Google unveiled Android 4.0, Ice Cream Sandwich, this morning along side Samsung’s Galaxy Nexus event. It brings a raft of new features to the OS and aims to iron some of the dislikes of previous versions. On first impressions it does seem like Google have added a lot of polish to the OS. It’s appearance is a lot more consistent and easier on the eye
Here’ s an overview of some of the new features:
- Newly created “Roboto” font now standard in the OS
- Navigation buttons are now virtual, can hide when required
- Resizable widgets: Home screens in Android 4.0 are designed to be content-rich and customizable. Users can do much more than add shortcuts — they can embed live application content directly through interactive widgets. Widgets let users check email, flip through a calendar, play music, check social streams, and more — right from the home screen, without having to launch apps. Widgets are resizable, so users can expand them to show more content or shrink them to save space.
- New lock screen actions. The lock screens now let users do more without unlocking. From the slide lock screen, users can jump directly to the camera for a picture or pull down the notifications window to check for messages. When listening to music, users can even manage music tracks and see album art.
- Swipe to dismiss notifications, tasks, and browser tabs. Android 4.0 makes managing notifications, recent apps, and browser tabs even easier. Users can now dismiss individual notifications, apps from the Recent Apps list, and browser tabs lists with a simple swipe of a finger
- Improved text input and spell-checking. The soft keyboard in Android 4.0 makes text input even faster and more accurate. Error correction and word suggestion are improved through a new set of default dictionaries and more accurate heuristics for handling cases such as double-typed characters, skipped letters, and omitted spaces. Word suggestion is also improved and the suggestion strip is simplified to show only three words at a time.To fix misspelled words more easily, Android 4.0 adds a spell-checker that locates and underlines errors and suggests replacement words. With one tap, users can choose from multiple spelling suggestions, delete a word, or add it to the dictionary. Users can even tap to see replacement suggestions for words that are spelled correctly. For specialized features or additional languages, users can now download and install third-party dictionaries, spell-checkers, and other text services.
- Powerful voice input engine. Android 4.0 introduces a powerful new voice input engine that offers a continuous “open microphone” experience and streaming voice recognition. The new voice input engine lets users dictate the text they want, for as long as they want, using the language they want. Users can speak continously for a prolonged time, even pausing for intervals if needed, and dictate punctuation to create correct sentences. As the voice input engine enters text, it underlines possible dictation errors in gray. After dictating, users can tap the underlined words to quickly replace them from a list of suggestions.
- Improved email. In Android 4.0, email is easier to send, read, and manage. For composing email, improved auto-completion of recipients helps with finding and adding frequent contacts more quickly. For easier input of frequent text, users can now create quick responses and store them in the app, then enter them from a convenient menu when composing. When replying to a message, users can now toggle the message to Reply All and Forward without changing screens. For easier browsing across accounts and labels, the app adds an integrated menu of accounts and recent labels. To help users locate and organize IMAP and Exchange email, the Email app now supports nested mail subfolders, each with synchronization rules. Users can also search across folders on the server, for faster results. For enterprises, the Email app supports EAS v14. It supports EAS certificate authentication, provides ABQ strings for device type and mode, and allows automatic sync to be disabled while roaming. Administrators can also limit attachment size or disable attachments. For keeping track of incoming email more easily, a resizable Email widget lets users flick through recent email right from the home screen, then jump into the Email app to compose or reply.
- Android Beam for NFC-based sharing. Android Beam is an innovative, convenient feature for sharing across two NFC-enabled devices, It lets people instantly exchange favorite apps, contacts, music, videos — almost anything. It’s incredibly simple and convenient to use — there’s no menu to open, application to launch, or pairing needed. Just 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. On the other device, the Market app launches and loads the details page, for easy downloading of the app. Individual apps can build on Android Beam to add other types of interactions, such as passing game scores, initiating a multiplayer game or chat, and more.
- Face Unlock. Android 4.0 introduces a completely new approach to securing a device, making it even more personal — Face Unlock is a new screen-lock option that lets users unlock their devices with their faces. It takes advantage of state-of-the-art facial recognition technology to register a face and to recognize it later when unlocking the device. Users just hold their devices in front of their faces to unlock, or use a backup PIN or pattern.