10/21/2011

Android 4.0 - Ice Cream Sandwich Revealed

Earlier this week Google revealed the latest version of the hugely popular Android mobile operating system. Android started off as a bit of an underdog against the might of the iPhone, but over time it has had so many improvements that the latest iOS update actually took a few ideas from Android.

Many of the latest Android phones run currently run Gingerbread (Android 2.3) but the latest tablets actually run Honeycomb (Android 3.0) which was designed to suit tablets rather than phones. It sounds like a great idea, after all tablets have much larger screens and are used for different tasks than phones. The problem is that having various different versions of Android is use means more problems for developers and for owners who get updates at different times and can’t all access the same apps.

Ice Cream Sandwich is an attempt to combine the phone and tablet versions of Android into a single version which will fit well on both. It’s not just about merging the two versions though, there are a huge number of new features in ICS which weren’t in Gingerbread or Honeycomb.

There are a massive number of new features but below are some of the most significant changes (and a couple which are pretty minor but we really like them!):

  • Virtual Buttons can now be used instead of hardware buttons, this means developers can make even more beautiful phones but still give users those handy Android buttons (back, home and menu).
  • Integrated screenshot capture isn’t the most exciting new feature but it probably should have been included a long time ago.
  • Face Unlock allows you to unlock your handset using just the front-facing camera, the facial recognition software means you won’t need to type in a PIN any more (although you still can if you really want to).
  • Improved Web Browser featuring tabbed browsing, many users have installed alternative browsers just to have access to tabbed browsing but now the standard browser should be good enough for most users.
  • Built-in photo editing allows you to make changes to pictures on the move, it’s not exactly Photoshop but for those minor changes it gets the job done.
  • Android Beam allows users with NFC enabled phones to quickly and easily exchange information such as websites, contacts and directions.
  • Data Usage can now be recorded by Android and you can set limits and warnings to stop you going over your data allowance without the need to install an app.
  • Disable pre-installed apps, one of the most disappointing things about Android is that networks often install trial software and their own apps and worst still you usually can’t uninstall them! Ice Cream Sandwich will let you disable this apps meaning they won’t show up in the menu any more and won’t be able to run in the background either.

The are a number of other improvements such as better voice integration, improved copy and paste, better error correction on the keyboard, visual voicemail functionality, a faster camera app and many other great addtions or imrprovements.

Android has already become extremely popular but Ice Cream Sandwich should make the Android experience even better. The first phone to run Android 4.0 is the new Samsung Galaxy Nexus but recently released handsets should all receive updates in the coming months (Google say any phone running Gingerbread should be capable of running Ice Cream Sandwich too).

Lee

Lee

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