Android Featured Reviewed — 14 April 2012
ANDROID 4.0 ICE CREAM SANDWICH First Look

ice cream sandwich

Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich) is the newest version of the Android platform for phones, tablets, and more. It builds on those things people love most about Android – easy multitasking, rich notifications, personalized home screens, resizable widgets, and deep interactivity – and provides potent new means of communicating and sharing.

Simple, Beautiful, evolved UI

Focused on bringing the power of Android to the surface, Android 4.0 makes common actions more visible and enables you to navigate with simple, easy-to-use gestures. Refined animations and feedback throughout the system make interactions engaging and fascinating. A totally new typeface optimized for high-resolution screens improves readability and brings a refined, modern feel to the graphical user interface.

Virtual keys in the System Bar let you navigate instantly to Back, Home, and Recent Apps. The System Bar and virtual buttons can be found across all apps, but can be dimmed by applications for full-screen viewing. You can access each application’s contextual options in the Action Bar, available at the top (and sometimes also at the bottom) of the screen.

Multitasking is a key strength of Android and it’s made a whole lot easier plus more visual on Android 4.0. The Recent Apps button lets you jump quickly from one task to another while using list in the System Bar. The list appears showing thumbnail images of apps used recently – tapping a thumbnail switches to the app.

The Recent Apps list makes multitasking simple.

Jump to the camera or see notifications without unlocking.

For incoming calls, you can respond immediately by text.
Rich and interactive notifications let you stay in constant touch with incoming messages, play music tracks, see real-time updates from apps, and much more. On smaller-screen gadgets, notifications appear at the top of the screen, while on larger-screen devices they appear in the System Bar.

Home screen folders and favorites tray

New home screen folders offer a new way to group your apps and shortcuts logically, just by dragging one onto another. Also, in All Apps launcher, now you can simply drag an app to acquire details about it or immediately uninstall it, or disable a pre-installed app.

The All Apps launcher (left) and resizable widgets (right) offer you apps and rich content on the home screen.
On smaller-screen devices, the home screen now incorporates a customizable favorites tray visible from all home screens. You are able to drag apps, shortcuts, folders, and other priority items in or out of the favorites tray for immediate access from the home screen.

Resizable widgets

Home screens in Android 4.0 are designed to be content-rich and customizable. You can do much more than addice cream sandwich shortcuts – you can embed live application content directly through interactive widgets. Widgets permit you to check email, scan through a calendar, play music, check social streams, plus more – right from the home screen, without having to launch apps. Widgets are resizable, so you can expand them to show more content or shrink them to save space.

New lock screen actions

The lock screens now let you do more without the need of unlocking. From the slide lock screen, you can jump directly to the camera for a picture or pull down the notifications window to check for messages. When playing music, it’s also possible to manage music tracks and see album art.

Quick responses for incoming calls

When an incoming call arrives, it’s simple to quickly respond by text message, without the need to pick up the call or unlock the device. On the incoming call screen, you simply slide a control to see a list of text responses and then tap to send and end the call. You can include your own responses and manage the list from the Settings app.

ice cream sandwichSwipe to dismiss notifications, tasks, and browser tabs

Android 4.0 makes managing notifications, recent apps, and browser tabs even easier. Now you can dismiss individual notifications, apps from your Recent Apps list, and browser tabs with a simple swipe of a finger.

A spell-checker allows you to find errors and correct them faster.

A powerful voice input engine permits you to dictate continuously.
Improved text input and spell-checking
The soft keyboard in Android 4.0 makes text input even faster plus more accurate. Error correction and word recommendation are improved through a new set of default dictionaries and even 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, you can choose from multiple spelling suggestions, delete a word, or add it to the dictionary. You can even tap to see replacement suggestions for words that are spelled correctly. For specialized features or additional languages, you 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 you dictate the text you want, for as long as you want, using the language you want. You 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, you can tap the underlined words to quickly replace them from a list of suggestions.

Data usage controls let you monitor total usage by network type and application and then set limits if needed.

ice cream sandwich

Control over network data

Mobile devices can make extensive use of network data for streaming content, synchronizing data, downloading apps, and more. To meet the needs of you with tiered or metered data plans, Android 4.0 adds new controls for managing network data usage.

In the Settings app, colorful charts show the total data usage on each network type (mobile or Wi-Fi), as well as amount of data used by each running application. Based on your data plan, you can optionally set warning levels or hard limits on data usage or disable mobile data altogether. You can also manage the background data used by individual applications as needed.

Designed for accessibility

A variety of new features greatly enhance the accessibility of Android 4.0 for blind or visually impaired users. Most important is a new explore-by-touch mode that lets you navigate without having to see the screen. Touching the screen once triggers audible feedback that identifies the UI component below; a second touch in the same component activates it with a full touch event. The new mode is especially important to support users on new devices that use virtual buttons in the System Bar, rather than dedicated hardware buttons or trackballs. Also, standard apps are updated to offer an improved accessibility experience. The Browser supports a script-based screen reader for reading favorite web content and navigating sites. For improved readability, you can also increase the default font size used across the system.

The accessibility experience begins at first setup – a simple touch gesture during setup (clockwise square from upper left) activates all accessibility features and loads a setup tutorial. Once accessibility features are active, everything visible on the screen can be spoken aloud by the standard screen reader.

Contacts and profiles are integrated across apps and social networks, for a consistent, personal experience everywhere – from incoming calls to emails.

Communication and sharing

People and profiles

Throughout the system, your social groups, profiles, and contacts are linked together and integrated for easy accessibility. At the center is a new People app that offers richer profile information, including a large profile picture, phone numbers, addresses and accounts, status updates, events, and a new button for connecting on integrated social networks.

Your contact information is stored in a new “Me” profile, allowing easier sharing with apps and people. All of your integrated contacts are displayed in an easy to manage list, including controls over which contacts are shown from any integrated account or social network. Wherever you navigate across the system, tapping a profile photo displays Quick Contacts, with large profile pictures, shortcuts to phone numbers, text messaging, and more.

Unified calendar, visual voicemail

To help organize appointments and events, an updated Calendar app brings together personal, work, school, and social agendas. With user permission, other applications can contribute events to the calendar and manage reminders, for an integrated view across multiple calendar providers. The app is redesigned to let you manage events more easily. Calendars are color-coded and you can swipe left or right to change dates and pinch to zoom in or out agendas.

In the phone app, a new visual voicemail features integrates incoming messages, voice transcriptions, and audio files from one or more providers. Third-party applications can integrate with the Phone app to add your own voice messages, transcriptions, and more to the visual voicemail inbox.

Capture the picture you want, edit, and share instantly.

Rich and versatile camera capabilities

The Camera app includes many new features that let you capture special moments with great photos and videos. After capturing images, you can edit and share them easily with friends.

When taking pictures, continuous focus, zero shutter lag exposure, and decreased shot-to-shot speed help capture clear, precise images. Stabilized image zoom lets you compose photos and video in the way you want, including while video is recording. For new flexibility and convenience while shooting video, you can now take snapshots at full video resolution just by tapping the screen as video continues to record.

To make it easier to take great pictures of people, built-in face detection locates faces in the frame and automatically sets focus. For more control, you can tap to focus anywhere in the preview image.

For capturing larger scenes, the Camera introduces a single-motion panorama mode. In this mode, you start an exposure and then slowly turn the Camera to encompass as wide a perspective as needed. The Camera assembles the full range of continuous imagery into a single panoramic photo.

After taking a picture or video, you can quickly share it by email, text message, bluetooth, social networks, and more, just by tapping the thumbnail in the camera controls.

A Photo Gallery widget on the home screen.

Redesigned Gallery app with photo editor

The Gallery app now makes it easier to manage, show, and share photos and videos. For managing collections, a redesigned album layout shows many more albums and offers larger thumbnails. There are many ways to sort albums, including by time, location, people, and tags. To help pictures look their best, the Gallery now includes a powerful photo editor. You can crop and rotate pictures, set levels, remove red eyes, add effects, and much more. After retouching, you can select one or multiple pictures or videos to share instantly over email, text messaging, bluetooth, social networks, or other apps.

An improved Picture Gallery widget lets you look at pictures directly on the home screen. The widget can display pictures from a selected album, shuffle pictures from all albums, or show a single image. After adding the widget to the home screen, you can flick through the photo stacks to locate the image you want, then tap to load it in Gallery.

Live Effects for transforming video

Live Effects is a collection of graphical transformations that add interest and fun to videos captured in the Camera app. For example, you can change the background behind them to any stock or custom image, for just the right setting when shooting video. Also available for video is Silly Faces, a set of morphing effects that use state-of-the-art face recognition and GPU filters to transform facial features. For example, you can use effects such as small eyes, big mouth, big nose, face squeeze, and more. Outside of the Camera app, Live Effects is available during video chat in the Google Talk app.

Snapping a screenshot.

ice cream sandwichYou can now share what’s on your screens more easily by taking screenshots. Hardware buttons let them snap a screenshot and store it locally. Afterward, you can view, edit, and share the screen shot in Gallery or a similar app.

Cloud-connected experience

Android has always been cloud-connected, letting you browse the web and sync photos, apps, games, email, and contacts – wherever you are and across all of your devices. Android 4.0 adds new browsing and email capabilities to let you take even more with them and keep communication organized.

The Browser tabs menu (left) lets you quickly switch browser tabs. The options menu (right) gives you new ways to manage your browsing experience.

Benchmark comparisons of Android Browser.

Powerful web browsing

ice cream sandwichThe Android Browser offers an experience that’s as rich and convenient as a desktop browser. It lets you instantly sync and manage Google Chrome bookmarks from all of your accounts, jump to your favorite content faster, and even save it for reading later in case there’s no network available.

To get the most out of web content, you can now request full desktop versions of web sites, rather than their mobile versions. You can set your preference for web sites separately for each browser tab. For longer content, you can save a copy for offline reading. To find and open saved pages, you can browse a visual list that’s included with browser bookmarks and history. For better readability and accessibility, you can increase the browser’s zoom levels and override the system default text sizes.

Across all types of content, the Android Browser offers dramatically improved page rendering performance through updated versions of the WebKit core and the V8 Crankshaft compilation engine for JavaScript. In benchmarks run on a Nexus S device, the Android 4.0 browser showed an improvement of nearly 220% over the Android 2.3 browser in the V8 Benchmark Suite and more than 35% in the SunSpider 9.1 JavaScript Benchmark. When run on a Galaxy Nexus device, the Android 4.0 browser showed improvement of nearly 550% in the V8 benchmark and nearly 70% in the SunSpider benchmark.

Enhanced email

In Android 4., email is simpler to transmit, read, and manage. For creating email, enhanced auto-completing readers aids in finding and adding frequent contacts more rapidly. For simpler input of frequent text, now you can create quick reactions and store them within the application, then enter them from the convenient menu when creating. When responding to some message, now you can toggle the content to retort All and Forward without altering screens.

For simpler browsing across accounts and labels, the application adds a built-in menu of accounts and recent labels. That will help you locate and organize IMAP and Exchange email, the e-mail application now supports nested mail subfolders, each with synchronization rules. You may also search across folders around the server, for faster results.

For businesses, the e-mail application supports EAS v14. It supports EAS certificate authentication, provides ABQ strings for device type and mode, and enables automatic sync to become disabled while roaming. Managers may also limit attachment size or disable accessories.

For monitoring incoming email easier, a resizable Email widget allows you search recent email from the house screen, then jump in to the Email application to compose or reply.

Android Beam allows you share what you’re using having a single tap.

Innovation

Android is continuously driving innovation forward, pushing the limitations of communication and discussing with new abilities and interactions.

Android Beam for NFC-based discussing

Android Beam is definitely an innovative, convenient feature for discussing across two NFC-enabled products, It allows people instantly exchange favorite applications, contacts, music, videos – just about anything. It’s incredibly easy and simple to use – there isn’t any menu to spread out, application to produce, or pairing needed. Just touch one Android-powered phone to a different, then tap to transmit.

For discussing applications, Android Beam pushes a hyperlink towards the app’s particulars page on the internet Play. Alternatively device, the Google Play application launches and loads the particulars page, for simple installing from the application. Individual applications can develop Android Beam to include other kinds of interactions, for example passing game scores, starting a multiplayer game or chat, and much more.

Face recognition enables you unlock your phone along with your face.

ice cream sandwich

Face Unlock

Android 4. introduces a totally new method of acquiring a tool, making everyone’s device much more personal – Face Unlock is really a new screen-lock option that allows you unlock your device together with your face. It uses the unit front-facing camera and condition-of-the-art facial recognition technology to join up a face throughout setup after which to identify it again when unleashing the unit. Just hold your device before the face to unlock, or make use of a backup PIN or pattern.

Wi-Fi Direct and Bluetooth HDP

Support for Wi-Fi Direct allows you connect straight to nearby peer products over Wi-Fi, for additional reliable, greater-speed communication. No web connection or tethering is required. Through third-party applications, you are able to connect with compatible products to make the most of additional features for example instant discussing of files, photos, or any other media streaming video or audio from another device or hooking up to compatible ink jet printers or any other products.

Android 4. also introduces built-in support for hooking up to Bluetooth Health Device Profile (HDP) products. With support from third-party applications, you are able to connect with wireless medical products and sensors in hospitals, fitness gyms, houses, and elsewhere.

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