While hardware junkies like myself may have spent the past few weeks drooling over the Galaxy Nexus, the onstage demo of Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich proves that the software powering the device is just as impressive (if not a little moreso).
Our hands-on with the Galaxy Nexus and Ice Cream Sandwich will be coming shortly, but here’s a quick rundown of what Android 4.0 will be bringing to the table come November.
- 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)