In a dual-pronged manoeuvre, Google and Samsung have teamed up to put the focus squarely back on Android 4.0.
Hoping to steal some of the mobile limelight back from Apple's recent commercial triumphs (with the iPhone 4S
) and legal windfalls, Google and Samsung today joined forces in Hong Kong as expected
to unveil the latest version of the Android operating system, Ice Cream Sandwich, running on the newest flagship Android phone, Samsung's Galaxy Nexus.
Ice Cream Sandwich (aka Android 4.0), launching just weeks after Apple's iOS 5 and Microsoft's Windows Phone 7.5 Mango
OS upgrades, is the first version of Android designed to run on both smartphones and tablets. To help straddle the two form factors, ICS introduces a new, modern-looking 'Roboto' font to its UI, designed for optimal legibility on high-definition displays.
Similar to Nokia's Meego-based N9
(which features no front-facing hardware buttons), Ice Cream Sandwich takes the standard front-facing UI buttons (home, back etc.) and converts them into software icons which appear along the bottom edge of the display (disappearing when necessary to free up visual real estate for apps like video players.)
The updated OS features a significant number of new features, including a People-centric contacts app (which ties into Google+ and friend photos), Android Beam (which shares information -- such as web pages, YouTube videos and even apps -- between two phones via tapping them), Face Unlock (the ability to unlock your phone via its front-facing camera using face recognition), an improved keyboard, increased data management features, a revised "desktop-class" browser with new tab management features (up to 16) and the ability to sync bookmarks with Chrome, a 'recent apps' scroller, revised notification controls, an overhauled camera app with panorama shooting, face detection and integrated photo editing, better voice recognition, plus a number of revisions across standard built-in apps such as Gmail and Calendar.
Samsung's Galaxy Nexus, the first phone to ship with the revised Android build, offers a huge 4.65-inch 1,280 x 780 Super AMOLED display running on a 1.2GHz dual-core processor. It's a 4G device (supporting LTE or HSPA+) and is housed in a svelte, curved 8.84mm-thick chassis. The Galaxy Nexus will be available from next month, although we don't know yet when it will hit Australia - but when it does, expect it to steal some of the Android "it phone" attention away from this
. It's unclear when users with previous-gen Android handsets will be able to get their hands on the Ice Cream Sandwich update, but going off past experience
we (sadly) won't be holding our breath...