Coolest Android Ice Cream Sandwich features

Last week Google and Samsung unveiled the Galaxy Nexus, the first phone designed specifically with Android 4.0 (aka Ice Cream Sandwich) in mind. Ice Cream Sandwich will, naturally, make its way to other handsets when it’s released to the public sometime in November. As such, we’re taking a look at the latest Google Android mobile operating system.

Face Unlock
Is swiping the home screen to unlock your phone growing a bit tiresome? Ice Cream Sandwich’s new Face Unlock feature taps a phone’s camera so that users can log in by simply looking at the handset. Don’t worry, if you don’t want to use your grill, you can still use a code number (or a drawing interface) to unlock the handset.

Android Beam
Ice Cream Sandwich leverages NFC (near-field communication) technology that lets users share apps, websites, YouTube videos, maps, directions, and more by simply tapping two Android 4.0 phones together, much like iOS’s Bump It app.

New Browser Functionality
Android 4.0’s Web browser has evolved to closely match the desktop Chrome browser. Ice Cream Sandwich includes Chrome sync (which keeps bookmarks synced between your handset and desktop browsers), a “full site” button (which let users switch between desktop and mobile views), tabs, and a new Incognito tab.

New Contacts and Social Networking Features
Ice Cream Sandwich’s “People” streamlines the way that contacts are displayed. Contact information is culled from your social networking connections, plus any other custom info that you’d like to manually add. This data is displayed on cards (similar to Windows Phone 7.5’s tiles) that are updated when the contact updates his or her social networking information.

Data Management
Bundled with Android 4.0 is a stock app that lets you control network activity and view a specific app’s data usage. What’s the benefit of this? You can now set up warnings (for when you begin to approach certain data thresholds), and hard caps to avoid an overage-fee pummeling.

New User Interface
Taking a cue from the Honeycomb tablet operating system, Ice Cream Sandwich sports a sleek futuristic design that more closely aligns the phone and slate OSes. Android 4.0 also has a multitasking icon that calls up your recently used apps, and eliminates the need for physical keys, as it features adaptable software buttons.

New Camera Capabilities
Have you ever wanted to take a photo with your phone, but lost the moment due to the relatively lengthy snap time? Ice Cream Sandwich aims to eliminate that with swift, multiple shot shooting that plays catch up with the recently released Apple iOS 5. Android 4.0 also packs a new filter-filled photo editor, and a particularly cool sounding feature: an image rotator that spins the photo based on where your eyes are looking.

Does Apple iOS 5’s Siri have voice control competition in Ice Cream Sandwich? That remains to be seen, but Android 4.0’s live voice-to-speech feature lets smartphone users create e-mail, texts, and perform other functions simply by speaking. This should (hopefully) make dictation and messaging a swifter, more streamlined affair.

Simple Screenshots
Android finally lets you take screenshots without requiring users to install apps, pull hair, or gnash teeth. How is it done? Users (especially hardworking Android app reviewers) will appreciate the operating system’s ability to grab a screenshot by simultaneously holding power and volume-down buttons.

Widget Management
Ice Cream Sandwich gives you widget flexibility by letting you select the size of displayed information on the home screens. Android 4.0 makes it easier to place widgets on the desktop; you simply press and hold the screen which opens a menu that reveals all of the widgets.

Copyright © 2010 Ziff Davis Publishing Holdings Inc.

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