The latest version of Google's Android Software Development Kit has been released, and it offers a sneak peak into upcoming features of version 1.6 of the open-source mobile platform.

According to a breakdown over on Betanews, the next version of the increasingly-popular Linux-based software - codenamed 'Donut,' in keeping with the cake-based theme chosen by Google - is going to offer some pretty impressive functionality currently sorely missed.

Perhaps most importantly, Android 1.6 is set to offer support for CDMA-based mobile networks, as well as the GSM support which it already features. This will allow the use of Android-based handsets in countries that don't use GSM, and will widen the devices' international appeal.

Improvements to the UI are also set to be included: gesture support will allow developers to include libraries of application-specific gestures, allowing users to simply wave their fingervaguely across the screen in order to carry out actions. If that wasn't enough, Google will also be include a text-to-speech API dubbed Pico which will be available to all developers and support multiple languages.

Improvements to the camera continue, with the development team updating their video support and finally allowing users to switch between still snapshot and video mode from a single interface. Performance has also been tweaked, with the company claiming that the camera is ready to shoot 39 percent faster than in Android 1.5, and has 28 percent less lag between shots.

If you're finding that your handset runs out of battery rather faster than you might like, the new 'fuel gauge' functionality should interest you: when activated , the system will present you with a list of all running applications and approximately how much power each is using as a percentage of the total - allowing you to find the power hog and switch it off.

If you're a business user then new support for virtual private networks should interest you, with support for L2TP/IPSEC, L2TP, and PPTP - making it easy to open a secure channel to your workplace. Finally, an updated and easier to use Android Market and a unified quick search system rounds off the new features.

Although no firm date has yet been set for the rollout of Android 1.6, Google has told developers to expect to have to support devices running the new version "as early as October." If you'd like to see what's new without downloading the SDK, check out the official - although slightly outdated - video over on YouTube.

Is Android ever likely to dent the seemingly-unconquerable iPhone OS, or is Google barking up the wrong tree with these updates? Is there any functionality still missing that you'd require before switching to an Android-based device? Share your thoughts over in the forums.

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