It’s that time of the year again! The first major Android update of 2011, (Honeycomb was only for tablets), comes aptly titled – Ice Cream Sandwich or Android 4.0. Scroll below to learn what this latest Android version can do for your smartphone.
The evolution of mobile operating systems has a fascinating timeline. As the technological features of cell phones advanced in leaps and bounds, the OS of cell phones had to adapt as well, in order to support the advanced machinery. Earlier mobile operating systems had simple calendar and organizer software along with small games and basic applications. Not any more. Today the average cell phone’s operating system is as important as the cell phone itself. In fact, it may even be more important. Poorly designed software cannot manage powerful hardware. Smartphones wouldn’t be so “smart” without a suitably smart OS, capable of tailoring to all sorts of needs. Today’s mobile OS must pander to a variety of users, be they corporate, kids, or average users. Which is why the mobile OS industry is in a continuous loop of upgrades and improvements to better the existing OS versions. The latest entry in the cut-throat arena of mobile OS is the Google Android 4.0 or the Android Ice Cream Sandwich.
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The Android OS, on the whole, is the most used smartphone OS in the U.S. and is an extremely popular mobile OS worldwide. Its newest avatar, the Ice Cream Sandwich, not only has a lot of exciting new features, but is also a mobile OS compatible for use on a tablet. This latest OS is currently present on the just-released Galaxy Nexus smartphone. So what is special, different, and new in this mobile OS? The Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich features are outlined below, divided into sections based on the following characteristics. Click on a link to jump to a specific section.
The Android 4.0 lives up with to its “geeky but intelligent” reputation with its rich feature set but should also be lauded for its attention to detail. The unique features of this OS are tabulated below.
► Design ◄
The visual style and look of the OS
No more physical “Home”, “Back” or “Menu” buttons on the phone or tablet. Instead the Android 4.0 conjures virtual program-based buttons as needed. The System Bar offers the standard “Back”, “Home” and “Recent Apps” buttons when required and program-specific buttons (e.g “Quit” to close the program), will appear in the Action Bar. The buttons dim for full-screen viewing.
Just like books or clothes, different people like different apps. So group your favorite, needed apps or shortcuts into folders and place them on the home screen for easy access. Just drag the apps on top of each other. For phones with small screens, the OS displays a favorites tray, which you can drag apps and shortcuts into, for quicker access.
The lock screen has a large glowing circle, which you drag to unlock the phone. For enhanced usability, you can use certain programs while the phone is locked, such as the camera or music player.
The familiar notifications screen can be pulled down or up, depending on its screen placement. View detailed bits of information, like messages and even app activities. You can delete notifications as they arrive, simply by swiping them off the screen with your finger.
Bold, eye-catching and aesthetically pleasing are a few words that come to mind with one look at the Android 4.0 user-interface. Everything on-screen seems to be alive and animated in some manner. From apps and program icons to the Roboto font designed for large, realistic text, the Android ICS is a beautiful thing to look and touch, such that even an old smartphone will look brand new!
The Ice Cream Sandwich is a very touchy (no pun intended) OS. You can perform a lot of actions, such as deleting apps from your apps list with a finger swipe, drag-and-drop text from one place to another and pinch-and-expand your fingers to zoom in and out of the Calendar.
Easy Text Handling
Text editing and input is another improved feature in the Android 4.0 OS. Word suggestions appear as you type. The auto spell-checker underlines errors and will instantly suggest corrections. You can even add words to the built-in dictionary. Plus you can cut/copy and paste at ease, just by moving your finger, to select, drag-and-drop text.
Use Your Voice to Type
Fed up of typing? Speak into the phone and the powerful yet intuitive Android voice translator will convert your spoken words into typed text. The Google Android ICS voice engine allows text dictation for an unlimited duration and is very precise. You can even pause to correct words with suggestions, handily outlined below the line of text.
There are a number of useful built-in apps and gazillions of third-party ones in the Android Market but managing said apps is an oft-ignored but cumbersome task. App handling in the Ice Cream Sandwich is smartly efficient. With the Recent Apps button, move between used apps by tapping the thumbnail of the app. Uninstalling apps, changing app settings and disabling certain apps… typical app operations can be done from one location with the All Apps launcher. Delete apps with a finger swipe.
Widgets are shortcuts to your apps, that can be accessed directly from the home screen. The Android Ice Cream Sandwich has a number of convenient widgets like the Gallery widget or the Email widget. These apps can be placed on the home screen from the app tray and even resized, using a pinch-and-expand motion, for viewing convenience.
The people you know, whether family or friends, are more than just numbers and names. The Android 4.0 showcases this sort of thinking with its very appealing People app. A name in your contact list, not only has a phone number, it also has addresses and additional contact details, you receive status updates from that person’s social profile and you can easily connect to any of their profiles on various social networking sites, through their contact profile in your phone. So all personal and contact details of your contacts list members are contained in one place and highlighted by high-resolution images of that contact.
Data Usage Tracking
Running apps, downloading and streaming of media – all such operations consume data and add to your network bill. It is nearly impossible to monitor the data usage of the phone and which program is consuming what. The Android Ice Cream Sandwich tackles this seemingly impossible task by analyzing data usage and presenting it in the form of nifty and clear charts. So you can understand what your apps are up to and even set limits on how much data they consume or set alarms for when the data usage nears or exceeds a preset limit.
The Web Browser
The Android Browser allows tabbed browsing with up to 16 tabs at a time. You can save sites for offline reading and browse sites in their original desktop versions. Web pages and sites are rendered quicker. Bookmarks and History are organized in a pleasing visual list. For an easy-on-the-eyes browsing experience, you can increase the zoom levels of the browser, so text and images appear larger.
Typing emails in the Android ICS is made much easier. You can store responses and select them from a menu, when composing a mail. Auto-complete recipients in the email address bar. Quickly access different email accounts from one screen. Gmail features a 2-line email preview and offline searching for emails.
Camera aside, what does the OS offer for photo and video capture?
Simple and Integrated Use
Tap anywhere on the screen to capture an image. You can then send the image as an email attachment or as a multimedia message or transfer through Bluetooth, straight from the camera app screen, by pressing a button. The same applies for sharing images over Twitter, Google+ or Facebook.
Unique Effects and Modes
Perhaps the coolest Android Ice Cream Sandwich features are present in the Camera app. Abilities include zero shutter lag, continuous focus, face detection, stabilized zoom and image capture while recording video. A new mode of capture, the panorama mode, allows a large and wide landscape to be captured in a single image, just by panning the phone across a scene. Finally one can take screenshots of the phone or tablet.
Powerful Editing Tools
Edit your photos on your phone or tablet directly with a feature-packed photo-editing studio. Get rid of red eyes, crop, blur or sharpen and enhance color levels. Filters and special effects (Silly Faces) can also be added. You can even manage images and videos in folders and albums, as well as sort them by location, people in the photo, or time of capture.
► What’s New in the Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich ◄
Unique functions and abilities
With just a bump or a tap between two phones, share data in the form of contacts, images, videos and even programs between smartphones. You can exchange data using the Beam with another NFC-enabled phone.
This Android-only ability combines biometrics (identification based on physical traits) and phone security. Instead of swiping a pattern or typing a passcode, hold your phone in front of your face to unlock it. The system may fail to authenticate you at times or may authenticate someone who looks like you, so a PIN is used as a fallback measure.
Voice messages now show up in your Call Log along with missed and received calls. The visual aspect is you can play the message like a recording and you can even fast forward or rewind through the file.
Eliminate the middle man with this handy networking feature. Instead of connecting to an access point or router for a wireless connection, this ability allows different devices to connect to each other directly and wirelessly. One-to-one or one-to-many connections are allowed. So you can transfer your phone’s images to your printer wirelessly, without any device in the middle.
Top From the long list of Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich features, it’s easy to see that the latest Android OS has a bold, new look with intuitive and user-friendly features like the offline email search or the visual voicemail. It is also trying to be creative with fun, different functions like the face unlock feature. Of course, the Ice Cream Sandwich will face infinite comparisons and showdowns with the iOS 5. But it is difficult to pick one operating system over the other, especially when their features are completely different. The Ice Cream Sandwich is a very sweet and unique update in the Android universe. If your Android phone can handle the upgrade, this latest version is a must-have for Android lovers and a great version for newcomers to join the Android fan club.
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