Google shows new Android features

Google wowed crowds at the I/O developer conference in San Francisco by demonstrating the latest Android features running on an undisclosed touchscreen handset.

Google shows new Android features

Although the source of the hardware was kept under wraps it was announced that the phone had a built-in compass and accelerometer, allowing a nifty new trick in Google Maps.

Bringing up a shot of San Fransisco in Street View, Android’s engineering director Steve Horowitz showed that turning to face another direction automatically panned the map to follow.

An interesting new security feature has also been introduced which requires a user-customisable swipe to unlock the device. This shape can be altered to create a form of visual password.

These advanced features obviously require certain hardware, but the operating system is designed to work with almost any handset, claims Google.

Although it supports touchscreen devices, the software will also work with trackballs or menu buttons, and can even be run on simple handsets without screens, if necessary.

A new notification menu has also been added, showing received text messages, emails and calendar items on the main screen, and web bookmarks can now be placed on the desktop. A smaller, but nonetheless welcome addition was a version of Pac-Man from Namco.

However, Google is more focused on creating a stable and adaptable operating system, leaving the creation of applications and games to the open-source development community.

Despite Google’s claims that the code is open source, it has yet to be released to the public. The company claims that once the first handset using Android emerges on to the market, version 1.0 of the software will be released.

The operating system certainly appears to be ready for a commercial release, having progressed significantly since we took a look at it in November last year. Google claims that the first handsets to use it will emerge in the second half of this year.

As expected, Google also announced a new pricing scheme for its App Engine at the conference, which has now been opened to all users.

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