After some time speculating about the name and what it will bring, Google finally announced the next version of Android, Ice Cream Sandwich. Not only is this the next version of the massively popular mobile operating system, but Ice Cream Sandwich signals a new era for Android. There are plenty of goodies within the tasty new update, and we’re going lay them all out for your reading pleasure below.
So is Ice Cream Sandwich the update we’ve all been waiting for? Read on to find out!
So long, fragmentation
Not only does the next version of the OS bring a lot of new features to smartphones, it will be the most ambitious release from Google to date. Ice Cream Sandwich will bring a Honeycomb-like feature set to the table, and at the same time tackle what’s been one of the biggest issues with Android. Fragmentation. Ice Cream Sandwich is the fragmentation fighter that Android has needed for some time now, and it’s finally here. Google wants an OS that can be run everywhere, no matter what the hardware. This means that updates will be sent to devices on a more timely schedule, which is an issue that’s plagued Android devices even in its earliest stages.
Cool new features
Ice Cream Sandwich will also come with a handful of APIs to make developing for the platform much easier for developers. ICS is friendly with screens of any size, and provides APIs to developers to modify certain elements accordingly. One example is that the action bar can be tweaked to make way for more space for an application. Another API that was demoed was head and face tracking from the camera. This API can recognize specific part of the face, and we saw some distortion software applied to a face in real-time. One neat trick demoed was that if there are two people on one side of a video chat session, the camera will recognize who is talking and focus on them, rather than both people.
The new version will be bringing all of the new features seen in Honeycomb to smartphones. This includes the holographic UI, multitasking bar, and more. This will make Android a seamless experience across the board. This should also appeal to developers, as developing an application for a phone will easily work on a tablet with little to no tweaking. We’ll also find fragments within the update, which will help developers modify pieces of an application to accommodate screen size, without having to re-write an entire application.
What about updates?
One question still looms, however. With the strides that Google is making in attempt to bring a seamless experience across the board, and get updates to the end-user in a more timely manner, we wonder just how the custom skins found a majority of Android devices today will affect this. Updating a stock Android device like the Nexus One will be easier than updating the HTC Thunderbolt, which ships with the Sense UI custom skin. If the OS updates begin to ship much quicker to stock Android handsets, will some companies begin to strip down heavily customized user interfaces? While this is likely not the case, it will be interesting if things go unchanged for these types of devices, even if Google has partnered up with a handful of companies to ensure faster updates.
Up close, Ice Cream Sandwich itself doesn’t actually seem like a very big update. It’s basically Honeycomb for phones, which surely wasn’t an easy feat to accomplish, but there’s not many new features. Stepping back, you realize that Ice Cream Sandwich is setting the stage for Android’s future, offering up a slick UI, new APIs that will appeal to developers, and an experience that will remain relatively similar whether you’re on a phone or a tablet. While Ice Cream Sandwich brings a lot of great things to the table, it’s quite obvious that this update is to address fragmentation and updates, and they may have just done it.
Stepping back even further, Ice Cream Sandwich was just one of the many announcements made from Google today. We also saw an update to Honeycomb, the introduction of Google Music Beta, Android Market movie rentals, Android@Home, and Android Open Accessory.
It’s been a good day for Google, and we’re sure that Ice Cream Sandwich has a lot more to offer, as the I/O just gave us a “quick peek” of the tasty new dessert. Expected to land sometime in the fourth quarter, it’s time to wait for October to roll around.