The next Android OS — 4.0 or Ice Cream Sandwich — is going to have the best of 2.0 and 3.0 on the world's fastest growing smartphone. However, the tablet interface is quite a bit better than the smartphone iteration. That, of course, doesn't mean 4.0 will have everything on the desktop the tablet has, but the smartphone version of the Android desktop will get a much-needed face lift.
Let's take a look at what we can all expect from the next flavor of Android.
This is one of the best improvements Android smartphone users will appreciate. Instead of the 2.0 take on multitasking, Android for the smartphone will gain a big plus by improving multitasking by behaving similarly to that of the tablet. Instead of long-pressing the home button to bring up a list of most recently used applications, just tap the multitasking button to reveal all currently opened apps and select the app you want to bring to the fore.
Another outstanding feature, coming over from the tablet interface, is the ability to resize widgets. In the 2.x version of Android, widgets could not be resized. Yes, some widgets offered various sizes to add to the desktop, but even that could be limiting. Now, however, a widget can be placed on a desktop and then resized to precisely fit the desktop in exactly the way you want it.
Better spell checking
Predictive typing tends to get in my way. This is especially true after a while of the keyboard learning of my mistakes. Well, 4.0 adds a new spell checker into the mix to attempt to improve this feature. This spell check will work across applications (and is not limited to only SMS messaging).
Finally. No more using the Dalvek Debug tool or rooting a phone just to be able to get screenshots. Now, all you will have to do is press the home button and the volume down button to save a snapshot of your screen.
One of the faults I have endured with Android is the remarkably slow response of the camera. Well, with 4.0, the camera response time is instant. The instant reaction is not associated with the amount of time the camera app opens, but how quickly the picture is taken after pressing the shutter button.
The smartphone version will not benefit from the amazing notifications found on the tablet. But even without that great system, the notification system on the smartphone version of 4.0 will get some nice improvements. One of the major improvements is that notifications can be seen without having to unlock the phone. The current iteration allows you to see that you have a notification but not the contents. The upgrade will allow for the viewing of the contents of the notification.
Finally, copy and paste will be even easier. All you will need to do is highlight the text to be copied and drag the text to where you want it.
Data Tracking Tool
This will come in handy for anyone that needs to keep constant track of their data. The tool will tell you exactly which apps are using how much data. That way, when you're going beyond your plan's allotted data, you can easily figure out why!
Other minor updates:
- The home screen can now span the entire device
- No more physical home, back, menu, and search buttons — these buttons are now virtual
- Deleting an item or dismissing a notification is as simple as a swipe to the right
- Calendar is now zoomable
- Voicemail shows up in a call log
- Voice mail can be sped up or slowed down
- Sync contact information (including HighRes pictures) from social networks
- Facial recognition login
- Beam web pages, contacts, and directions using Near Field Communication (NFC)
- New semi-circular HD optimized font: Roboto to make screen even easier to read
- Pan your camera to capture single motion panoramic photos
- Built-in filters for easy editing of photos after capture
- Out of the box speech-to-text input
- Reject an incoming call with a custom message
- Set data usage restrictions to help prevent overages on carriers with limits
- Gmail upgrade allows swiping through new messages
The upgrades to Android 4.0 will be significant to the end user. The new Android interface will not only be better looking, it will be more user friendly and even more flexible. The details on the when are sketchy, but it will be in 2012. It's also anyone's guess as to which carrier will start getting the updates first, but I'm fairly confident that AT&T will be somewhere around dead last.
Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website jackwallen.com.