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Google Launches Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich)

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Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich

As well as unveiling new hardware at the event in Hong Kong this morning, of even more significance was the official launch of Android 4.0 or Ice Cream Sandwich (ICS).

The redesign of the Google OS is huge and offers a completely new interface and a host of new features. It has first made public during the summer at Google I/O and is the version of Android which has been designed to run on both smartphone and tablet form factors, dynamically adapting to each.

We take a look at some of the key features of the new software:

Redefined UI

Android 4.0 is a pretty radical redesign from Google and has been designed with HD in mind with an entirely new typeface optimised for HD screens. Gone are the hardware buttons seen on almost all Android smartphones, replaced with “virtual buttons” like those seen on the tablet version of the OS previously.

Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich

These buttons and System Bar will be visable across all apps but can be dimmed for full-screen app goodness. A contextual Action Bar will also be available in all apps displayed at the top of the screen in most cases.

Multitasking has also been redefined in ICS with the recent apps button bringing up a list of thumbnails showing recently used apps, again akin to the multitasking seen in Honeycomb.

Notifications and Folders

Notifications have also been tweaked in the latest version of Android with notifications themselves appearing on the top of the screen on smaller devices or in the system bar on larger screen devices.

Android has taken a leaf out of the iOS book for its new folders feature which now easily allows you to drag and drop shortcuts on your home screen into a variety of folders.

On smaller devices a new customisable favourites tray, viewable on all home screens, will let users add their most oft used apps, folders or widgets for easy access.

People App

The new People app is Google;s way of bringing together all the information on your family, friends and contacts in one place. It offers richer profile information, including a large profile picture, phone numbers, addresses and accounts, status updates, and a new button for connecting on integrated social networks.

Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich

A new 'Me' profile will make it easier to share all your details with apps and friends. All of the user's integrated contacts are displayed in an easy to manage list, including controls over which contacts are shown from any integrated account or social network. Wherever the user navigates across the system, tapping a profile photo displays Quick Contacts, with shortcuts to phone numbers, text messaging, and more.

Lock Screen

The lock screen in Android 4.0 will now give you direct access to the camera or let you pull down the notifications menu to check your messages. Also user will now be able to respond to an incoming call with a quick text message.

On the incoming call screen, users simply slide a control to see a list of text responses and then tap to send and end the call. Users can add their own responses and manage the list from the Settings app.

Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich

Sick of having to remember a pin or a pattern to unlock your phone? Well your prayers have been answered. ICS will allow you to unlock your phone, simply using your face. The front-facing camera will use facial recognition software to register your face and then use it every time you want to unlock the phone. A back up pin or pattern can also be register if you should somehow forget your face...

Voice Input Engine

One of the headline grabbing features of the iPhone 4S launch a couple of weeks ago was the introduction of Siri. While ICS doesn’t have a similar virtual friend, Android 4.0 introduces a “powerful new voice input engine” that offers a continuous "open microphone" experience and streaming voice recognition.

Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich

Users will be able to dictate for as long as they want in whatever language they want and even dictate punctuation to create correct sentences. Indeed the new engine will highlight possible spelling and grammatical errors for you to review before using the text.

Data Management

One new feature which heavy data users will be really excited about is a visual representation of the data you are using - and where you are using it. In the Settings app, colorful charts show the total data usage on each network type (mobile or Wi-Fi), as well as amount of data used by each running application.

Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich

Based on their data plans, users can optionally set warning levels or hard limits on data usage or disable mobile data altogether. Users can also manage the background data used by individual applications as needed.

Android Beam

Android Beam is a way for Android users to share content using NFC-enabled phones. Similar to the Touchstone technology we’ve seen on the now defunct HP Pre 3 and TouchPad devices.

Android Beam

There’s no pairing or set-up, all you need to do is touch one Android-powered phone to another, then tap to send. For sharing apps, Android Beam pushes a link to the app's details page in Android Market.

Camera

The camera app in ICS includes many new features including zero shutter lag, continuous focus, stabilized image zoom and decreased shot-to-shot speed. There are also new shooting modes like panorama and live effects which let you dynamically transform your background.

Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich

The Silly Faces mode will let users access effects such as small eyes, big mouth, big nose, face squeeze – all similar to those available on Apple’s Photo Booth app.

Email and Web Browsing

Core apps such as email and web-browsing have also been improved, and have been deeply integrated with the Ice Cream Sandwich OS. Included in the new features are a re-sizable email widget, offline browser reading, syncing of Chrome bookmarks and improved page rendering performance.

Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich

There are many more new features in ICS and you can get more information in the Source link below and we’ll be bringing you a more in-depth look at the new version of the OS once we get our hands on it.

The SDK is already available to developers and Android 4.0 will get its first public outing on the Samsung Galaxy Nexus, also launched this morning. While the Nexus S is a cert for the upgrade, along with other high-end Samsung handsets, other manufacturers and customers will be wondering when (or indeed if) the update to 4.0 will be coming.

Is Android 4.0 enough of an improvement for you, or are the old Android problems still present in Ice Cream Sandwich? Let us know in the comments.

Source: Android Developers

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