Coined as ‘Ice Cream Sandwich’, Google claims this update brings along a refined unified user experience for Android phones, and tablets, inspired by ideas which originated from its previous tablet-only release Android Honeycomb.
Redesigned and evolved interface
An new typeface font called ‘Roboto’ which brings a polished, modern feel to the interface. System bar at the bottom of the screen, will feature three software buttons which will allow you to navigate Back, Home, and Recent Apps. This bar will be visible across all apps, although if a developer wishes, he can minimize it for full-screen viewing. An Action bar present at the top, will allow you to access app specific options.
The Recent Apps button on the homescreen pops up a list of thumbnail images of recently used apps, which allows you to switch between tasks instantly. You can swipe to remove all notifications at once or remove any individual notifications. You can also swipe to respond to a call with a canned text message, without picking up the call or unlocking the device.
The new homescreen folders allows you to group your apps and shortcuts on your phone, by dragging one onto another. Also you can add your favourite apps, shortcuts, folders into the favorites tray which gives you instant access to these, from any home screen.
Android 4.0 comes with some new lock screen actions such as the ability to access your camera, view your notifications and manage music tracks directly from your lock screen.
Google has added improved error correction, word suggestion system, and an inbuilt spell-checker which highlights the errors and suggests replacement words has been added to the Android keyboard.
A new powerful new voice input engine is in place, which allows you to speak what you want, irrespective of the duration and the language.
Android 4.0 comes with some new data usage controls. You can now view total data usage on Wi-Fi or mobile network as well as amount of data used by any specific running app. You can also set limits on data usage or revoke background data usage altogether.
There are also some new accessibility features which can be enabled during the initial setup using a simple touch gesture. These include a new ‘explore-by-touch mode’ which allows visually impaired users to navigate without the need to see the screen and a script-based screen reader in the browser which can read out your favorite web content.
Communication and Sharing
Android 4.0 comes with a new People app which allows you to browse through richer profile information of your your friends, family, and co-workers. This includes a bigger profile picture, phone numbers, addresses and accounts, status updates, and events.
It sports an updated Calendar app to help you organize appointments and events, and a new visual voicemail to integrate incoming messages, voice transcriptions, and audio files.
The new camera app now has built-in face detection, a single-motion panorama mode. There is also a new inbuilt photo editor app along with a revamped gallery app sporting a redesigned album layout. You can crop and rotate pictures, add special effects or carry out any other retouching tasks before sharing it over email, text messaging, bluetooth or any social network of your choice.
Also, you can finally take screenshots of your phone natively without rooting the phone, using hardware buttons on your phone.
Web Browsing and Email
Emails sports better auto-completion, quick canned responses, integrated menu of accounts and recent labels, nested mail subfolders, and a resizable widget. It also included offline email search, with emails up to 30 days, stored by default but can be extended as per your preference.
Other notable additions include Face Unlock and Android Beam. Face Unlock enables you to unlock your phone using your face and Android Beam allows you to share your favorite content – apps, photos, music, videos, contacts, to an NFC-compatible phone by just tapping on it.
Android 4.0 also introduces support for Wi-Fi Direct, Bluetooth Hands Free Profile (HFP) 1.6, and Bluetooth Health Device Profile (HDP) devices.
Android 4.0 ‘Ice Cream Sandwich’ is expected to be released worldwide in November. So if you have a Nexus device or any other stock Android device, you can possibly get the update around the same time. However if you have a device with a custom skin, you just have to hope that hardware manufacturers roll it out to your device soon enough.
That being said, Engadget reports that most of the Gingerbread phones will get the Ice Cream update. Matias Duarte, Android’s head of user experience said they are currently in the process for releasing Ice Cream Sandwich for Nexus S but theoretically it should work for any 2.3 ‘Gingerbread’ device.
Another thing to note is that Android 4.0 is an open source release, unlike the previous tablet-only Android 3.0 ‘Honeycomb’ and the SDK can be downloaded from Android developer website. Additionally you can read more information about Android 4.0 platform and the SDK tools at the Android Developer Blog.