It may have taken a couple of tries, but it looks like one of the Gingerbread release rumors was dead-on. Today Google revealed Android 2.3, better known as Gingerbread, and detailed the improvements found for both end users and developers. Those of us that stick to just using the handsets, rather than coding for them, will find a redesigned keyboard with multitouch support and better cut/paste, a shortcut to manage application activity, VoIP support that is integrated into Contacts, NFC support, a Downloads app to help manage and access downloaded files, a Camera app that allows control over front and rear cameras, a refined UI, and improved power management that will "take a more active role in managing apps" and closing them if necessary to help improve battery life.
Developers aren't being left out of the fun, as the Android 2.3 SDK includes a ton of new features to play around with. The most notable inclusion is "Enhancements for gaming," which bodes well for that upcoming PlayStation Phone. Also in the SDK is support for new forms of communication, like NFC, and improvements when it comes to multimedia, including mixable audio effects and support for more media formats. Check out a video detailing Android 2.3 below.
Gingerbread is finally here, and it's packing quite a few more features than a lot of people expected. The first one that many will notice is the new UI, which is much more green than previous versions of the OS, and could end up polarizing a lot of users. I suppose it's good that just about every manufacturer has their own skin for use on Android phones, huh? The improved keyboard and power management are welcome additions, too, as those are two complaints that you hear a lot from Android users. We'll have to try them out for ourselves to see just how improved they actually are, but any improvement is welcome at this point. Now we just have to wait and hope that Android 2.3 starts rolling out to users of handsets other than the Nexus S. Any guesses as to which phones will see it first?
UPDATE: The Android 2.3 user guide has been spotted, and it includes 374 pages of Gingerbread goodness. It includes a ton of screenshots and good information, so if you want to become a Gingerbread expert and impress all of your friends, head right here and get to reading (PDF).