Android 2.3 Coming to Samsung Galaxy Phones, Tablet

Samsung announced Monday it would offer a software upgrade to bring Android 2.3, or Gingerbread, to its Galaxy S handset line as well as its 7-inch Galaxy tablet. Gingerbread (s goog) will start rolling out in mid-May to the U.K. and Nordic regions first, followed by other European markets, North America, Southeast Asia, the Middle East Asia, and Africa. Handset and tablet owners in some areas will be able to download the update over Samsung’s Kies service, although here in the U.S., carriers are likely to be involved with the process, which could slow down the rollout.

Carrier involvement in the update process has led some criticism of Samsung in the U.S., as device owners waited months before their Samsung Galaxy S smartphones received the Android 2.2 upgrade, which Google made available last May. As late as October of last year, some U.K. Samsung handsets were still waiting for Android 2.2 due to delays, and it wasn’t until January of this year that U.S. carriers began pushing the software to Galaxy S phones. Samsung’s 7-inch Galaxy Tab hasn’t fared much better: The small tablet debuted for sale in October with the older Android 2.2 and is only just now beginning to see an update to version 2.3. Unfortunately, even with this latest update, the Galaxy devices are behind, as Google has added newer features, such as video chat.

I actually couldn’t wait for Samsung, so I followed these instructions to install Android 2.3 on my own Galaxy Tab over the weekend. The software build comes from the official Samsung release, which just became available in Italy last week. Although my tablet still can’t use its front-facing camera for Google Talk video calls, the overall performance of the device has improved.

Samsung’s custom browser is far more responsive that it was prior; it’s so much better that I might use it in lieu of the popular Dolphin HD Browser, although I think I’d miss some features from that third-party application. Pinch to zoom is superb in the Samsung browser since the update. I’d say it’s actually on par with iOS (s aapl) devices in that area at this point. And although I haven’t done any specific testing, the battery life appears to be improved on the Tab as well. Although the software update may have arrived later than some might prefer, after just a few days of use, I’d say it’s worth the wait.