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Oct
10-18-2011 7-26-11 PM

Update: This post has been updated with links to a deeper look at each feature. Enjoy!

Holy crap. The Samsung/Google event ended just a little while ago, and I have to say, I'm pretty overwhelmed by the amount of awesome that I just experienced. The Galaxy Nexus is official, as is its counterpart OS: Ice Cream Sandwich. There is no doubt that ICS is the most polished version of Android to date. It's elegant, clean, and just downright gorgeous. Let's take a look at all the new features together, shall we?

Roboto

One thing that Google is definitely proud of in ICS is the new typeface, known as Roboto. It was designed specifically for use in ICS from the ground up, and brings clean lines, smooth curves, and, above all, ultimate readability on the small screen. It definitely looks great on another of the new features in 4.0...

More in-depth AP Coverage | How to install it on your device now

The Lockscreen

10-18-2011 7-26-11 PM

The new lockscreen is a lot like the one from Honeycomb, but has clearly been optimized, as it offers shortcuts to both phone and camera. Did I mention the font? Yeah, that's Roboto. So clean.

More in-depth AP Coverage

Onscreen Controls

Gone are the days of capacitive and physical buttons to navigate between apps and through menus, as ICS uses full touchscreen controls. But you already knew that, didn't you?

Homescreens, Widgets, and Launcher

10-18-2011 7-28-22 PM 10-18-2011 7-28-34 PM 10-18-2011 7-31-47 PM

Some of the stock widgets have received a makeover, but we've already seen that. They are now also resizable, and arranging homescreens is significantly easier since items can "bump" each other out of the way. All widgets are now accessible directly from the app tray, creating a much more intuitive experience.

Speaking of intuitive, how about native drag-and-drop folder support? Ice Cream Sandwich has it, so organizing apps on the homescreen will be a snap. Favorites and recent apps have also taken a page out of the Honeycomb playbook, and they look damn good on a phone. Very clean.

Once in the recent apps screen, killing a running app is easy: just flick it away. Really, that's it.

More in-depth AP Coverage

Native Screenshots and Notifications

Native screenshots is something that Android has needed since day one, and now it's finally available. To grab a quick screencap, simply hit Volume Down + Power. After a nifty polaroid-style animation, your shot is automatically saved. Easy peasy.

Much like recent apps, you will also be able to swipe-to-clear notifications. If you're a CM7 user, this is a feature you should already be very familiar with, and, quite frankly, one that you probably rely on. I know I do.

Additional AP Coverage

Keyboard and Text Entry

They keyboard has also spent some time in the lab receiving better prediction, accuracy, and responsiveness. It now includes an inline spell checker that allows you to choose between several similar words.

If you've been aching to be able to work a little hack-and-slash on your messages before you send them, then you'll be happy to know that words are now draggable. Simply highlight the word and drag it to the desired location. Mad easy.

Of course, if you prefer to speak instead of type, you're going to love the enhanced speech-to-text engine: it's instant. No more talk-then-wait; you speak and it starts typing almost instantly. Need to think for a second? No worries, it waits on you. Take that, Siri.

More in-depth AP Coverage: Keyboard | Speech-to-Text

Face Unlock

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So this one didn't fare so well in the presentation, but we still got the idea: instead of using a pin or pattern lock, you can unlock the phone with your own ugly mug. Unless, of course, your mug isn't ugly at all. Then you'll unlock it with your beautiful, ray-of-sunshine face. Just hit the button, the front facing camera will initiate and, once it recognizes you, the device will unlock. How cool is that?

More in-depth AP Coverage

Browser

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The browser is one area that I can honestly say is a bit of a letdown, but only because it's not Chrome. Even with that in mind, it does offer features that have attracted users to third-party browsers for a while, like bookmark sync (with Chrome in this case) and... wait for it... user agent switching! Finally! You can force the browser to load the desktop version of any site. Awesome.

Once you're finished with any open tab, it's easy to shut 'em down quick: just give it a simple flick. Are you starting to notice the pattern? Flicks kill unwanted stuff. Also, if you don't want to leave any trace of that closed tab, the new browser also offers incognito mode, another feature that CM7 has had for a while.

Moving the opposite direction, you'll also be able to save pages for offline viewing. Think Read it Later, only native.

More in-depth AP Coverage

Gmail and Calendar

10-18-2011 7-39-14 PM 10-18-2011 7-39-27 PM 10-18-2011 7-41-14 PM

Taking advantage of the increased screen real estate on the Galaxy Nexus (which uses the native resolution for ICS), Gmail now displays two-line e-mail previews so you can get an idea of what the message is all about without actually opening it. Once it is opened, though, simply swipe left and right to change messages. You can swipe almost everything in ICS. Almost.

The Calendar app is now more useful than ever, too. Thanks to the awesome new font we talked about earlier, everything is sharper, more crisp, and easier to read. Not only that, but if you're ultra-busy, you can pinch-to-zoom the calendar to get a closer look at what the agenda holds for that day.

More in-depth AP Coverage: Gmail | Calendar

Data Usage

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Here's a good one for everyone who will hop over to Big Red just to grab the Galaxy Nexus: a native way to monitor which apps are whoring all of your data. I mean, the last thing you want to do is go over your allotted bandwidth because some app wants to pocket all of your geebees for itself, right? You can easily keep an eye on specific apps, and even monitor them by specific timeframe. Getting close to filling your 2GB limit? No worries, the Data Usage app can automatically warn you and/or kill your data connection once you reach a certain amount of usage -- if you want it to, that is. It's thoughtful like that.

More in-depth AP Coverage

Camera

 10-18-2011 7-48-02 PM

Out of all the new features in ICS, this one is probably my favorite. The new camera has some amazing new features, such as touch-to-focus, face detection, zero-shutter lag (!), and panoramic mode. It doesn't stop there, either, as the video recording functionality has also been injected with steroids. It offers some super-cool features, like time lapse and the ability to take a picture while recording a video. I can only begin to imagine the possibilities for that.

Also included in the update camera is another feature that we've already looked at: photo editing. Don't expect to do some major shop jobs to your images, but for the basic touchups or simple filters, these feature set should have you covered.

More in-depth AP Coverage

People and Phone

10-18-2011 7-50-36 PM 10-18-2011 7-53-15 PM 10-18-2011 7-53-29 PM

The Contacts app not only received a new look, but a new name as well. It's simple. It's effective. It's People. It's intuitive, elegant, and pretty. What more do you want out of an app like this? Everything is centralized, so you can find every last bit of information on any given contact in one central location. Slightly creepy, actually.

People, of course, ultimately ties into the new dialer, or Phone as us old-timers like to call it. Much like everything else in ICS, it's clean and swipe-able. The favorites page is nothing more than big blocks of contact pictures now, which is cool... as long as your contacts actually have pictures (I'm lookin' at those of you who don't have a Facebook. Go make one. I'm sick of seeing the default icon as your picture).

You can also manipulate your voicemail directly from the device now, too. Play it, fast forward it, delete it --- all from the Phone interface. This almost gives me a reason to actually check my voicemail. Almost.

More in-depth AP Coverage

Android Beam

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This feature is proof that NFC is good for more than just paying for stuff. It allows you to share pictures, apps, links, maps... and pretty much everything else with a simple bump of the phone. Seriously, that's it. Both phones must have NFC, of course, but that probably goes with saying.

More in-depth AP Coverage

Wi-Fi Direct

While this feature wasn't announced at last night's event, it could potentially be a game changer for those who frequently transfer data between devices. Instead of relying  on a USB cable, cloud storage, or emailing files to yourself, you can use Wi-Fi Direct to setup an exclusive ad-hoc network between devices specifically for transferring files back and forth. It's similar to Android Beam without the NFC.

More in-depth AP Coverage

That's All... for Now

It's inevitable that we missed something -- don't worry, though, as time goes on we will uncover new and useful features... just as soon as we get the GN in our hands, that is. In the meantime, give us your thoughts on ICS, the Galaxy Nexus, and anything else (relevant) that you feel like dropping the opinion bomb about.

Cameron Summerson
Cameron is a self-made geek, Android enthusiast, horror movie fanatic, musician, and cyclist. When he's not pounding keys here at AP, you can find him spending time with his wife and kids, plucking away on the 6-string, spinning on the streets, or watching The Texas Chainsaw Massacre on repeat.

  • Mike

    Flicking apps away in the recent app listing does NOT kill them. It just removes them from the recent app list. They clearly want people to just let the OS do its thing as far as task switching.

    • Zigmar

      Good enough. From what I see, the majority of people looking for way to kill apps (I'm not talking about rare cases of stuck apps), does so because they don't understand how android app lifecycle works, and thinks that an app is "running", taking up resources and memory, just like it does, say in Windows. Like people were asking, to add an "exit" button to my android app, while it would do exactly the same as "back" or "home", people still love to think they are "in control". And I even understand them - the concept of "hybernated" ready-for-instant-kill-to-free-up-resources is not so intuitive and easy to grasp for non-techies. So this feature gives people what they want (the illusion of control) while making what it does better than user - the actual control.

      • Kenny

        Then why is it that sometimes for example, i see that my battery is drained for 70 percent by the weather app? Is it an error in my custom rom (RcMixS)?

        • Gerg

          Possibly. If it never happens again, probably just a wonky reading.

        • Zigmar

          Things like that are usually done not by foreground apps but by (poorly-written) services. Exiting the app or killing it still doesn't isure that related service dies.

  • Mike

    Flicking apps away in the recent app listing does NOT kill them. It just removes them from the recent app list. They clearly want people to just let the OS do its thing as far as task killing.

    • Kyle

      Damn you, 3 minutes before me!

  • http://sketaful.se Sketaful

    Nice review of the mornings event (Well, it was morning here atleast). :)

  • Kyle

    Other blogs talked about the Recent apps and Swiping. From what I gathered, swiping the apps away in your Recent Apps screen does not actually "kill" the app, but rather just removes it from the list. So it doesn't seem to function like a task killer.

  • Tristan

    That contact conversion to a people tab seems like a validation that microsoft got it right. Seems like they've taken design cues from WP7. Unlike Apple who outright ripped off Androids notification system.

    I love ICS, I know what my next phone is going to be =)

  • AODfan

    So is the camera software update for all Androids or are they talking about Nexus' camera?

    • Ryuuie

      The camera software update comes with ICS.

  • http://www.techrebels.net Raj

    Nicely covered with detailed explanations and screenshots. Good job Cameron.

  • Ryuuie

    Confirmed that Nexus S will be the second phone to get ICS. :)

    • http://iandouglas.com Ian Douglas

      Wonder if ICS will bring Google Wallet to any NFC-capable device? Specifically the T-Mobile Nexus S which has been left out in the cold with regards to Google Wallet.

  • Gabriel Féron

    Thanks guys, it was hard to get up, but I knew I had this to read!

  • L boogie

    +5 Cameron, great work covering these aspects of ICS now can't wait to see how present/ future smartphones/ tablets run with android 4.0 at the helm.

  • Edd

    In the UK, it was lovely to wake up, head straight to AP, and delve into all the articles! Thanks Cameron et al!

  • Tee

    So the bigger screen is needed for the touch-buttons. Plus/minus zero.

    Otherwise not bad. Hope the ICS will be ported to SGS too...

  • Zigmar

    Wow, truly wow. Now I'm impatiently waiting for the source and community port, to ditch the Sense on my DesireZ and install ICS instead!

  • K. Liske

    (whine on) But when do we geeeeet it? (/whine off)

  • boe

    Dang - would really like them to focus on voice recognition for dication, voice dialing accuracy (not even close) and improve exchange/mail functionality. Frankly I'm happy with everything else but the things I consider most essential they didn't seem to touch on much.

  • http://iandouglas.com Ian Douglas

    "Native screenshots is something that Android has needed since day one, and now it's finally available."

    It's been in Honeycomb hasn't it? Or was that part of Samsung's UI refresh on the 10.1 tab a few months back?

    • Julian

      Honecomb: Without Touchwizz, no Screenshots on Samsung Devices ;)

      • khsharpe

        i've had 2 press screen capture on my Galaxy S since froyo - it may have been there before but i only ever needed it after that update

    • duplissi

      my transformer has the ability to take screen shots by holding the recent app button. you do have to enable this in the settings though.

  • Dave

    I'm curious as to what, if any, improvements were made in Android 4.0 regarding enterprise security. Specifically, Exchange Active Sync support. My company presently offers only a few Motorola Android devices that have their Corporate Sync app on them for our email because that's the only "native" (to Blur) app that gives us the security we require. It sure would be nice if Google could bake the support corporations need into the core of Android so that they aren't dependent on individual manufacturers and their skinned OS to meet their needs.

  • Mike

    how does face unlock know it's a person or a picture of a person in front of the camera?

    • http://iandouglas.com Ian Douglas

      Several facial recognition systems can tell that you're moving your head while the background stays relatively stationary.

      • Stef

        Then what about a movie?

  • Nyle

    Oh, man is that cool..... I wonder if my long in the tooth Captivate has the resources to handle it. I'd love some of those new features but I'm not eligible for upgrade for a while now. Of course AT&T won't likely have an ICS for for some time anyway. I need them for their coverage but boy are they slow in adopting new killer phones and updating the old ones.

  • Eludium-Q36

    These features were previously rumored: Blind Type keybrd, much better emulation, head-tracking api, and home automation. Not there or what ?

  • mawing

    as long it does not crash

  • khsharpe

    god i hope this comes tomy Galaxy S

    though 1 thing that always annnoys me - pointless make work - especially pointless jargon makework. I don't want my contacts called people, i'm really bloody happy having them called contacts - cos there are an awful lot of 'people' in my life i refuse to have as 'contacts'

  • ArunaSena

    Nice one guys...reading this in the morning here in Malaysia...I do agree with some that the swipping the apps in the list is not killing them unless Google decided that in that perculiar are it does kill them.

  • Cyd07

    Question : can we with beam sync the device with accessories in one tap, like Nokia demonstrated with the N9 ?

    I mean, if I get a NFC bluetooth headset (see link) an a GNexus, could I pair Galaxy Nexus with this Nokia Essence with a tap ?

    Moreover, could I control my phone with the headset (use the touch in it : play/pause, volume, etc.) ?

    Thanks.

    PS : http://europe.nokia.com/find-products/accessories/headsets/stereo-bluetooth-headsets/nokia-essence-bluetooth-stereo-headset

  • mikron24

    I CAN JUST SAY I HAD og original droid and now have droid x and dont see a clear path to upgrade what so ever Galaxy Nexus and droid razr and same old stuff , I hate moto blur its a total disaster , i guess ice cream will need to wait till quad core

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