More ICS for AT&T? OK!
AT&T put out a press release on Thursday to announce that more of its handsets would be getting Android 4.0, or "Ice Cream Sandwich," in the near future.
Ice Cream Sandwich has already begun to roll out to AT&T customers with the HTC Vivid, and "in the coming months" (nothing more specific than that) the following Android smartphones and tablets on AT&T will be getting ICS:
- LG Nitro
- Motorola ATRIX 2
- Motorola ATRIX 4G
- Pantech Burst
- Pantech Element
- Samsung Captivate Glide
- Samsung Galaxy Note
- Samsung Galaxy S II
- Samsung Galaxy S II Skyrocket
- Samsung Galaxy Tab 8.9
Congratulations, owners of those devices! Better luck next time, owners of the HTC Inspire, Sharp FX Plus, Pantech Crossover and HTC Status!
Now, we do have a little more information about a couple of these devices. Ice Cream Sandwich for the Galaxy S II has already started rolling out in global markets; those hoping for a visual overhaul will be disappointed, as Galaxy S II with ICS looks just like the Galaxy S II with Gingerbread. Samsung also recently announced a slight delay for Ice Cream Sandwich for the Galaxy Note "phablet" as the company designs new applications especially for the S-Pen stylus. Android 4.0 should be hitting the Galaxy Note some time between April and May.
Motorola's published timeline, meanwhile, calls for both the Atrix 2 and the Atrix 4G to get Ice Cream Sandwich some time in Q3 2012, or between July and September.
U.S. smartphones getting Ice Cream Sandwich later, often months after, their identical counterparts in Europe and Asia has become a trend in this round of updates; GigaOM's Kevin Fitchard has suggested that this is due to the additional time it takes to integrate the applications that carriers like AT&T and Verizon pre-load on their smartphones. Motorola notes that Ice Cream Sandwich availability depends to some extent on murky "carrier requirements."
Whatever those "carrier requirements" are, they appear to be more stringent in the U.S. than they are elsewhere. With Android 5.0 (codenamed "Jelly Bean") apparently around the corner, those carriers better hustle up and push out some updates.
Need a reminder on what's so great about Ice Cream Sandwich? Check out a bunch of the new features, introduced by Google in October, below.
Ice Cream Sandwich's totally revamped interface places even more emphasis on Google's search bar and aims at making Android more user-friendly. Among the new features are a new typeface called "Roboto" with more rounded letters, as well as scrollable and re-sizable widgets. The snazzy UI also places more of an emphasis on finger gestures.
What's different about camera functions in Android 4.0? A whole lot, starting with Instagram-esque photo-editing tools and deeper integration with social networks. TechCrunch is gaga over the improvements, lauding the "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." Like Apple's new iOS 5, Android users will also be able to access the camera right from the lock screen.
Android 4.0 users can rest easy, knowing that their devices will feature the nifty Face Unlock, which scans the user's face before unlocking the gadget.
A data management tool will help the user understand the amount of data their favorite apps use. This tool will also let the user set data limits for herself, and it will send warnings to notify the user when her data use approaches those limits.
Not only will it look sleeker on handsets, Android's native browser will now place more emphasis on tabs and offline productivity. "Users can keep up to 16 tabs open, view a live preview of each and quickly switch between them," explains By Genius Report. "Tabs can be closed by flicking them off of the screen much like webOS or RIM's tablet OS. Google also automatically syncs bookmarks to your Android browser from Chrome, and users can save pages for offline reading."
Gmail users, rejoice! Here's what's new with Google's celebrated email app, according to TechCrunch: "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." Boy Genius Report notes that Gmail will support offline search, too.
Though it's no Siri, Google has upgraded its hands-free speech recognition feature, which lets users dictate text, send messages, open media files and more. Per PCWorld: "ICS voice command software now has a hands free feature that lets you activate voice actions just by speaking to your phone instead of pressing a button." "play music, search the web, and dictate notes, SMS and email messages."
Google touts the security of its Android Beam wireless transfer system, which lets users share content between devices equipped with Near-Field Communication (aka NFC) technology. Engadget explains how the system will work: Much like HP's ill-fated Touch-to-share functionality, it will let you simply tap two NFC-enabled devices together to share a piece of information. That will work with a range of apps and services in Android, including YouTube videos, contact information, maps, web pages" and more. While you can transfer content from apps, you can't transfer the apps themselves, but Engadget notes that Android Beam "links to apps in the Android Market.
Designed with an eye toward button-free Android handsets, version 4.0 of Google's operating system relies more on finger gestures and integrates navigation buttons and music controls into the user interface. The feature could lead to a new generation of sleeker devices with fewer hardware buttons. But will these virtual buttons get in user's way? TechCrunch says no: "[T]hey smartly disappear when viewing video or in widescreen mode."
"The notification window is now slightly translucent with a glowing dot when you pull it downward," according to This Is My Next. "Notifications can be swiped away one at a time, mirroring webOS 3.0 behavior. You can access your notifications on the lock screen if you're not using a passcode, and you can jump quickly to your settings through the window shade."
Version 4.0 will work on any Android device, be it tablet or smartphone. "Ice Cream Sandwich is the OS that's supposed to put a damper on all that fragmentation talk," writes VentureBeat. "[T]he 2.X OS for phones and the 3.X OS for tablets will give way to the 4.X OS for all Android devices."
ICS bakes deeper social integration into many apps. Perhaps the most social is the "People" app. BGR writes that this new app "pulls in contact information and photos from social networks for your whole address book. Whenever a contact updates his or her info, it is also automatically updated on your phone."