Not a massive leap forwards, but it's more polished and greatly improves the Android experience.
Application management has been improved, too. For starters, the OS will keep better track of running applications and even terminate ones that are using too much processor time while running in the background. In practice it should improve battery life. Certainly, the Nexus S lasts around a weekend of normal use, while the Nexus One only lasted around a day; however, until we get chance to upgrade the Nexus One to get a real comparison it’s hard to say how good this feature really is.
There’s now a link to Manage Apps from the context-menu in the Homescreen. This makes it easier to see which applications are running and terminate them manually if you need to, partially removing the need for third-party managers, such as Advanced Task Killer.
We love the new Download Manager, which gives you a single place to access all of your downloads, rather than hunting around using a file manager. It’s much neater and is something that we would have expected to see sooner.
While you can now make SIP VoIP calls using Gingerbread’s in-built client, it’s not particularly exciting and most consumers will probably find installing the Skype client. Once this has been updated, Gingerbread’s support for multiple cameras will make video calling possible.
Near-field Communications (NFC) is one of the big features that Google talked about at the launch of the Nexus S. With Android 2.3’s support for the technology a handset with an NFC chip can be used to make payments. With Orange and O2 both planning NFC payment services, this technology is close to being useful. That said, it’s not exciting enough to warrant a handset upgrade until your contract is due.
While Android 2.3 isn’t the big upgrade that Android 2.2 was, it successfully makes Google’s mobile operating system feel a lot more polished. In fact, after using it extensively since the Nexus S launch, we think it makes ‘plain’ Android a satisfying experience and, in many ways, better than tweaked versions of the OS, such as HTC Sense.