Google unwraps Ice Cream Sandwich

Android Ice Cream SandwichThere are some titles you simply cannot resist when they present themselves to you, regardless of how corny or overdone.  After some months of feverish anticipation, Google released their Android 4.0 operating system dubbed Ice Cream Sandwich.  For those of you who have been living under an apple-shaped rock for the past few years, Google has been chugging away on two parallel paths with its operating systems – one for smartphones (v2.3 or Gingerbread) and one for tablets (v3.0 or Honeycomb).  With this new release of the Android OS Google will merge these paths into one.

In addition to numerous behind-the-scenes improvements that promise to further enhance and refine the user experience, Google also delivered some pretty interesting features with the new release:

  • Facial recognition software that dispenses with the need for passwords to unlock the device (a fan favorite so far)
  • The camera has been completely overhauled and includes several new features of its own (i.e., better autofocus, image stabilization, integration with Google+, face detection, on-the-fly photo retouching, panorama and time-lapse modes, etc.)
  • Better landscape controls that disappear when watching video or in widescreen mode
  • Dragging and dropping of apps on top of each other to create folders (similar to iOS)
  • A favorites tray that contains a user’s favorite apps, folders, etc.
  • Overhaul of the notifications feature that allows for significantly more customization
  • Copy and paste has also been overhauled for improved ease-of-use
  • Screen shots can be captured simply by holding down the volume and power buttons
  • A brand-new, easy-to-read typeface called Roboto
  • Talk-to-text has been significantly enhanced although it is unclear whether or not this will even come close to Apple’s new Siri capability
  • Gmail has been improved with two-line previews and better gesture support for browsing emails
  • The calendar has an improved user interface and allows for pinch-based zooming
  • Contacts has been re-branded as the People application and allows for integration with a number of social networks including Google+ (of course), Facebook, etc.
  • The browser now supports tabbed viewing (similar to iOS 5)
  • Data usage can be closely monitored and thresholds can be set to avoid a nasty surprise when the mobile phone bill arrives

All told it is a very significant feature set that will further close the gap between Android and iOS on some of the “table stakes” features, but Apple certainly upped the ante with Siri and the integration of iCloud (the mythical GDrive was nowhere to be found in this release of Android).  The announcement of Ice Cream Sandwich was made alongside Samsung’s release of the Galaxy Nexus which has a 4.65-inch, HD 720p (1280×720) Super AMOLED display and is powered by a 1.2 GHz dual-core chip, at an event in Hong Kong Oct. 18.