Google just released a major upgrade of their Android OS. Version 4.0, codenamed Ice Cream Sandwich, is full of updates and is known to be the beginning of a device-agnostic Android OS, meaning it will translate well on smartphones as well as tablets or even PCs in the future.
There are quite a number of feature updates here but you would notice that most are derived from Android Honeycomb which is made for tablet devices. I’m not keen on the presistent system bar for Back, Home and Task Manager because it seems to be a waste of pixels when smartphones usually have their own dedicated buttons or touch panel for Android commands.
Anyway, here are the top seven features which I think would make an impact to consumers.
1. Task Manager button
Similar to Android tablets, the task manager can be invoked using its own button on the system bar. Previously, we would need to press the Home button for a couple of seconds to recent access apps. This is slow and having a dedicated button for it would make it faster for multitaskers such as me.
2. Shortcuts in lockscreen
We already seen this on some HTC phones such as HTC Sensation and HTC ChaCha as well as the Cherry Mobile Magnum HD. This feature saves me a lot of time since I don’t need to unlock my phone first if I want to read a message or take a photo quickly. Now if only we can define what shortcuts to put in the lockscreen.
3. Data usage monitoring
Yeah you can download an app that could do this in the market but not a lot of people knows it. Data usage monitor is now built-in in ICS so you can keep track of how much data you are consuming updating your Facebook or posting on Twitter. Really useful if you’re on those tiered or metered plans since you can also set warnings or limits when you reach a certain cap to avoid those extra charges.
4. Better app management
In Ice Cream Sandwich, you can now take control of your apps more easily. No need to go to Settings > Application just to uninstall or disable an app. You can do that immediately from the Apps view. You can also group apps together ala iOS so that your homescreen won’t look too crowded.
5. More camera and video features
Google loaded ICS with a lot of camera and video capabilities. For one, there’s the panoramic shot which is only currently available to Sony Ericsson phones as the Sweep Panorama feature. There’s also a built-in Photo Edit function for some post-processing action. Video has what they call Live Effects to offer you creativity when recording video. You can add a background while recording or perform morph effects with the Silly Faces feature.
6. NFC via Android Beam
Expecting NFC to be the trend in the future, Google put in Android Beam on Ice Cream Sandwich so you can share apps, contacts, media files simply by being near to another NFC-enabled device. For those who still don’t know what NFC is, it’s like Bluetooth made easy simply by touching two NFC devices together.
7. WiFi Direct
One of the most exciting feature of Android 4.0 is WiFi Direct. With this feature, you can connect to other devices in the same wireless network for high-speed access unlike Bluetooth. With the help of apps that will be supporting this, you can transfer files, stream your media, or connect to printers. I know it’s already possible now using SMB apps but hopefully this will be more streamlined across devices and OS.
These are just a few new features you can find with Android Ice Cream Sandwich. If you’re interested to learn more of the new features, you might want to check out Android Developers page.
I know most of these are already included in Honeycomb or can be done with the use of apps but Google decided to include them as built-in features. With these updates, I won’t be surprised if the hardware requirement to run ICS will increase.