Android 4.0: Ice Cream Sandwich Unveiled

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With the headline “Calling all possibilities. Google | Samsung” emblazoned against the wall of a room filled with reporters, the Ice Cream Sandwich Launch event began with a comparison of things that go perfectly together, and ending with the Google and Samsung logos.

If you missed the launch event, here are some highlights:

– Ice Cream Sandwich is Android 4.0

– The first phone to feature ICS will be called the Galaxy Nexus

– ICS is designed to work with the Galaxy Nexus’ 16:9, 1280×720 display as a native resolution

ICS will feature a new font-face: Roboto. A custom-built, sans-serif font built with “paper quality”, pixel-dense displays.

Lock-screen

The new lock-screen featuring the time, date, day, battery life, and animated “flourish” to unlock the phone.

As we speculated before, ICS will feature a facial recognition unlocker, which will use your face to unlock the device. In case that doesn’t work (which it didn’t in the demo), you still have the pattern-unlocker like you’re already used to.

face unlock lg

Homescreen, Launcher

Your homescreen is “your space”. You can scroll around, gesturing left and right to flip between related screens.

Widgets now are scrollable and resizable. Apps and widgets can be easily are easily added by dragging and dropping (like we’ve seen in Honeycomb and the Droid Bionic).

homescreen

Live wallpapers have been optimized.

Since the Galaxy Nexus has no physical buttons, the on-screen buttons “light up” when you touch them, and hide when you don’t need them (like when you’re watching videos).

“Boring button presses” have been replaced with gestures.

Folders can be created easily by simply dropping icons on top of each other.

Your “Favorites tray” can now contain folders and apps, as well as direct-dial contacts.

The task manager looks like the Honeycomb switcher, but features the ability to “flick” the app away to remove it from the list by sliding an app to the right.

tasks

Pressing the power and volume-down buttons will capture a screen shot, complete with a Polaroid-style preview.

screenshot lg

Like running tasks, notifications can be “flicked” away and are now faster than ever before. They can even be “peaked at” from the lock-screen where the notification shade can be pulled down and apps launched — without “sliding to unlock” first.

Your apps drawer now features left and right paginated swiping, no more endless up/down scrolling as in Gingerbread and earlier versions of Android.

Keyboard

Error correction has been improved and the suggestion strip made bigger and easier.

add to dictionary sm

Cut/copy/paste has been GREATLY improved.

ICS improves the microphone “talk to type” by making it instant, so words appear as you “type” with your voice — including punctuation and emoticons.

Browser

The Browser now has a much better way to access your tabs and an easy way to “request desktop version” pages which default to a “mobile view” so you can get the full version of the site easily.

Your bookmarks are also synced with your desktop browser.

Incognito mode has now officially arrived for more privacy while surfing.

Gmail

Two-line message previews.

Off-line search allows you to search the last 30 days of messages by default, but it’s configurable to any amount of time you want.

Right to left swiping is now featured as an easy way to navigate through conversations.

Calendar

The updated Calendar app features pinch-to-zoom in and out at your daily events, giving you more detail as you zoom in, and less detail as you zoom out.

Data Usage

Data usage is a big concern with data caps, throttling, and overages.

ICS now brings a way to look inside your data usage by showing your past usage and forecasting future usage.

You can set limits to warn you when you are getting close to your rationed amount, and can even have Android turn off your data when it passes a certain amount.

data use

Not content to stop there, Android can now show you what apps are using all your data by zooming in on your data usage chart. Once you’ve identified a data-hungry app you can turn off it’s background data to keep it from gobbling up your bits. Not to worry, using this feature will let the data for that app begin to flow again, but only when you explicitly launch it.

Camera and Photos

Picture-taking is now instantaneous with zero shutter-lag. You can literally take pictures as fast as you can tap the shutter button.

The new Gallery app features new image editing tools and uses the new “Magazine Layout” common in ICS to beautifully display your images.

gallery edit lg

The built-in camera app now has a panorama mode that’s ridiculously easy to use.

panorama

Video

Shooting video on the Galaxy Nexus is now 1080p HD using the stock camer app and features automatic focus, time-lapse, low-light capabilities, and even “tap-to-snap” still shots while you’re shooting video.

People, Calls, and Dialer

What was “Contacts” is now “People”.

The “People Card” now features a high-quality picture at the top, all your “connections” with that person (SMS, Google Talk, Gmail, Twitter, Facebook, and any other app that plugs in via the API), along with all the recent posts from that person (which sounds an awful lot like Windows Phone 7 to me).

people

People can be added to the homescreen with direct dial capabilities (which we’ve had in the past, but functions even better in ICS).

Swiping right in the dialer will bring up your favorites.

Visual voicemail is now included right in the recent calls list where they should be — yes, that includes messages left on Google Voice.

Listening to long-winded voice messages doesn’t have to be a pain any more, they can be sped up while they’re playing, cutting the playback time dramatically.

voicemail

Android Beam

Using ICS and NFC you can now share any contact (any content really) between Android-devices via NFC by simply touching the devices together and tapping the screen of the device to send from one phone to the other (no third-party or “Bumping” required).

beam

SDK

The Android ICS SDK is available right now at Android.com, so developers can get started taking advantages of all of ICS’ new features (including the Galaxy Nexus’ built-in barometer) right away!

Summary

In short, Android 4.0 is all about putting the user-experience first, and other than a few minor glitches during the presentation, I think they’ve nailed it!

What are your thoughts? What feature of Android Ice Cream Sandwich are you looking forward to most? Let us know in the comments!

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About The Author
Joe Levi
Joe graduated from Weber State University with two degrees in Information Systems and Technologies. He has carried mobile devices with him for more than a decade, including Apple's Newton, Microsoft's Handheld and Palm Sized PCs, and is Pocketnow's "Android Guy".By day you'll find Joe coding web pages, tweaking for SEO, and leveraging social media to spread the word. By night you'll probably find him writing technology and "prepping" articles, as well as shooting video.Read more about Joe Levi here.