While many Android users are still patiently waiting for version 2.1 of the OS to be released for their handsets, the net is thrumming with rumours of new features to come in Android 2.2 - codenamed Froyo.

Continuing Google's longstanding tradition of naming its Android releases after sweet snacks - the codename being a portmanteau of "frozen yoghurt" - Android 2.2 Froyo looks set to be the version which really - ironically - brings the heat to Apple.

When the guys over at AndroidPolice.com got their hands on a pre-release version of the firmware, they fudged it onto a 2.1-enabled Nexus One handset and ran some benchmarks - with eye-opening results. While few people would call Android 2.1 a slouch (especially as it typically runs on high-end handsets), Froyo scored 450 percent higher on the Linpack benchmark. As this represents direct improvements to the Dalvik Java Virtual Machine on which client applications run, theoretically this is going to translate to a much smoother experience across all hardware.

The improvements extend beyond back-end performance gains, too: as well as the now-confirmed Flash 10.1 support, TechCrunch has revealed that Froyo will include in-built tethering support, allowing your laptop or netbook to share your Android smartphone's Internet connection either via USB or - impressively - via WiFi.

Tethering has been supported on the Android platform for a while, but only via third-party software packages, some of which cost money if you want to use certain protocols. There's one possible fly in the ointment, however: the networks. With mobile networks becoming increasingly concerned about the amount of data a smartphone user can get through in an average month - see Vodafone's announcement that it is to start enforcing a 500MB a month download cap across all tariffs - it's perfectly possible that subsidised handsets bought as part of a contract will come with the tethering feature disabled.

Network worries aside, Froyo looks set to be the best version of Android yet - let's just hope all the current Android handsets get a timely upgrade.

Are you an Android user salivating at the thought of a 450 percent speed boost, or is it the tethering that's got you all excited? Are you an iPhone user who still thinks that Google's got a long way to go before it can offer a real challenge to Apple? Share your thoughts over in the forums.

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