Updated: April 24, 2009, at 1:10 p.m. PT with a comment from Google.
Last week Google tantalized Android developers with an early version of its software developer kit for Android 1.5, the upcoming version of its mobile operating system. Included with it is a laundry list of new features coming out, many of them suspiciously familiar to those Apple's iPhone already has. But here's one, highlighted on Friday, that the iPhone doesn't have: Live Folders.
Loosely lumped into the category of "more home screen widgets," Live Folders are essentially shortcut views into a folder on the phone where you'll be able to view all the contents of your e-books, e-mails, RSS feeds, and playlists for example, without launching the application itself. Live Folders will also include real-time updating, so if a new e-mail comes in while you're viewing the in-box from your home screen, you'll see it appear.
The Live Folders feature could potentially be available on any third-party app you download from the Marketplace, though it seems to lend itself best to social, informational, and entertainment content--I'm thinking your Netflix queue, Facebook status updates, video playlist, and so on.
It's not entirely clear from the Android team's blog post how exactly the feature will display on the home screen, but Google tells us that Live Folders will live on the home screen like a shortcut icon; developers can choose to make them read-only or to give them the ability to launch the app from within a list view. For example, selecting a "favorite" contact from that folder would open their record in the phone book.
Live Features will include a few basic Live Folders to get you started when Google Android 1.5 phones ship, like a view into your contact list. The rest will be up to developers.