said to resemble HTC's Sense UI in terms of how it changes the stock OS -- meaning it will be much more familiar than, say, a complete overhaul. Rather, it will have a sleeker, more refined feel.

Keep in mind that these are still early details and could change or be greatly added upon in the final build. Google originally aimed for a Q4 2010 launch for the holiday-theme-named update, but, according to Phandroid's impressions, Gingerbread may be pushed to the first part of next year instead.

"This week I got an iPhone. This weekend I got four chargers so I can keep it charged everywhere I go and a land line so I can actually make phone calls." -- Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg

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