Ahh Ice Cream Sandwich. The next (and probably the most delicious sounding) version of Google’s Android operating system has been eagerly anticipated by a lot of tech geeks, probably because of the promise of a new, redesigned UI and the promise of the new version powering both smartphones and tablets. Now that the new iteration of Android is officially here (along with the long awaited Samsung Galaxy Nexus) and adds a whole host of new features and tweaks to Android.
One of the biggest things users will probably notice is that Google has revamped how Android looks on your device. No more clutter and ugly icons here – only sleek, futuristic look that would do any tech geek proud. You can now swipe away alerts and other things from the device directly, and even choose a canned text response when you swipe away a caller you don’t want to talk to. Neat.
ICS also has a slew of new features and functionality that will certainly pique your interest. There’s now an option for your you to sync your Chrome bookmarks with the browser on your phone, so you can start reading a web page on your PC and continue it on your device. There’s also an option for users to download whole webpages for use later. You can also now unlock the phone using facial recognition technology, though it didn’t really work that well in the demo according to the liveblogs that we followed.
Google has also spruced up Gmail for ICS, and you’ll now be able to do offline search for your messages. Additional functionality has also been added, which includes gesture support and other features.
Probably one of the biggest features that most smartphone owners will appreciate is the ability to track the amount of data you use. Ice Cream Sandwich has a data tracking app built-in which allows you to track how much data you’ve used and predicts(!) further use until the end of your billing cycle. You can now put in a warning if you’re nearing your data cap and the device will automatically stop data use altogether when you go over it. You can also examine the minutiae of your data use and find out which app consumes the most data.
Google has also added additional functionality for the camera, and it now has a couple of new shooting modes, including a panorama mode and our favorite – time lapse. Obviously, the camera has better integration now with Google+ and other social networking sites, with Google promising your photos getting online with three taps.
Another cool feature of ICS is Android Beam, which takes advantage of the NFC feature in the Samsung Galaxy Nexus. Basically, you tap your device into another NFC equipped, ICS toting smartphone and you’ll be able to share almost anything – maps, contacts, apps (though the sharee only gets the Android Market entry for the app, not the app itself) and YouTube vids.
Right now ICS is exclusively on the Samsung Galaxy Nexus, but like all the other desserts before it, expect it to roll out in a variety of other devices late this year or early next year.