Tomorrow is the big day. Google and Samsung will finally announce the Galaxy Nexus smartphone, and perhaps even more importantly, the Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich version, that will unify the smartphone and tablet versions, and also bring a ton of improvements. Let's take a look at what Android 4.0 might bring.
Android will finally get a unified look across all devices, which should more or less resemble the Honeycomb look, but with improvements in many areas, including the design. Google TV will still be based on Honeycomb, but hopefully in the future they'll be able to release Google TV with the same version of the phones and tablets, too. Google TV is a little different because it was initially based on Intel's x86 architecture, and it was sort of a forked version of Android that also included the Chrome browser.
I've been hearing since the beginning of the year that Google was getting serious about limiting fragmentation, and then we learned at Google I/O that they formed that Android Alliance with the 5 major Android manufacturers (Samsung, Motorola, HTC, LG and Sony Ericsson) and the 4 carriers in USA, to bring updates to their phones for a period of 18 months, which is very nice if they keep their word.
Basically you'd get updates until 6 months or so before your contract expires. Then if you want a new version of Android you"ll have to either buy a new phone, or use a custom ROM with the latest version. I think this updating process will start with Android 4.0 and Google must've made it much easier for manufacturers to update their phones from Android 4.0 and beyond.
#3 Hardware acceleration and multi-core optimization
Hardware acceleration is long – very long – overdue in Android smartphones. People have been asking for it months before even Froyo shipped. Android became significantly smoother with the 2.3 version, when it got much faster garbage collection and some partial hardware acceleration, but it's not perfect in all areas. It stills need hardware acceleration for a lot of other stuff, basically all graphical elements being run in Android. They could all benefit from hardware acceleration.
Multi-core optimizations for all dual core devices an soon the quad core Tegra 3, should arrive as well. I believe the Android browser still doesn't use 2 or more cores, and that affects the performance of page rendering, which is pretty slow on mobile compared to a laptop or PC.
#4 Improved browser (possibly Chrome)
A very welcome addition would be Chrome. A lot of people would be excited about that, and Chrome would finally take its rightful place on Android. But what I'd be even more excited about, is that Chrome would then too be updated every 6 weeks or so, and in the future we might not see cases where the browser on iPhone is faster than the one on Android. Whether it will be Chrome or not, I'm sure the Android 4.0 browser will receive a major update, just like the one in Honeycomb did.
This sounds like a strange feature to ask for considering Android "should" be open sourced with each version being released, but Honeycomb wasn't open sourced because they didn't want people to put Honeycomb on phones, plus I think it was mostly because Honeycomb wasn't really ready.
Android 4.0 Ice Cream is finally getting open sourced, which means a lot of custom ROM's out there will be implementing it very soon, and many HP Touchpad owners will be able to use it as well with CyanogenMod 9 (next version after 7.1).
When you couple Android 4.0 with the Galaxy Nexus, no wonder a lot of people are excited and are expecting to see a lot of crazy stuff tomorrow. Hopefully, Google will manage to deliver.