What 2011 Has in Store for Android

2011 has been a big year for Android. Okay, I’ll admit that it’s not even March yet but with Mobile World Congress and CES, a lot of the big announcements have been made by phone manufacturers. Sure, there’ll be new phones throughout the year but with so many groundbreaking announcements already, it wouldn’t be right to go ahead without rounding them up.

In the last two months, Android’s main adopters have already released or announced a whole range of new tables, dual-core phones, 3D devices, and even one phone with dual touch screens for better multitasking.

Tablets, Tablets, and More Tablets

Did you hear? There’s this thing called the tablet. Apple announced its iPad on January 27th, 2010, following months of speculation, and the various Android manufacturers scrambled to release their own tablets. Unfortunately, the best tablet last year was the Samsung Galaxy Tab, a less-than-widely adopted device by the makers of the Galaxy line.

However, this year’s CES changed things. Seven-inch, ten-inch, with keyboard, without keyboard, 3G, 4G — whatever type of tablet you want, there’s probably one running Android for you. The biggest announcement, however, was a 10″ tablet from Motorola: the Xoom.

The Xoom runs Honeycomb, and at a recent event, Google showed off the tablet-optimized operating system. This is the first tablet that doesn’t look and feel like a blown-up smartphone. With many bloggers and media outlets alike naming this the first real tablet browsing experience, it looks to be a strong point in Android’s 2011 strategy.

Motorola's Xoom will be one of Android's flagship devices in 2011.

4G and Evolving Technologies

During CES, there was also a large amount of new handsets, most with few new features. For these phones, the device’s main flagship feature was usage of America’s forth-generation mobile networks: 4G. Verizon and its LTE networks, especially, have been very prominent in these new phones’ marketing.

There’s an ongoing debate to what 4G is, and when it may jump the pond and come across to other countries. Nevertheless, this is and will be a prominent feature in the phones released this year, on every platform.

4G will be a common theme in 2011

3D and Dual-Core

Track back one number and swap that G for a D: you get 3D. Three-dimensional displays have been available for a long time and their use on TVs has only became mainstream(ish) in the last year. Now, this experience is on smaller devices, from the 3DS to Android-based smartphones. Just recently, LG announced their Optimus 3D phone which has naked-eye 3D. Don’t expect this technology to hit lower to mid-range phones but your $200, two-year contract smartphone might run it.

Dual-core processors are another mainstream feature on newly-announced smartphones at CES. NVIDIA announced their Tegra 2 mobile chip during the Consumer Electronics Show which is the first to run two simultaneous cores. LG and Motorola already have announced handsets including the Atrix, which fits into a number of different docks.

These two technologies have already been prolific in phones announced both at CES and Mobile World Congress, and will surely continue on all platforms throughout the year.

The LG Optimus 3D is one of a handful of 3D mobile devices.

Dual Screen Phones

Kyocera’s Echo is an “industry first” as dubbed by Sprint sporting two (yes, as in one plus one) 3.5-inch WVGA touch screens. The Echo can be used in single-screen mode or can be slid open to be used as a dual-screen device. Android developers can use this second screen to the advantage of their apps, or users can opt to simultaneously run one of seven core apps. These Echo-specific apps allow the user to run two at a time, one per screen. Now that is true multitasking!

The Echo is the first phone to utilize a second screen (although we have seen some prototypes of other devices with soft keyboards on touch screens) but we can probably expect more from premium handset makers such as Samsung and HTC to trickle through in the coming months.

Kyocera's Echo is the first dual touch-screen handset running Android.

Honeycomb and Market Refinement

Finally, on Google’s side of things are OS refinements. At the start of February, Google held an event at the Googleplex where they showed off the pre-announced tablet-optimized Honeycomb. Both before and since then, many of Android’s top phone makers launched tablets running 3.0 from Motorola’s Xoom to Samsung’s Galaxy Tab.

Market refinement also came in the form of a new web-based marketplace (something that we’ve detailed in a how to), in-app purchases, and country explicit pricing.

Google has taken a big step towards providing a better, consumer-friendly experience for its users and we can only expect more updates to come in the future.