Programming
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By Louis Simoneau

Android 2.3: This Isn’t the Browser You Were Looking For

By Louis Simoneau

Google yesterday announced the latest release of its Android mobile operating system: version 2.3, codenamed Gingerbread. While there are a number of cool new features available to native app developers (such as front-facing camera support, mixable audio effects, and a ton of new sensor input options), those of us who prefer to work in the browser have received little in the way of new toys. Last week, I blogged about the new features in iOS 4.2, and there were a few of particular interest to web devs: notably an implementation of the device orientation API and support for websockets. Unfortunately, neither of those features have made their way into Android 2.3.

A quick browse through the release notes reveals precious little in the way of added support for browser-based technologies: no websockets, no accelerometer, not even SVG. In fact, the only addition to the webkit-based Android browser appears to be support for WebM HTML5 video and AAC audio.

Given Android’s huge gains in market share over the course of this year, this lag in implementing new browser features is a real pain for web developers anxious to roll out cool new sites making use of all the latest bells and whistles. And, since most of the missing features are already present in Chrome on the desktop, it’s difficult to understand Google’s decision to leave them out of the Android browser. It’s possible that some of these browser features might show up when the OS is actually made available for users, and that they’ve only been omitted in the SDK release notes since they don’t impact native app developers—but it seems more likely that we’ll have to wait until the next major release.

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