Everything you need to know about Android 2.0

Android 2.0
Google erects massive cake statues on its campus to celebrate each Android release. First a cupcake, then a donut, now an enormous éclair

Android 2.0 (formerly codenamed 'Éclair') is the latest evolution of the mobile OS developed by Google and the Open Handset Alliance.

This version is a chunky upgrade, superceding the current Android 1.6 software (dubbed 'Donut'), which was actually considered "a minor platform release".

The first phone to feature Android 2.0 will be Motorola's comeback phone, the DROID (aka the dull-sounding Milestone in Europe).

It stands as an example of some the techno-goodness that inches Android 2.0 that little bit closer to bettering the Apple iPhone. For example, there's...

Contacts 2.0 – MotoBLUR meets HTC's Sense

The good news for future Android phones (but bad news for the Palm Pre) is that Android 2.0 significantly upgrades its contacts functionality. Multiple email accounts and contacts lists can all be cleverly mashed together, enabling you to sync your personal and work accounts into one easy-to-manage super-list.

A new API will also enable developers to develop widgets that can "provide synchronisation with additional data sources". Think MotoBLUR-style Twitter and Facebook integration in the future.

A new 'Quick Contact' feature, meanwhile, seems to take its cues from HTC's Sense UI. Quick Contact enables you to select a contact and view all the available ways that you can get in touch with them, i.e. by phone, SMS and email. This sort of integrated contacts feature already works impressively on the HTC Hero, which also extends the approach to Facebook status updates and Flickr photo albums.

Android 2.0

MULTIPLE ACCOUNTS: The Android 2.0 OS not only supports multiple email accounts but it can merge them into one centralised inbox

Android 2.0

QUICK CONTACT: Tap on a Contact and the new Quick Contact feature will show all the ways that you can contact them

You want Microsoft Exchange? You've got Microsoft Exchange

While earlier versions of the Android OS bolted Microsoft Exchange support on top of the core software stack, Android 2.0 now has this business-friendly functionality built-in.

That said, it's not a mandatory Android feature – it's up to the handset manufacturers to choose whether to include Exchange support in their mobile devices. But, with the VPN support that came courtesy of Android 1.6, Android 2.0 is in better shape for corporate use.

Multiplayer gaming via Bluetooth

The new Éclair update also brings Bluetooth 2.1 support to the Android platform with two new profiles – Object Push Profile (OPP) and Phone Book Access Profile (PBAP).

They might not sound like the sexiest of upgrades, but consider the possibilities here. OPP enables Android 2.0 handsets to send/receive files, paving the way for proximity-based multiplayer gaming, wireless contact/photo swapping and other P2P applications. While PBAP enables another device to access phone book information over a Bluetooth connection, enable in-car technology to display the contact name for an incoming call or let drivers dial their contacts direct from the dashboard.