Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich is now official.
Here's what you need to know about the latest version of Google's mobile OS which combines the best of the Android 2.x phone interface with the Android 3.x Honeycomb tablet interface.
Ice Cream Sandwich is designed for use with both phones and tablets.
Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich features
Android ICS offers a massive array of improvements over its predecessors bringing the best of both Gingerbread and Honeycomb while providing a raft of new innovations.
The company says 4.0 is a complete rethink of Android's image and is part of a push to make the OS "Enchant me, Simplify My Life, and Make Me Awesome."
"Android 4.0 builds on the things people love most about Android," says Google in a post on the Android Developers Blog. "Easy multitasking, rich notifications, customizable home screens, resizable widgets, and deep interactivity — and adds powerful new ways of communicating and sharing."
Minor improvements include better copy and paste, data logging and warnings and, at last, the opportunity to easily grab screenshots by holding down the power and the volume buttons.
The keyboard and dictionaries have also been revamped, says Google. "Error correction and word suggestion are improved through a new set of default dictionaries and more accurate heuristics for handling cases such as double-typed characters, skipped letters, and omitted spaces. Word suggestion is also improved and the suggestion strip is simplified to show only three words at a time."
"To fix misspelled words more easily, Android 4.0 adds a spell-checker that locates and underlines errors and suggests replacement words. With one tap, users can choose from multiple spelling suggestions, delete a word, or add it to the dictionary."
The new OS is designed to bring common actions to the fore, with better animations and an entirely new typeface - more on that shortly.
Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich Galaxy Nexus
Google kicked off its launch event by announcing the Samsung Galaxy Nexus, which will be the first device to run Ice Cream Sandwich and will be launched in November. Check out Samsung Galaxy Nexus: what you need to know.
Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich update
Google has confirmed it is working on an Android 4.0 update for the Samsung Nexus S and other Android devices.
Director of Android operating system User Experience Matias Duarte told Engadget that Google is. "Currently in the process for releasing Ice Cream Sandwich for Nexus S. Theoretically it should work for any 2.3 device."
Motorola confirmed to TechRadar that the Motorola Razr will launch in the UK with Android 2.3, but that there will be an update to 4.0in 2012.
Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich Roboto
Among the first new features championed by Google at the Hong Kong media event was a brand new typeface for Android in the shape of the easy-to-read "Roboto."
Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich System Bar and Action Bar
At the launch event, Google showcased a host of virtual buttons that appear at the bottom of the screen in some apps and allow users access to areas of the device like phone and contacts.
These are located in the System Bar - present in all apps - and enables you to navigate instantly to Back, Home, and Recent Apps. Virtual buttons are present across all apps, but can be dimmed by applications for full-screen viewing.
You can also access the contextual options for each app in the Action Bar at the top of the screen.
Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich voice control
Android 4.0 introduces new voice input engine, You can dictate the text you want, for as long as you want. After dictating, you can tap the underlined words to replace them from a list of suggestions.
Multi-tasking has also been given a boost and with ICS it's easier to see which apps you've been using recently. If you decide you're done with using one, you can easily flick it away to close.
Google says it has made multitasking "even easier and more visual" on Android 4.0. The Recent Apps button lets users jump instantly from one task to another using the list in the System Bar. The list pops up to show thumbnail images of apps used recently — tapping a thumbnail switches to the app.
Android 4.0 Ice Cream Face Unlock
Perhaps the most 'Star Trek' of all the new Android 4.0 features is a new piece of functionality called Face Unlock which, as the name suggests, unlocks your handset based on facial recognition tech.
You can also do more without unlocking. As in iOS 5 you can jump straight to the camera. You can also pull down the notifications window.
Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich Home Screen folders
Like iOS before it, Android is now getting home screen folders too. You can group apps or shortcuts together and, as with iOS, you can do this just by dragging icons on top of one another.From the All Apps launcher, you can now drag an app to get information about it or uninstall it should you wish.
Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich notifications
Notifications have also been improved. On larger devices - tablets - the updates appear in the System Bar, while on phones the notifications roll down from the top of the screen as before.
Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich favorites tray
On phones and other "smaller screen devices" (that's Google speak), there's now a customisable favorites tray. You can put anything you want here - apps, folders, shortcuts - whatever you want - check out this screen:
Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich widgets
As in Honeycomb, you can now resize widgets on phones too. As in that OS, the widgets in 4.0 are designed to be far more interactive, enabling you to flick through appointments, play music and more.
Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich data
Android 4.0 includes new graphical displays so you can see how much data you're using and how much you've used over Wi-Fi or cellular. You can also see the amount of data used by each running application.
Warning levels can also be specified, as well as determining how much background data apps can use.
Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich camera
Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich also brings some much-needed improvements to Google's camera UI, which the company says it has been working on with Samsung.
ICS devices, and the newly announced Samsung Galaxy Nexus in particular, will have 1080p video, zero shutter lag, a new picture-stitching panorama mode, easier sharing and Instagram-esque filters.
In the panorama mode, you can start taking the picture and then move the camera. The phone assembles the full range of continuous imagery into a single panoramic photo.
"When taking pictures, continuous focus, zero shutter lag exposure, and decreased shot-to-shot speed help capture clear, precise images," says Google. "Stabilized image zoom lets users compose photos and video in the way they want, including while video is recording. For new flexibility and convenience while shooting video, users can now take snapshots at full video resolution just by tapping the screen as video continues to record."
There's also built-in face detection as well as tap to focus.
There are also various editing tools included, too, while there's sharing via Google+, message, Bluetooth, email or Picasa upload.
There's also an improved gallery widget, as well as new album layout with larger thumbnails.
Thankfully you can also now take screenshots - this is going to make our job a whole lot easier!
For video, there's also Live Effects you can apply to distort faces or alter backgrounds.
Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich apps
The People app does what many manufacturers have been doing on Android for ages - bringing together various social networking feeds into one place,
This offers richer profile information, including a large profile picture, phone numbers, addresses and accounts, status updates, and a new button for connecting on integrated social networks.
The Calendar app has also been updated to bring together different calendars, while the email app can now autocomplete responses and is able to store oft-used replies.
Android 4.0 now also supports visual voicemail.
The web browser is also improved - especially in terms of speed - and now allows up to 16 windows. You can now sync it with Google Chrome and the browser supports offline browsing - it can save versions of web pages you choose.
There's also a new NFC-based app called Android Bump, which allows two phones to exchange a wealth of information, just by holding them together.
It can be used to share websites, maps and start games.
Here's a video of the Android 4.0 launch event if you have the time - it's an hour long!
Here's what was rumoured before the launch of Android 4.0
As we reported from Google's keynote at Mobile World Congress in February, Google's mantra for the Android 4.0 OS is "one OS everywhere" – it will be a single 4.0 version of Android running across phones and tablets, unlikeAndroid 3.0 Honeycomb that only runs on tablets.
That's why it's a Sandwich y'see.
Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich interface
Ice Cream Sandwich will bring all the interface loveliness of Android 3.0 Honeycombto Android smartphones. Android phone users will get the updated app launcher, holographic user interface, interactive and new homescreen widgets plus the multi-tasking panel.
ANDROID 3.0: This interface magic will be coming to Android Ice Cream Sandwich
On 12 August we saw a batch of leaked screenshots of Ice Cream Sandwich.
Android Police and Roots Wiki seem to have come up with an odd cross-site team up to leak four pretty plausible screengrabs of the latest version of Google's mobile OS, which will likely be Android 4.0.
Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich features
Google says Ice Cream Sandwich is its "most ambitious release to date" and will incorporate all the best bits of Honeycomb, the Android tablet OS, and make them useable on smartphones too.
But Ice Cream Sandwich is about more than just the user interface and it will bring all the new Android 3.1 features to phones. This new update means Android tablets will also be able to act as a USB hub and you'll be to hook up devices such as mice and keyboards and game controllers to tablets and smartphones.
On 10 October, TI refused to confirm or denyFudzilla reportsthat it was the reference design for Android 4.0 would be based on their hardware.
Google is also intending to make life easier for developers by releasing a new set of APIs that will help them to scale their apps across the various sizes of Android devices - Google acknowledges that it's important for developers to be able to design apps that will work across 3.5-inch smartphones up to 10.1-inch tablets.
During the Google Google I/O keynote those on stage also showed off 3D headtracking using the front-mounted camera so you can figure out who is speaking and focus on them while on a video call. Face detection will be a key feature in the OS and we hear that you can even unlock your handsetusing it.
Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich apps
Many popular apps will get an update in time for the new OS - with a new interface expected to debut too. Interestingly, the screenshots shown hereappear to have been taken on a new Samsung-built Nexus Prime.
A new Google Music app has also leaked which, although it works with earlier Android versions, is designed for Ice Cream Sandwich.
There will also be a new browser available - Google Chrome will debut on Android.
Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich specification
Google's Mike Claren said, "we want one OS that runs everywhere."
Smartphone users will also get an expanded multitasking tool, including a system manager that handles your open resources for you so you won't run out of memory or be prompted to quit an application on the tablet.
Android 3.1 also means you can expand the size of a scrollable home screen widget, while existing scrollable widgets can also be upgraded by devs with a couple of lines of code.
SWEET: Google's inspiration for Android Ice Cream Sandwich [Image credit: Flickr/Blue Bunny]
Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich requirements
There's no word yet on minimum hardware requirements, though this will certainly have implications for upgrading existing handsets to the new OS. Speaking of which…
Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich upgrades
Google is introducing new guidelines in which it promises OS updates for the first 18 months for existing handsets. So Ice Cream will be coming to some of the more powerful handsets released during 2011.
"Together we'll create guidelines for how quickly devices will get updated after new android platforms and for how long they'll continue to get updated.," said Google's Vic Gundotra at Google I/O.
"New devices from these partners will receive the latest Android updates for 18 months after first launch, if the hardware allows it. We think this is really great news for users, we think it's excellent for developers and really great for the entire industry."
The move is in response to accusations that Android is becoming too fragmented and it has announced an alliance of (US-only for now) networks and manufacturers who have vowed to provide more timely updates. No longer will you get left behind.
Samsung UK has also told TechRadar that it is working to bring faster updates to users.
"We saw a lot of comments saying 'I want my upgrade, when do I get my upgrade?'," says Hiroshi Lockheimer, director of engineering at Google.
"There's no common expectation set of how this would work, so we can at least establish some form of expectation for the whole community - users and developers.
"We certainly want this to be an international, global thing. We announced Vodafone;you can expect another wave of announcements around that."
Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich is open source
We also know that Google is intending to make Ice Cream Sandwich fully open source. It didn't do this with Android 3.0 Honeycomb in an attempt to make things more consistent.
"It's more manageable to start small and get bigger," says Andy Rubin, senior vice president of Mobile at Google.
"It's an open invitation; there's no reason not to have everybody in [The Open Handset Alliance] - but I want to hit the ground running, I don't want to take a lot of time on building a list of names."