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Dell Streak goes Android 2.1

by Ben Smith on 30th August 2010

The Streak – Dell’s first Android device for the UKoffered exclusively by O2 – has suffered from a noticeably ageing OS since it launched running Android 1.6 in June.  However, new and existing owners will be able to upgrade to (the much improved) version 2.1 from the 1st September (Wednesday).

Update: It’s now available!.

I’ve been one of a privileged few to try the device with this software ahead of launch…

We’ve also got one of the devices to give away to a UK-based reader – see the bottom of this post for all the details.

There are plenty of good reviews of the Streak as originally released, so lets focus on what’s changed… Well, here’s the official list:

Added: 720p video recording from the rear facing 5MP camera.
: Native multi-touch support including gestures such as “pinch-to-zoom”.
: Document editing via the QuickOffice application.
: Support for ‘live wallpapers’.
: Support for multiple mail accounts including Exchange email and contacts sync.
: Look and feel of phone dialer for managing calls.
: Application compatibility with apps in the Market requiring Android 2.0+.
: Many speed and performance optimisations.

One of the more visible changes - the phone dialer.

First thoughts

After a few days of real-world use I’d say the speed and the improved app compatibility are the real winners. The interface is fast, fluid and I felt I was getting more done. Some of this is an actual speed improvement, but much is also attributable to how refined the built-in Google Apps are now (especially compared to the Blackberry plug-in I used daily). I found myself using multi-touch without even thinking about it, having spent so much time with an iPad recently… It’s almost second nature here and its presence will make iPhone users feel at home much more quickly.

Multi-touch is a nice addition, but it's the speed improvement I appreciated the most.

For me, tablet devices are still to prove themselves – there’s plenty of hype around now but it’s early days. Having appreciated the iPad’s size and convenience when travelling recently I was dubious about the much-smaller Streak (with its 5 inch screen), which feels like an over-sized phone in comparison. However, these doubts were quickly forgotten and I found myself choosing the Streak in favour of phones or the iPad regularly without really thinking about it – that’s always a good sign. Email and tweeting really doesn’t need huge amounts of screen space and this upgrade gives access to a much wiser range of apps in the Android Market so I could now use all my favourites. Most coped well with scaling to tablet dimensions and the new Tweetdeck beta was… well… very good.

Tweetdeck on the upgraded Dell Streak

Getting multi-tasking back (after some time in iPad-land) reminded me how much I had missed it and how excellent Android’s notification system is relative to most. The improved speed also made it painless to flip between apps – mirroring much more closely the way I work on a laptop than I do with any other OS. Widgets also feel more useful with the greater screen estate and speed, although too many network-intensive ones can munch through battery.

Plenty of screen estate on the Streak

I’m still not quite sure who the target market for the Streak is apart from early adopters (of course!) but this upgrade will certainly broaden the appeal. It’s now a viable sofa-surfer, media player, laptop substitute for travellers and even mobile-working solution (via Exchange sync).  It doesn’t have the cachet of the iPad, but if you don’t already live in the iTunes ecosystem it warrants serious consideration – especially if (like me) your life lives in Gmail.

The Streak is a good media player, but now adds business credentials with multiple mail accounts and document editing

The challenge for all these devices is not whether they are useful, but whether consumers will pay for intermediate devices or will opt to save the money and stick with phones or laptops.

That 2.2 Question…

It was sure to come up…

As far as we know Android 2.2 is still coming to the Streak later in the year. Dell have promised it, we see no reason for O2 to prevent it. However, it’s not ready yet…

2.1 is a great intermediate step whilst owners are waiting for all that 2.2 goodness. The Streak’s not lacking in the speed department already so the changes in 2.2 will be most appreciated for the improvements in battery-life that are anticipated.

(Epic) Win a Dell Streak

In addition to giving us early access to latest software update for the Streak, O2 have given us a brand-new one – worth £399 – to give away to a (UK-based) reader.  All you have to do is post a comment below or tweet a link to the this post and we’ll pick a winner at random on at midday UK-time on Monday 6th September.

We’re sorry we can’t send this device overseas as it is SIM-locked to O2.

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