Android Ice Cream Sandwich’s Feature List

Ice Cream Sandwich

Here are some highlights of the new Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich Version

  • Roboto: Goodbye Droid Sans, a new typeface called Roboto is here to rule the roost.
  • Landscape Controls: We knew that the Galaxy Nexus opted to move the classic Android buttons onto the screen, but they smartly disappear when viewing video or in widescreen mode.
  • Flexible Widgets: Ice Cream Sandwich’s stock widgets are resizable and more robust than previous versions. They also now occupy their own separate space in the app drawer.
  • Folders: Dragging apps and contacts on top of each other create re-arrangeable folders a la iOS.
  • Favorites Tray: Users can stow their favorite apps, links, and folders into a new Favorites tray for quick and easy access.
  • Taking Screenshots: This one has been a long time coming. Hold down the power button and the volume down button to snap a screenshot. 
  • Notifications: Hefty revamp here, as the contents are much more customizable. Music controls have been integrated, and notifications are also easily dismissed with a quick swipe left or right.
  • Improved Copy & Paste: Copying and pasting content is made much easier, as you can now move around entire blocks of text. Very useful.
  • Face Unlock: One of the most ambitious is Ice Cream Sandwich’s new Face Unlock feature, which allows users to unlock their handsets just by looking into the front-facing camera.
  • Enhanced Talk-to-Text: Voice input seems much smarter this time around, as it’s more accurate, requires less time, and even accounts for pauses.
  • Browser: The stock browser now sports tabs, and it maxes out at 16. Web pages can now also be saved offline for later perusal, and users can directly request the desktop version of a site.
  • Gmail: Gmail now supports two-line previews, and sports a new context-sensitive action bar at the bottom of the screen. Gesture support allows you to swipe left and right between emails.
  • People App: A new spin on the contact list. The phone’s owner has their own profile, and people’s contact details are sourced from Google+, Facebook, Twitter, etc. Users can define favorite contacts, and individual people can be placed on the homescreen or in folders for quick access.
  • Calendar: Features a redesigned UI and includes pinch-to-zoom to vary the level of detail on a calendar page.
  • Data Usage: Users can now drill down into their data usage over a certain period of time, including the ability to see which apps are the biggest data hogs and the ability to limit data usage to a certain threshold.
  • Camera: There’s a lot to love here. It features image stabilization, improved autofocus, and integration with other apps for sending photos or instant upload to Google+. Oh, and who could forget built-in face detection, panorama and time lapse modes, and on-the-fly photo retouching and enhancements.
  • Android Beam: An secure NFC-powered sharing platform that lets users share nearly any kind of content, save for applications (in that case, a link to the Market is sent instead)

Ice Cream Sandwich’s Finer Features:

  • The widgets system has been overhauled, with the primary new trick being resizability. The Gmail widget, for example, can be scaled to show just two recent e-mails at a time, or, with a brief hold of the widget and a quick drag of the edge markers, up to three or four.
  • You can, at long last, take screenshots right on the device. Outside of a few phones which had screenshot functionality hacked in by the manufacturers, nabbing a screen grab on Android generally entailed installing a massive SDK onto your computer and learning your way around the tools.
  • The browser has been thoroughly improved. It’s got the usual bug fixes and performance enhancements, but also now allows you to save pages for offline reading and to request the non-mobile version of any page with just one click (presumably through a bit of user-agent trickery).
  • The new camera is really, really fast. Shutter lag is non-existent, and it’s ready to take another picture in well under a second. I’m itching to do a quick-draw shoot out between the camera on the Galaxy Nexus and that of the iPhone 4S.
  • The speech-to-text engine has been completely overhauled, and is remarkably fast. You speak naturally, and the streaming speech-to-text conversion should only lag behind your words by a few syllables. You’ve gotta see it to believe it (check it out in the video above at the 2:31 mark).
  • Also well worth seeing (9:25 in the video above): the Face Recognition Lock. Android takes a few seconds to analyze the structure of your face — once configured, your mug is the only one that the device will unlock for. In low light situations (wherein the camera might not be able to see you well enough) you can fall back to a swipe pattern (which ICS requires you set up while configuring the face detection).
  • To create a folder, you now simply drag one app on-top of another. Apps can also now be dragged in and out of the static dock area without trudging through settings.
  • They’ve tucked in a rather talented photo editing tool, with everything from scaling/cropping to basic photo filters. It’s no Photoshop, but it’ll probably hold you over until Instagram makes its way to Android.
  • To geek out for a moment, there was one small bit that was perhaps my favorite of all: the data usage monitor. With the quick drag of a few sliders across a graph, you can quickly peruse a timeline of your data usage, and narrow down which apps are the data-gobbling culprits. One more bar lets you set up automatic warning triggers for your data usage, while a final bar lets you set a point (say, half a meg shy of your monthly cap) at which your data connectivity automatically offs itself. As someone who gets nailed for data overages pretty much each and every month, I love it.

By Chris Velazco

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