Leading up to last night's Ice Cream Sandwich announcement, there were rumblings that perhaps Chrome would make its Android debut with the latest iteration of Google's mobile OS. Unfortunately, those rumors turned out to be false, but the new browser that Google has cooked up looks pretty awesome, and packs in a lot of notable features.
First off, the browser has been redesigned. Personally, I think it looks (and functions) much better than its Gingerbread counterpart.
Although it wasn't announced alongside the plethora of other features during the Ice Cream Sandwich event, Wi-Fi Direct may prove to be one of the more important and revolutionary features of the new OS. In the old days Bluetooth was the standard method of device to device data transfer, but now with Ice Cream Sandwich we are given Wi-Fi Direct and Android Beam. The latter uses NFC to transfer links, media, and other data, while the former is an interesting implementation of the wireless standard which creates ad-hoc networks between compatible devices.
One of the first things that crossed our minds when Google wrapped up its Ice Cream Sandwich press conference was "what about tablets"? Well now, thanks to This is my Next, we can finally lay those fears to rest: Android 4.0 looks absolutely fantastic on a larger display.
As you can see, it doesn't look all that different from Honeycomb, which makes sense given ICS' promise of unifying Android on phones (currently Gingerbread) with Android on tablets (Hcomb).
Today's Ice Cream Sandwich announcement yielded a number of exciting enhancements, but not quite as distinctive as the new font Roboto. Indeed during the keynote, the presenter spent an inordinate amount of time expounding the virtues of this font. Roboto is a sans-serif font with characters that have a pleasing roundness, and are spaced evenly, making e-mails, clocks, and menus easy on the eyes, and, in the words of one presenter, "a pleasure to read".
At the end of today's Ice Cream Sandwich unveiling, we found out that the ICS SDK (API 14) was available immediately, but a much more important bit - the source code - was not mentioned at all. It didn't really come as a surprise - historically the source was released about a month after the SDK (with the exception of Honeycomb), but I'd like to clarify something right away for those confused between the SDK and the source code.
While I was tapping away on my laptop trying to keep up with the Ice Cream Sandwich event earlier today, the desktop machine was happily recording it for future reference. This should hold us over until Google posts the official HD version - the video is about 1 hours long, but almost every minute of it is totally worth it (at least once you get to the juicy ICS bits):
Update: The official HD video has now been posted:
Android's voice capabilities have always impressed me, giving me the ability to speak to my phone instead of spending time typing. Raising the bar a bit, Google introduced us tonight to live speech-to-text, making message dictation faster and more streamlined than ever.
Android's new speech-to-text functionality happens completely live, as we saw in tonight's demo. As soon as you start talking, your phone begins typing. It will even wait for you if you take a pause, and add emoticons and punctuation per your request.
One of the most useful features of Android, in my opinion, is spell check. When attempting to convey information quickly, it's easy to make mistakes, and it's nice to have a device that catches them for you.
With Ice Cream Sandwich, users can expect a revamped keyboard, inline spell check capabilities, and improved copy/paste functionality.
The new keyboard doesn't look too different from the Gingerbread keyboard, save for its new color scheme and speech-to-text button.
If you find PIN codes or gesture patterns too predictable to keep your phone secure, Ice Cream Sandwich has the ultimate solution: face unlock.
Face unlock utilizes your phone's front-facing camera to "recognize" your face. If anyone else looks into the camera, they will be denied access. Simple as that. Not only is this a nice option to have for everyday use, but I could imagine it being integrated into mobile security apps as well, ensuring that no one but you could get into your phone and see potentially sensitive data.
Engadget managed to get some face time with Google's Gabe Cohen and he has confirmed that Ice Cream Sandwich will definitely be coming to the Nexus S. According to Engadget, both he and Matias Duarte are of the opinion that most Gingerbread devices (e.g. the Samsung Galaxy SII) will receive the upgrade.
They said that Google is "currently in the process for releasing Ice Cream Sandwich for Nexus S" and that in theory it "should work for any 2.3 device."
Unfortunately, there is no word yet on when ICS would be coming to the Android 2.3 devices and there is also no clear plan on whether ICS will ever come to older devices such as the Nexus One.