The next-gen Android 4.0 has finally been announced along with the all-new Galaxy Nexus (minus Prime), for which we all were waiting for several days. ICS sports a complete refreshing overhaul of Android and a plethora of new features.
From a complete re-designed and polished interface to handy features & gestures, Android 4.0 has a lot of things to offer. So what exactly has changed in Ice Cream and what’s so delicious about it? Let’s find out.
A lot of things have changed in Android with Ice Cream Sandwich, bringing up a whole new interface, full with lots of polished changes and new features & apps. Most of the design updates had already been leaked with photos of nexus prime.
The new homescreen looks quite similar to Honeycomb. From new widgets to new lock screen actions such as quick shortcuts to camera, notifications, volume and much more.
A Button-less Interface!
This is among the biggest addition to Android 4.0 where the interface is now no longer dependent on physical buttons. Everything now will be controlled using the on-screen virtual buttons present at the bottom. They’ll re-orient themselves on screen rotation and even change their look/name based on the functionality that they provide at any particular situation.
Would this be of any advantage? Hell yeah! Like, if you’re using a browser, there would be a ‘back’ on-screen button which would take you a page back. But when you’re in the homepage, that same button would turn into an ‘exit’ button. This way, you would get more idea about the functionality of that button.
This isn’t possible with Android 2. A single back button will do all sorts of tasks, like it will take you back to a previous screen or to a previous app or exit an app or minimize an app. Confusing, yeah.
True multitasking has been among the core features of Android and ICS doesn’t disappoint as well. The multitasking window will display thumbnails of all the opened aps which you can swipe through. Swiping up or down will scroll the list and swiping to the right or left will close opened apps. This is something similar to that of Honeycomb, but with some added cookies.
This reminds me of the “3D Aero Flip” in Windows 7. Anyone?
Disable any App you don’t wanna use
This feature! I had always used Titanium Backup Manager to freeze unwanted apps on my phone. Starting from Android 4,0, you’ll be able to disable any app, including those also which come pre-installed with the phone.
Screenshots without root, finally!
Taking screenshots on many of the phones required it to be rooted which many people did not prefer. But now, finally, taking screenshots on ICS would be possible without any root access. Simultaneously pressing volume down + power key will take a screenshot.
Actually, rooting isn’t what people are afraid of. It’s that horrifying line, “Use it at your own sake, your warranty will be void and you would be responsible if your phone is dead” that thwarts people.
The Android team has worked hard to integrate gestures to the UI. Some of the features that have been unveiled are:
- Swiping a notification will clear it. (Similar to CM7, right?)
- Pages of applications could be navigated by swiping left or right.
- Opened apps could be closed by swiping them (already discussed above.)
There should be more un-covered gestures for sure but the only way to get a taste of them is to start getting our hands dirty with ICS which is gonna take some time.
The app drawer will now include both applications and widgets, categorized by tabs. One tab will include all the installed apps and the other will hold widgets with the option for previewing widgets too.
Also, the drawer screens will now scroll horizontally instead of vertically. This is something similar to Touchwiz where the drawer screens are horizontally placed and I seriously like this because it’s easier to quickly jump between screens.
Preview, Resizable and Scrollable Widgets
Another new interesting feature which has been added to Ice Cream is that one can preview widgets before actually placing them on the homescreen. Right now, the only way to test-drive a widget is to add it to the homescreen and then decide if the widget is worth the space on my home-screen.
Further, widgets can be resized and also, scrolled. I am sure this will help in clearing a lot of mess that widgets make. For example, a widget app like Beautiful Apps includes the same widgets for different grid size. This simply clutters the widget list. Now that resizing is possible, these apps won’t pile up.
Right now, the only way to remove widgets from the widget list is to use Autostarts. (Short Tutorial)
Android 4.0 brings face unlock as an alternative to pattern and passcode unlock. I’ve used something like this using an app, Visidon Applock which locks applications with face recognition. But it takes relatively too much time to recognize my face and unlocking by entering a password/pattern is quicker.
This is, right now, a hi-fi feature on which I am still un-sure if it’ll work perfectly. Let’s see if Android 4.0 manages to change my opinion on this.
Conta… oops, “People”
Contacts is now “People”. The contacts section has been completely re-designed along with a new name which sounds better to me. It brings a magazine styled layout of contacts displaying thumbnails of their contact photos.
Further, it is now more socially integrated. Contacts will be linked to their social profiles and groups, displaying more social info.
This reminds me of People hub in WP7…,eh?
Android Beam – Transfer almost everything using NFC!
Ice Cream Sandwich includes “Android Beam” which makes use of NFC (Near Field Technology), which will let users share almost anything – from contacts, applications, web-pages to music, video, photographs and much more just by tapping the two phones together. Developers can even use this technology and their imagination to come up with something fantastic with their apps.
I sometimes wonder if this could replace bluetooth in the future? Because when there’s NFC, for transfers, will Bluetooth be able to offer anything better than this? Google Wallet has already aimed to make plastic cards extinct and who this might happen to bluetooth as well. What say people?
Camera – Zero Shutter Lag, Panorama and More
The dev. team behind Android have put a lot of focus on the Camera and the final work is very impressive. The camera now sports a zero shutter lag (I can sense iPhone 4S fans getting li’l jealous, specially Kunal, my partner-in-crime with TechSplurge). Full list of new features here:
- It supports Panorama mode, awesome!
- Advanced photo editing options inside the camera app
- Ability to take full-resolution snapshots while recording videos
- Zero shutter lag
- Stabilized zoom
ICS has got a whole new, re-designed browser which looks very much inspired to Google Chrome. It now displays tabs on the top, something similar to Honeycomb and a much needed update as going through the menu to change tabs was really a pain.
More included features:
- Synchronization of bookmarks, passwords etc. with Google Chrome
- Saving web-pages for offline reading
- Option for quickly switching between desktop and android user agent
- Incognito Browsing mode
Overall, it’s a offers a more streamlined experience to browsing on Android 4.0.
Since more carriers are now introducing tiered and FUP data plans, it’s now important for us to control our download habits. ICS includes an intelligent data-monitoring with several options:
- Set bandwidth limits, even for individual apps
- Detailed view of data-usage, categorized by apps and system
- Reminders when the data limit is about to be reached
- Restricting background data for specific apps
We’re already familiar with the new Music application which was recently leaked by AndroidPolice. It has a new slick UI and offers loads of new improvements to it.
Support for Barometer
ICS supports barometer as well! At first, it created some confusion over the exact reason to include. Android Engineer Dan Morrill, says it’ll be used for making GPS lock-ons faster. He has explained it very clearly, which I’m breaking into points:
- Locking on to a GPS involves numerically solving a 4-dimensional set of linear equations — 3 dimensions in space, and time.
- The 3 dimensions in space are latitude, longitude… and altitude. The barometer gives you a reasonable first-cut estimate for altitude.
- The rest dimensions i.e, latitude and longitude are measured with aGPS (Assisted GPS) which gives a rough city-level coordinate fix through something like cell-tower network location.
So this way, a Barometer will reduce the math required to calculate the co-ordinates and in short, making lock-ons to GPS faster than ever.
Right now, only Motorola Xoom and Galaxy Nexus have a barometer chip built-in.
They keyboard has also been improved in ICS. It now includes a better spell check engine.
Yeah, Android will now be using a new font, “Roboto” and the “Droid Sans” font family that had been powering Android since long is going to be retired. Roboto ~ Metro, rhymes somewhat, right?
By the way, the font we use on TechSplurge is also Droid Sans. We still love it 🙂
The main aim of Ice Cream Sandwich would now be to end the relation of fragmentation and Android as many people believed. Yes it was upto some extent but it would now be finally extinct. Ice Cream Sandwich is designed for both phones and tablets.
This list ends here and I would love to know your views Ice Cream Sandwich. C’mon drop a comment below.