Google has finally lifted the lid on the latest version of its Android operating system at a special event in Hong Kong.
Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich 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.”
The company kicked off the event by announcing the Samsung Galaxy Nexus, which will be the first device to run Ice Cream Sandwich and will be launched in November.
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.”
The company followed up by showcasing 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.
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.
Notifications you don’t want to read can also be easily flicked away.
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.
Improved camera app
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.
The People app was the next to be announced at the Hong Kong event. The app will bring together the various social networking feeds into one place, while the web browser now allows up to 16 windows.
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.
Other 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.
It’s finally here
So there you have it, those are the key new Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich features. As we mentioned above, the first device to boast the new OS will be the Samsung Galaxy Nexus, which is out in November.
There’s no news yet on an upgrade schedule for existing devices, or a definite Galaxy Nexus release date – but Google has confirmed that the update will be landing on all Gingerbread devices.