"People need Android ... but people didn't love Android," said Matias Duarte, Director of Android OS User Experience, explaining why the world's most popular smartphone OS needed a full redesign. One of the main problems with previous AND existing Android versions has always been that there is no consistent Android experience. It's hard to have a conversation with another person about how awesome your Android is, unless both of you are having the same phone model and the same Android version on it. Change is required, and fast.
Ice Cream Sandwich, now officially Android 4.0 (not Android 2.4!), is the result of a massive improvement endeavor by Google’s Mobile Development Team in redefining the Android experience.
There are many new features and improvements packed within Ice Cream Sandwich. Courtesy from Engadget, here's some of the enhancements found in Ice Cream Sandwich with our own categorization thrown into the mix by the AMU team.
Category 1: Android 4.0 - This is Special!
- Face Unlock, a facial recognition service - Even though there is some hiccup during today’s Samsung event in which the phone did not recognize Matias Duarte and refuse to unlock the phone (perhaps due to Matias Duarte's stage makeup and lighting), the guys from Engadget manage to test out this functionality and it works like a charm! You can also specify a secondary unlock option so there is no need to be unduly worried about being locked out from your own phone. Just an interesting thought: What if you show a picture of the phone owner to the phone – will it unlock it as well?
- Android Beam - a NFC feature that allows you to exchange websites, contact info, directions, YouTube, etc - Sounds like Bump on steroids!
- New phone app with visual voicemail functionality that lets you speed up or slow down voicemail messages
Category 2: Android 4.0 - We should have this a LONGGGGGG time ago!
- Integrated screenshot capture by holding power and volume down buttons - One of the strongest criticisms that I get from both Android and iPhone users is the lack of a screenshot button on Android. How ridiculous can it be that I cannot even take a screenshot of my own homescreen? Well, now Android has the exact same screenshot capability and we even have a slight twist to it with a cute little Polaroid animation to highlight the action.
- Ability to kill off apps that are using data in the background - Samsung Touchwiz already has this capability built in but it is always welcomed to have an official supported Android version of a task manager to manage these apps.
- Option to use virtual buttons in the UI, instead of taking up capacitive touch buttons - More flexibility for phone manufacturers!
- Data Usage section in settings lets you set warnings when you reach a certain amount of use and disabling data when you go over your limit - Good for users with limited bandwidth per month!
- Widgets are in a new tab, listed in a similar list to apps
- Folders are much easier to create, with a drag-and-drop style similar to iOS
- A customizable launcher
- Pinch-to-zoom functionality in the calendar
- Improved copy and paste
- Better voice integration
- Camera app: zero shutter lag, time lapse settings, zoom while recording
- Built-in photo editor
- New gallery layout, organized by location and person
- New tabbed web browser, allowing up to 16 tabs with “live” previews.
Category 3: Android 4.0 - Ok…..?
- Improved error correction on the keyboard - There are already many good virtual keyboards applications out there that far surpasses Android's stock
- Modern "Roboto" font - Trying a bit too hard here in my opinion =)
- Refreshed people app with social network integration, status updates and hi-res images - Seriously, with all the different social apps out there proclaiming to let you connect and interact with your network, we can definitely do with one less variation.
- Gmail has offline search, a two-line preview, and new action bar at the bottom
- Swipe left or right to switch between Gmail conversations
- keyboard. Not much of a value-add here.
- Ability to access apps directly from lock screen (similar to HTC Sense 3.x)
- Browser now automatically syncs your Chrome bookmarks
- Don't like some of those preloaded carrier apps? Disable 'em. Android Engineer Dan Morrill mentions that, among other new features, any app can be disabled, and while it will still take up space in ROM, it won't be snatching any of your precious resources or clock cycles again if you don't want it to - Or... we can always choose to uninstall them?
A point to note about dual core support and hardware acceleration in Android 4.0 is that they are enabled by default on all windows on Android. As such, as a developer, if you are building an app that targets the Android 4.0 API (API 14), your app will benefit from hardware acceleration by default. There is no need for you to do anything else. For consumers, it just means that we can expect smoother and more polished apps that can benefit from better quality graphics and rendering.
That's it for now! For more details, you can refer to the official Android 4.0 Platform Highlights.
Leaving you with a great video from Android Developers on the features of Android 4.0 - Ice Cream Sandwich!