Updates to this story
Details of Google's latest incarnation of its Android operating system, dubbed 3.0 or “Gingerbread”, have been leaked, revealing a graphical overhaul, integrated Google apps, video chat support, and a faster operating speed.
The leaks came courtesy of Phandroid, which claims to have a “trusted source close to Google.” They supplied a lot of details and even a picture, but the latter is so badly blurred that it's mostly illegible and provides no real proof of what the new OS looks like.
Looks are the focus of the day, however, as we have come to expect from previous hints. Android has long been criticised for its user interface, which many believe simply is not up to par with Apple's iOS. This has caused many manufacturers to develop their own UI overlay for Android, such as HTC's Sense and Motorola's Motoblur. That is all set to change, however, with the source suggesting the new version of Android will look and operate a lot like Sense.
Changes to the stock UI include the decision to use the colour green a lot more, given it's the colour of choice for the logo and mascot. Orange will still be used at times, however.
The icons have been redesigned to look more easy on the eyes and more uniform, with Phandroid believing they have now been designed by one person as opposed to several different people, helping to give a more unified experience.
One major change to the OS is stronger integration of the apps to make them appear and feel like an extension of the platform as opposed to something added to it later. This means a complete overhaul of how things look and work for many applications, such as Youtube and a variety of other Google applications.
Built-in video chat is also on the cards and may be the answer to Apple's recent addition of FaceTime to the iPhone 4. This should work through Google Talk, but there's also a suggestion that Google is planning to add full Voice support to allow users to make phone calls over their wireless connection. This remark was qualified by statting that the feature may not be ready in time for Gingerbread's release (which appears to be imminent) and won't be available for earlier versions of Android.
Speed is also on the cards, with plans to up performance of the OS like Android 2.2 did in comparison to 2.1. Gingerbread will continue to use the Dalvik JIT compiler to bump up CPU speeds and there's talk of adding more hardware acceleration for even greater performance.
There was no confirmation of the much rumoured high system requirements, which many have suggested will be 1GHz of processor speed and 512MB of RAM. Quite a lot of phones do not have that spec at the moment, which will mean a lot of upgrades if people want to use Gingerbread, but luckily the market has already seen dozens of powerful Android phones release, which should be able to run the new version.
It also looks like the fourth quarter 2010 release date could be pushed back to the first quarter of 2011, but talk of not having time to integrate certain features suggests to us that Google is still planning to get it out by the end of the year.