Following the launch of the tablet-specific Honeycomb version of Android to sit along side the smartphone-focused Gingerbread earlier this year, many became worried about the fragmentation of the Android platform.
At Google I/O in San Francisco, the Mountain View company has announced a new version of Android which will bring the OS back together. Android Ice Cream Sandwich will be the next major update for the platform, coming towards the end of the year and Google promise it will intelligently adapt to whatever device it is running on. Continuing the dessert theme, Google will hope this new version of Android will finally tie together the tablet and smartphone Android ecosystems. Details of what Ice Cream Sandwich (that’s going to get annoying to say all the time) will bring are quite sketchy so far but we do have some clues from the keynote in San Fran yesterday evening.
Some of the features demonstrated during the keynote included camera focus shift based on voice recognition, allowing you to talk to your smartphone and get it to focus on you to take a picture. There will also be face recognition built into Ice Cream Sandwich which could allow for unlocking your phone simply by looking at it. Finally, the Android development team showed off some very nice NFC features with the latest Android bringing peer-to-peer NFC sharing. Some of the implementations of this which were shown off included sharing contacts and websites by simply touching phones or starting watching a YouTube clip on your smartphone but by simply touching it to a bigger tablet being able to continue to watch it from where the point it was playing. The API will be made available to developers to allow them to "0-click enable" their apps.
While fragmentation was one concern for Android users, the inability to have regular and consistent updates is a far more pressing issue and Google also announced an initiative to help resolve the problem. A structured upgrade program signed up to by LG, Sony Ericsson, Motorola, AT&T, Vodafone, Sprint, Samsung, HTC and Verizon Wireless will mean that people buying new phones from these manufacturers and carriers will be guaranteed 18 months in the support cycle. When this initiative will kick off is less clear and no other details have been announced yet. Other manufacturers and carriers have an “open invitation” and we would dearly love to see everyone get on board so that everyone gets the updates when they should.
We’re sure there’ll be a lot more about Ice Cream Sandwich and the update program coming out in the next few months and we’ll have all the details for you here. For now though, as well as letting us know what you think of the re-syncing of tablet and smartphone in Android, what do you think the next iteration of the platform be called? We’re going for Jelly (or possibly Jello in the States).