(Updated with photos and more features).
Summer may have ended, but Android users are getting ready for some Ice Cream Sandwich.
In a joint event in Hong Kong with Samsung announcing the Galaxy Nexus smartphone, Google also unveiled the newest update to its Android operating system: Android 4.0, code-name "Ice Cream Sandwich."
"While people like Android, and while people need Android, people didn't love Android," said Android Director Matias Duarte while introducing the OS, which features an aesthetic overhaul to make it more visually pleasing overall.
Among the major changes coming to Ice Cream Sandwich are:
- A new font called "Roboto," which is a semi-circular, more rounded font than usual.
- Home, back, menu and search buttons being moved onto the touchscreen, especially important as the Samsung Galaxy Nexus has no physical hardware buttons.
- General overhaul of the user interface. Expect much larger pictures for contacts, the ability to resize widgets on the homescreens, a favorites tray that is always visible at the bottom of the screen for quick launch of contacts, apps and webpages.
- The ability to swipe right or swipe left on any screen. Much like on Windows Mango, Android will now give users the option to swipe screens to the side to switch between panes.
- The ability to take screenshots by simultaneously pressing the power button and the home button.
- A new data usage view. In the settings, a data monitor will show how much data the user has eaten up in the month; this monitor will give the user an option to set a threshold where the user will be warned or where data will be shut off. It will also give the user the ability to view how much data each app is using over time, including in the foreground (while it's running) or in the background (while any other app is running), giving the user the option to always turn off data for a given app while it runs in the background.\
- Camera from the lock screen. A camera button has been added to the lock screen for quick access.
- Easier photo sharing. Pictures can now be shared to any app, like Facebook, Google+ or Twitter, that hooks in to Android's PhotoShare platform.
- Photo editing tools. After taking a picture, users will be able to crop, remove red eye and perform several other edits, including add Instagram-like filters to their photos (Android still currently lacks the Instagram app that is so popular on iOS)
- Native panorama photo-taking capability. The camera has the ability to instantly take seamless panorama shots.
- Timelapse video. Native to the video app will be a timelapse option to make super sped-up videos.
- Take photos while recording a video.
- Zoom while recording video.
- A new people app, which integrates the contact information from several social networks and aggregates updates from those networks into a single feed (also familiar to Mango users).
- "Quick Response" to phone calls. If you receive a phone call and don't want to answer it, you don't just have to ignore it anymore; you can send a canned response text message to the person telling them why you are busy.
- Android Beam. With NFC-enabled Android phones, two Android users will be able to share any content by simply pressing the backs of their phones together and pressing the "Beam" button.
-Face Unlock. There is an option to unlock the phone using facial recognition: If your phone recognizes your face, it unlocks; if the phone does not recognize your face, it stays unlocked. For what it's worth, this technology did not work on stage, much to the presenter's chagrin.
This big update to the Android platform will be available for users with Gingerbread devices on October 19 or soon thereafter, according to Engadget.
Check out the cool new features available on the upcoming Galaxy Nexus smartphone, and then look at many of the features detailed above in our slideshow:
A good example of the new lock screen and the new "Roboto" typeface.
The new lock screen, this time with notifications and the camera launcher.
The home screen, with "Back" "Home" and "Menu" buttons on screen.
A new view of recent apps used. To close an app, you can flick it to either the left or the right in this view.
A new view of all apps; there is also a separate tab where you can view and sort your home screen widgets.
Widgets on the home screen can now be re-sized. Here's the calendar widget being re-sized.
Here's the new incoming call screen; you can see the option to press the smiling message to send one of many pre-chosen canned responses to inform your caller why you can't come to the phone, rather than just hanging up on them.
A view of data usage is now available by month. You'll be able to see which of your apps used the most data, too.
From the data usage view, you can view data usage for each individual app on your phone. The data usage per app is broken down into foreground data usage (the data used when you are actively in the app) and background data usage (the data your app uses while you are actively using another app but that app runs in the background). Android users will have the option to turn off background data for individual apps.
I think the image speaks for itself here.
A view of the favorite contacts screen, with new "magazine" user interface.
The redesigned email app with redesigned keyboard.
The new Gallery view for pictures features a photo-editing suite, including the option to add Instagram-like filters.
Many apps, including the photo Gallery app, have robust sharing options included. Users will be able to share to any social network that writes code to allow it (LinkedIn, Twitter and Google+ were all given as examples at the event; Facebook was nowhere to be seen, though we can safely assume it will be an option).
What Android head Matias Duarte called a much-requested featured, Android phones can now take screenshots by pressing the Home and Power button at the same time.
Android phones with NFC chips will be able to use Android Beam to transmit information between one another. When two NFC-enabled Android phones are pressed back-to-back, the option to Beam whatever is on the screen over to the other appears. This feature was shown with phones sending each other maps, app downloads and pictures.
The biggest applause of the night was for Face Unlock (even though it didn't work on stage). Face Unlock uses facial recognition to either unlock your phone when it recognizes your face, or keep your phone locked when someone looks at it that doesn't have your face. Identical twins beware.