Google unveiled its hot new Android offering, the 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich, at a press conference in Hong Kong Wednesday. And boy is it hot! It is offering a blend of amazing fresh looks, feel and functionality, filling in quite a few gaps in its predecessors.
The operating system, a mixture of both Android 3 Honeycomb, which was specific to tablets, and Android 2.3 Gingerbread, which served on smartphones, will power future forms of both smartphones and tablets.
It will be coming out next month on the new Samsung Galaxy Nexus, which also got presented in the press conference.
Though the phone itself didn't excite me as much, Ice Cream Sandwich left me wanting to get my hands on it. Here are top five reasons I want to dig in:
Matias Duarte, Android head of user experience, said that he wanted Ice Cream Sandwich to feel enchanting, be easy to use and make the users feel smart. So he went ahead and overhauled the user interface, and seems to have hit the marks.
The operating system offers virtual navigation buttons, eliminating the need for physical ones. The screen's bottom now sports a favorite’s tray where you can drag and drop folders or apps to gain easy access.
The notifications screen, which is now accessible from the lock screen, sports music player controls and icons for respective items. Now you can just swipe off notifications you are done with, or save any that you want to access later. The multitasking menu also allows you to swipe off apps to close them.
The new calendar also supports swipe navigation and multi-touch pinch to zoom functionality, while the mail app now shows two-line previews, has a quick access menu bar and supports offline searching too.
Widgets are now scrollable and re-sizable, and can be dragged and dropped to the home screen or onto one another to create folders.
Ice Cream Sandwich definitely boosts Android's photo capabilities. For starters, the camera will be accessible from the lock screen. Android 4.0 has a new panorama mode to capture seamless panoramic shots.
After that, it provides for new photo editing tools, allowing you to touch up, remove red eye, adjust angles and do more with your pictures, which can now be shared with any app.
While shooting video, it provides abilities like time lapse, and zoom and capture images while recording.
Google has done up the browser for the operating system. It now sports a drop down menu of options, including one to ask for the desktop version of a site if you don't like the mobile one.
Your bookmarks will sync automatically with Chrome, and you have the option to save webpages to read them offline. And you can have 16 different tabs open at the same time. And it has a new 'incognito' mode.
Ice Cream Sandwich offers a Data Usage section in its settings that shows you how much data your device has used, and how much data each app has used in foreground or in background.
The user can turn off background data access for specific apps, and set thresholds for usage warning or shutting off data access automatically.
The operating system brings in a new feature, Android Beam, which uses Near Field Communication to share data between two enabled devices by just touching them together.
You can easily share websites, contacts, maps locations, YouTube videos and apps via the technology.