There's nothing like an Ice Cream Sandwich in the summertime, and a taste of Android 4.0 (a.k.a "Ice Cream Sandwich") is coming soon for smartphones made by two of the world's largest mobile manufacturers.
The latest version of the Android operating system has been available for months -- it was unveiled, remember, by Google at a Hong Kong event way back in October. So far, however, adoption rates have been low, sitting at just below 5 percent, as many manufacturers have struggled to adapt ICS for their respective devices in a timely fashion.
It appears, however, that Motorola and LG are finally getting with the times: Both provided new info about Ice Cream Sandwich upgrades, with Motorola even showing off its long-awaited flavor of Ice Cream Sandwich for its popular Droid Razr phone in a YouTube video.
In a post on Motorola Japan, the now-Google-owned mobile maker outlined its big plans for Ice Cream Sandwich on the Droid Razr and Droid Razr Maxx. Razr owners (ownrs?) can expect a new lock screen and home screen, several updated applications including an improved browser and easier homescreen customization. But why take my word for it when you can SEE what's changing?
Watch (and, if you speak Japanese, listen) below:
The update schedule remains unchanged -- Motorola still expects Ice Cream Sandwich to hit both the Droid Razr and the Droid Razr Maxx by the end of June. Now, however, you can check out some of the features coming in that update at an official Motorola landing page (in Japanese, translated to rough English via Google Translate).
Meanwhile, in the same week that it is celebrating the sale of its three millionth LTE device, LG has also announced that a few of those devices will indeed be getting ICS, ending months of conjecture. The Optimus LTE, the Optimus LTE Tag, and the 5-inch Optimus Vu will all receive an Ice Cream Sandwich update, beginning as soon as June 4, per a (translated) news release.
A few other bullet-point notes on Ice Cream Sandwich updates and non-updates:
- Sony has announced in a blog post that its Xperia Play "Playstation Phone" will not be upgraded to Ice Cream Sandwich.
- Sony's Xperia arc, Xperia neo, Xperia mini, Xperia mini pro, Xperia pro and Xperia active will be getting Ice Cream Sandwich, however, starting as soon as Friday, June 1st.
- For Verizon customers, the Google/Samsung collabo Galaxy Nexus should be updated to Android 4.0.4 in the coming weeks.
That's all the Ice Cream Sandwich news we have for now. With the next version of Android -- Android 4.1, or "Jelly Bean" -- looming, these Android makers and mobile carriers better hustle, or they may find themselves implementing an operating system "update" that isn't even current, or "up-to-date," anymore.
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.
More Camera Features
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. <a href="http://techcrunch.com/2011/10/18/a-quick-ice-cream-sandwich-feature-rundown/" target="_hplink">TechCrunch is gaga over the improvements</a>, 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.
New Security Feature
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," <a href="http://www.bgr.com/2011/10/18/google-unveils-android-4-0-ice-cream-sandwich-for-smartphones-tablets/" target="_hplink">explains By Genius Report</a>. "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."
More Robust Gmail
Gmail users, rejoice! Here's what's new with Google's celebrated email app, <a href="http://techcrunch.com/2011/10/18/a-quick-ice-cream-sandwich-feature-rundown/" target="_hplink">according to TechCrunch</a>: "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." <a href="http://www.bgr.com/2011/10/18/google-unveils-android-4-0-ice-cream-sandwich-for-smartphones-tablets/" target="_hplink">Boy Genius Report notes</a> that Gmail will support offline search, too.
Improved Voice Dictation
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. <a href="http://www.pcworld.com/article/242139/apples_ios_5_vs_googles_android_40_ice_cream_sandwich.html" target="_hplink">Per PCWorld</a>: "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. <a href="http://www.engadget.com/2011/10/18/google-announces-nfc-based-android-beam-for-sharing-between-phon/" target="_hplink">Engadget explains how the system will work</a>: 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? <a href="http://techcrunch.com/2011/10/18/a-quick-ice-cream-sandwich-feature-rundown/" target="_hplink">TechCrunch says no</a>: "[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," <a href="http://thisismynext.com/2011/10/18/exclusive-matias-duarte-ice-cream-sandwich-galaxy-nexus/" target="_hplink">according to This Is My Next</a>. "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."
Universal Android OS
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," <a href="http://venturebeat.com/2011/10/18/ice-cream-sandwich-debut/" target="_hplink">writes VentureBeat</a>. "[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. <a href="http://www.bgr.com/2011/10/18/google-unveils-android-4-0-ice-cream-sandwich-for-smartphones-tablets/" target="_hplink">BGR writes</a> 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."