An update to the Android mobile operating system at last delivers the ability to take screenshots without needing to root your phone. The latest version of Gingerbread (version 2.3.3) has introduced changes that will permit applications to take advantage of this new functionality. However, it won't be a feature of the operating system itself - that is, it won't work unless you have an app. That's different than how screenshots work on the iPhone - users there only have to press a couple of buttons in order to take a snapshot of what's on their screen, no app required.
Screenshots for Everyone!
One of the surprising omissions from Google's Android mobile operating system is that it lacks the ability to do screenshots out of the box. In order to enable this functionality, users have to root their phones, a process that allows an Android owner to gain administrative rights on the device. Rooting is not something for the average user to undertake, though, nor is it as simple as jailbreaking an iPhone (and arguably, it's not as necessary either), so many chose to go without rooting. That means they go without the ability to take screenshots, too.
That may be about to change.
According to news from multiple Android-watching sources, an update to the SurfaceFlinger service changes how it handles what's captured from the framebuffer. In non-technical terms, that means that Android developers now have the ability to build applications for taking screenshots which any Android user running 2.3.3 (or higher) can use.
One major caveat to this news: Android 2.3.3 is only now rolling out to the Nexus One and Nexus S. Others will have to wait for their phone's manufacturer to release the update before they'll have the same ability. And with the track record of some manufacturers, that may be a long ways off.
In the meantime, non-rooted, non-2.3.3 users should try ShootMe. This application is designed for rooted phones, but works on a number of unrooted Android devices. Check the comments section in the Android Market to see if your device is supported.