Wow. That's the word that still goes through my mind right now in regard to Android 4.0. When watching the demo of Ice Cream Sandwich, I couldn't believe how much they rethought Android, and how many features they manage to add to this release. Larry Page was right when he said we wouldn't believe how much stuff they added in this release.
Make no mistake. Android 4.0 is Android reborn. It's like they thought how would we build Android in 2011? And then they went and added a crazy amount of cool new features. But it's not just the features that you should be excited about. It's also the new Android experience going forward.
Matias Duarte, the lead designer for Android, has asked all the right questions before starting the new design. He wanted to give Android a "soul". He wanted Android to create an emotional connection with its user. He wanted people to "love" Android, not just like it for its features. And boy did he deliver on that!
He managed to make Android a much more consistent experience compared to previous versions, with a certain type of action working the same way across the OS. He also managed to add some features that make Android more personal to use. For example, the face unlocking feature. That makes your phone "recognize" you. It's a pretty big deal if you think about it. We're living in the future with Android 4.0.
Android 4.0 also brings improved dual core support and hardware acceleration is enabled for all windows on Android. So if you build an app that targets the Android 4.0 API (API 14) then your all will benefit from hardware acceleration by default, no need for you to do anything else. This means that starting with Android 4.0 we can expect a lot smoother and polished apps (because they can afford to add the graphical richness).
The keyboard has also been greatly improved in accuracy, and my guess is because they've finally added the BlindType technology, which they bought a while ago. Matias Duarte is so confident in it that he says he'd put it against any other virtual keyboard and he thinks the Android 4.0 one would win.
The browser has also been improved, probably a lot underhood as well, but they didn't choose to focus on that. Instead they focused on showing how the new "tabs" work on a phone, and they are a lot like Android 4.0's multitasking system. You see thumbnails of the websites one under each other, that you can easily scroll and select. You can also kill the tabs by swiping them off the screen.
And that's obviously not all, but there are so many of them so I'm just going to list more of them in the list here:
- Option to use virtual buttons in the UI, instead of taking up capacitive touch buttons
- Widgets are in a new tab, listed in a similar list to apps
- Folders are much easier to create, with a drag-and-drop style similar to iOS
- A customizable launcher
- New phone app with visual voicemail functionality that lets you speed up or slow down voicemail messages
- Pinch-to-zoom functionality in the calendar
- Gmail has offline search, a two-line preview, and new action bar at the bottom
- Swipe left or right to switch between Gmail conversations
- Integrated screenshot capture by holding power and volume down buttons
- Improved error correction on the keyboard
- Ability to access apps directly from lock screen (similar to HTC Sense 3.x)
- Improved copy and paste
- Better voice integration
- Face Unlock, a facial recognition service
- New tabbed web browser, allowing up to 16 tabs
- Browser now automatically syncs your Chrome bookmarks
- Modern "Roboto" font
- Data Usage section in settings lets you set warnings when you reach a certain amount of use and disabling data when you go over your limit
- Ability to kill off apps that are using data in the background
- Camera app: zero shutter lag, time lapse settings, zoom while recording
- Built-in photo editor
- New gallery layout, organized by location and person
- Refreshed people app with social network integration, status updates and hi-res images
- Android Beam, a NFC feature that lets you exchange websites, contact info, directions, YouTube, etc.