Thursday, December 1, 2011

Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich is enchanting, easy, and makes you feel special

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Summary: Google revealed Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich with three guiding principles. There is a lot to like in the new Android, but will it make you switch from an iPhone or Windows Phone?

As I wrote late last night right after the announcement, the Galaxy Nexus was revealed in all its glory. It was great to see the Nexus line now have a device with the latest and greatest specifications, including wireless data technologies, but as we all know the specifications are only part of the story. The rest is in the user experience and the operating system and the Galaxy Nexus will be the first device to launch with Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich (ICS).

I watched the event live and Google states that there were three guiding design principles for ICS:

Android is enchanting (must be their response to Apple’s magical term)Android is easyAndroid should make you feel powerful and smart

Google is rolling out a new font on the platform labeled Roboto, but it was extremely difficult to really see it during the live event stream as the video quality was lacking. Check out some links below to hands-on videos from those press in attendance in Hong Kong.

Some of the main improvements and new features in ICS include:

Face Unlock: Use facial recognition technology to scan your face and let you unlock your device by holding the front facing camera up to yourself. In typical presentation fashion, the demo did not work for Google.Android Beam: This NFC-enabled utility lets you touch and share contacts, websites, apps, maps, directions, and YouTube videos to others with NFC-enabled Android 4.0 devices.Voice typing: A lot has been posted about Siri and Google showed off their voice to text updated functionality that seemed improved over what they offer now.Google+ integration: I have been looking for Google to step up and include more of their services in their devices and it looks like this is happening. You can use Hangouts on ICS devices to video chat with up to 9 people at once.Camera software: The camera is a 5 megapixel shooter on the Galaxy Nexus and Google’s big focus was the zero shutter lag. As I mentioned previously, the HTC Amaze 4G, Nokia N9, and iPhone 4S all have super fast performance too and it will be interesting to see a comparison.Drag app icons to create folders: Apple rolled this out first in iOS 4 last year and it looks like Google copied it exactly, which is a good thing because folders were horrible on Android before.Mobile data details: Google has a cool utility where you can setup data limit warnings and even dive into details to see what is pushing you up in data consumption.Calendar zoom: You can now pinch and zoom within your calendar to zoom into or out of the view that is shown.Task manager swipe: Just like you can swipe apps in webOS or QNX (BlackBerry PlayBook) you can swipe thumbnails of running apps right or left to close them in the task manager.Image editor: Android will now come with a basic image editor, again something Apple has had for a while and a nice to see feature.Loss of menu button: The Android menu button has always been something of a mystery and when you pressed it you never knew what was going to appear. It looks like this is now gone in ICS and context sensitive options are present.

There were a few more things shown, such as improved Gmail, and I am sure there are a ton more that were not shown. I hope to get an evaluation unit at some point to test out ICS on some new hardware and in the meantime check out these articles from folks over at the press event:

There is also an interesting interview from Joshua Topolsky with Matias Duarte over on This is my next… that you can check out here.

Ice Cream Sandwich is definitely a nice upgrade for Android fans and I am seeing the top three platforms (iOS, Android, and Windows Phone) rise above and start to blur together as they each start copying features from each other. I look forward to trying out an ICS device, don’t you?

Matthew Miller started using a Pilot 1000 in 1997 and has been writing news, reviews, and opinion pieces ever since.


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