Cupcake Adds Camcorder, Touchscreen Keyboard, and More to Android

May 27, 2009

Cupcake keyboard tutorial My personal patron of all-things-Android Viss had the latest firmware update codenamed Cupcake on his G1's memory card when we met up last night, so now I'm rocking it 1.5-style on my phone. After only a day of usage I'm pleased to say Cupcake's a sweet update to the mobile OS that really fills in some holes.

The two marquee Cupcake features are the touchscreen keyboard and video camera, but I'm most excited about the Gmail client upgrades that catch it up to the recent mobile webapp update. A subtle overhaul of Android's entire look and feel, performance increases, and quite a few other niceties put the icing on Cupcake. (Sorry, couldn't resist.)

Screenshots ahead cover Cupcakes updates to the Gmail client, text messaging capabilities, and browser.

Cupcake touchscreen keyboard First things first: the "soft" touchscreen keyboard won't be a big deal to G1 owners who are used to the flip-out full keyboard, but it does come in handy when you want to text message quickly in portrait mode. Just tap a text area to enable the keyboard, which suggests words as you type. You can enable a satisfying old-school typing sound as you tap, and like the iPhone, tapping and holding keys like e and a offer other options (like the letters with various accents).

Cupcake video camera The second biggie is the ability to take video with the phone's camera. Just hit the menu button to switch to video mode. Another nice camera update is the on-screen shutter button, and image thumbnails on screen while you shoot. You can upload video you take with Android directly to YouTube, too. The Cupcake changelog says that the camera also got performance upgrades but it's still pretty sluggish for me (especially rendering photo gallery thumbnails.)

My favorite part of Android, the native Gmail client, also got an update that catches it up to the recent mobile webapp makeover.

Cupcake Gmail batch actions Most usefully, you can now check off multiple messages in list view and perform batch actions, like label, archive, or delete them. There's the mobile webapp "floaty bar" which stays docked at the bottom of the screen as you scroll. Nice.

Cupcake Gmail Mute conversation Another Gmail-specific feature now available in the native client which I was happy to see because I use it all the time: the ability to mute a conversation.

The labeling interface also updated from less intuitive + and - signs to regular old checkboxes. The Cupcake version is on the left; compare to the 1.1 firmware label UI on the right.

Cupcake Gmail labels compared

Cupcake emoticons SMS (and MMS) got a subtle redesign, faster scrolling, the ability to detach files from MMS messages, and adorable robotic emoticons shown here.

Cupcake browser Most Visited and History list Android's web browser also got quite a bit of TLC in Cupcake. It got a faster JavaScript engine, and few useful interface additions, like a "Most Visited" and History options in the Bookmarks area.

Cupcake browser Find on Page and Select text The browser also got a Find on page option and the ability to select and copy text from a web page. The bad news: You've got to hold down the Shift key while using the trackball to select text on page and click the trackball again to copy it to clipboard, which is a pretty clumsy interface.

The Settings area of Android also got a few more options, menu items, and filters.

Cupcake list of running processes Finally, you can now see a list of running processes on your Android device. It's kind of buried--and you still can't force close a running process, but--to get there, go into Settings, Manage Applications, and from the menu filter by "Running."

Update: Reader Aaron points out that you can indeed quit a running process by clicking on it, scrolling down, and hitting the "Force stop" button. Thanks Aaron!

Cupcake orientation and animation My fellow Android user Kevin points out that there are two new interesting settings under "Sound & display" which are disabled by default. Orientation switches the phone from portrait to landscape depending on how you're holding it (not just if the keyboard is flipped out). Animation makes windows slide across the screen when you switch between them.

I'm still a happy Android user after switching from the iPhone to it a few months back. Cupcake is a solid update to the mobile OS, and should get pushed out to all phones in the coming weeks. Here's the official (and strangely incomplete) Cupcake changelog.

I think you can actually close an app now. If you go into settings->Apps->Manage Apps
Then hit menu->filter apps.
If you click on an app to get details and scroll down, you can force stop an app.
It worked when I had the browser freeze on me.

May 27 09 at 6:04 pm

I’ve done some testing on the video recording in Cupcake, and it’s not great, but it’s usable. More information here.

Dan’s not the only other Android fan in San Diego. ;)

kosmonautbruce [+2]
May 27 09 at 6:44 pm

@Aaron: Hey, you’re right, thanks! Didn’t see that. Updating the post. (I love finding out hidden treasure like this!)

Gina Trapani [+195]
May 27 09 at 6:58 pm

Thanks Gina,

Don’t know if I can wait, I’d love to have it now. :) Exciting stuff, did you find updating as difficult as they say it is?


Migs [+15]
May 27 09 at 8:57 pm

I found a video detailing the update to 1.5 if others don’t want to wait for T-mobile (no rooting required). I love cupcakes! :) haha,


Migs [+15]
May 28 09 at 12:34 am

You don’t need to hold shift to select text in the browser. After you choose “select text” you should see an arrow pointer, move this to the start of the text you want to select using the trackball, click the trackball once, then as you move the trackball the text will be highlighted. Once you have all the text you want to copy highlighted click the trackball again and it will be copied to the clipboard.

Hope this helps :)

May 28 09 at 1:51 am

Gina — what Android device do you use? I’m thinking about getting one in the next few months.


May 28 09 at 3:19 am

Soes anyone find a difference in battery life with 1.5? My G1 seems to get about 20% better, but I haven’t run any tests yet.

And Steel is the best mobile browser by far.

altrenda [+1]
May 28 09 at 7:40 am

I got my update this morning =)

Also new to 1.5 are widgets, there are several options for toggle widgets (Useful Switchers could be obsolete!).

Have you had a chance to review any of these?

Skyler [+1]
May 28 09 at 8:03 am

I’ve been running JesusFrekes cupcake builds for probably two weeks now and so far I have nothing to complain about.

Also, the “Spare Parts” app is great. It adds alot of useful settings that aren’t built into cupcake out of the box.

Do you run a custom rom at all Gina?

ffff00 [+1]
May 28 09 at 2:58 pm

I’m getting cupcaked right now. :)

drmelho [+28]
May 31 09 at 7:25 pm

The new Gmail redesign is awesome. Love the batch labels and archive!

The kids will be glad to know my phone now supports emoticons. :-D

drmelho [+28]
May 31 09 at 9:14 pm

Comments are closed. Thanks for reading!