Aug 10 AT 10:52 AM Taylor Wimberly 47 Comments

The next version of Android, codenamed Ice Cream Sandwich, is the company’s “most ambitious release to date,” according to Google’s Mike Cleron. We know that the Android team is “targeting a Q4 launch”, but there is little else we have learned about this major update to Google’s mobile OS. Here at Android and Me we love to speculate, so the team rounded up all the Ice Cream Sandwich rumors and decided to investigate them. Read on to see what exciting features might accompany the next version of Android.

1. One operating system to rule them all

“If I had to pick one word to describe Android’s phenomenal growth over the past year, the word would be choice,” said Mike Cleron at Google I/O in May. He went on to describe all the devices of every size and shape that were powered by Android including smartphones, tablets, TVs, and more.  “Our top priority for Ice Cream Sandwich will be to give app developers the tools they need to deliver great experiences on all of these devices.”

The biggest problem that Android developers currently face is fragmentation. Smartphones, tablets, and TVs each run their own version of Android. Google has tried to educate developers on how to work with different screen sizes, but even they acknowledged the problem when they recently started allowing developers to upload multiple versions of their applications to target different devices.

How did Android find itself in this situation? “We took a shortcut,” said Andy Rubin in an interview with Bloomberg Businessweek.

Last year Google was faced with a difficult problem. They wanted to release the tablet version of Android as soon as possible to compete with Apple’s iPad, so they split their development team into two groups. One team worked on the Gingerbread update for smartphones and another went to work on Honeycomb for tablets.

“To make our schedule to ship the tablet, we made some design tradeoffs,” said Andy Rubin. “We didn’t want to think about what it would take for the same software to run on phones. It would have required a lot of additional resources and extended our schedule beyond what we thought was reasonable.”

So Google went on to debut their latest phone OS (Gingerbread) on the Nexus S in December and they released their tablet OS (Honeycomb) on the Motorola Xoom in February. Since that time, the entire Android team has been hard at work trying to combine these two.

2. State of the art UI

The Holographic UI that debuted with Honeycomb.

We don’t know exactly what Ice Cream Sandwich will look like, but we know it will be an upgrade of the Holographic UI that we first saw on Honeycomb tablets. It was announced during Google I/O that “all of the good stuff” which debuted in Honeycomb would find its way to smartphones. This includes the Holographic UI, new launcher, new multitasking UI, richer widgets, and advanced applications.

Some have speculated that new Android smartphones might lose their capacitive buttons in favor of on-screen navigation buttons like Honeycomb tablets, but this has yet to be confirmed. Ice Cream Sandwich will come to some existing phones, so support for real buttons will have to be maintained.

3. Finally open sourced

If you are a fan of custom ROMs, then you will be happy to know that Google plans to release Ice Cream Sandwich to the Android Open Source Project. Google typically releases the source code to each version of Android a few months after it debuts on a new device, but they chose not to do this with Honeycomb. Andy Rubin said Google wanted to prevent developers from putting the software on phones “and creating a really bad user experience. We have no idea if it will even work on phones.”

Ice Cream Sandwich will be available for the development community to hack to their hearts’ content and I’m sure we will see CyanogenMod 8 a month after the source code is public.

4. Hello Android 4.0

Google doesn’t assign a version number to their Android releases until the last moment, but you can bet that Ice Cream Sandwich will eventually become Android 4.0. This is the “most ambitious release to date” so there is no way Google is going to call it Android 3.x. We also know that Apple will debut iOS 5 this fall, so Google will counter with the “4.0″ branding to tell everyone this is a significant upgrade over Android 3.x.

5. Linux 3.0 kernel

I’m not a Linux geek so I won’t even try to go into the details, but Ice Cream Sandwich will use the latest 3.0 kernel. Linus Torvalds announced the latest update on July 21st to celebrate the 20th anniversary of his announcement of Linux and that’s about all I know.

6. Music purchases in Android Market

The latest Android Market already has icons for their music store.

We have long been expecting Google to sell music in their Android Market, but it still hasn’t happened yet. It was recently discovered that the latest update to the Android Market included icons for their music store, so it already has the support when Google decides to flip the switch. This could occur before Ice Cream Sandwich is released, but I’m predicting that Google decides to roll this out as another selling point of Android 4.0.

7. More optimizations for multi-core processors in smartphones

Android 3.0 was the first version of the platform designed to run on either single or multi-core processor architectures. Android 2.x supports multi-core  processors, but it was not designed from the ground up to be fully optimized.

Honeycomb included a variety of changes in the Dalvik VM, Bionic library, and elsewhere that can benefit all applications, even those that are single-threaded. For example, with two active cores, a single-threaded application might still see a performance boost if the Dalvik garbage collector runs on the second core.

Rumors and evidence suggest that Google went with the dual-core OMAP4 (see video above) as the lead platform for Ice Cream Sandwich, so we can expect a significant boost in smartphone performance.

8. Up to 1.8x faster than Honeycomb?

Speaking of performance increases, one of our sources told us Ice Cream Sandwich is up to 1.8x faster than Honeycomb. They didn’t provide any other details, so we don’t know if this refers to browser, GPU, or overall system performance. For all we know, they could have been talking about performance gains from the latest hardware.

Whatever happens, it is pretty safe to assume that Ice Cream Sandwich will be the fastest version of Android we have ever seen.

9. Google TV and Chrome OS integration with smart docks

With the different Android code bases coming together, look for Google to take a page out of Motorola’s playbook and emulate their smart dock strategy. What I’m referring to is a dynamic user experience that changes on the fly depending on which device or smart dock that your phone is connected to. If you connect your phone to a TV, you might see Google TV-like features or a full-blown Chrome OS-type browser. We predicted this back in January and I believe it will happen sooner rather than later.

10. An official theme engine for OEMs

File this one under rumors, but we have also been told that Google is working on an official themeing engine with select OEMs (Sony was tossed around). Most of the popular alternative launchers that you can download in the Android Market (like my fav Go Launcher EX) already include support for themes, but Google has never offered this as a default feature.

This could be a result of the Android update alliance that was formed to smooth over the release process. A true theme engine could allow Google to update the core Android system and the OEM’s UI overlay would remain intact.

11. A true competitor to Apple’s Game Center

Apple announced their Game Center service back in 2010.

Android already has several social gaming networks like OpenFeint and Scoreloop, but it looks like Google is finally ready to dive in with their own official competitor to Apple’s Game Center.

Rumors of a Google Games service go back several years and it looks like Google+ will play an important role in the service. Code discovered in Google+ hints at Google Games and one of our sources said we should expect to see it with Ice Cream Sandwich.

12. Support for existing phones

At Google I/O I asked the Android team if Ice Cream Sandwich had any special hardware requirements that would prevent it from running on existing smartphones. They didn’t name specific handsets, but we were told that most phones which could run Android 2.3 would be able to handle the update. That doesn’t guarantee anything for current Android smartphone owners, but we expect Google’s own Nexus One and Nexus S will be some of the first devices upgraded to Android 4.0.

13. New camera tricks, virtual camera operator

Finally, we can say for certain that Ice Cream Sandwich will feature a ton of new developer APIs, including several cool camera tricks. Several of these were actually demoed at Google I/O and you can see them in the clip above (or watch the entire day 1 keynote if you wish).


As we get closer to the release of Android 4.0, more details will continue to leak out. Some people think this might happen as soon as October, but my gut tells me that might be pushed back to late November or December. We would love to see Ice Cream Sandwich (and the Nexus 3) released on the dot, but Google’s track record shows us that they are more often late than early. I would personally prefer that they take their time and get it right, instead of pushing out another half-baked release like Honeycomb.

What potential features of Android 4.0 are you looking forward to the most?

Taylor is the founder of Android and Me. He resides in Dallas and carries the Samsung Galaxy S 4 and HTC One as his daily devices. Ask him a question on Twitter or Google+ and he is likely to respond. | Ethics statement

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    You see this is why I love this site.. Great article Taylor !!! Love how to tread the line between rumor and your beliefs. Call me crazy , but I believe alot of what you say here.So exited for the next installment of Android !!

  • Lucian Armasu

    The most exciting one for me is that theme engine. I’ve wanted since this like more than a year ago. If manufacturers really don’t want to use a standard UI (and they don’t), that’s the 2nd best option. Just give them a theme engine that is advanced and flexible enough to make them happy, and not mess with the core Android anymore.

    This means the update process should be much smoother, phones will be less buggy (especially the ones from manufacturers where they don’t take much time to optimize it), and the user could still disable the theme and use stock Android, which is just great. This will probably come, and the best proof of that is their 18 month agreement to update all their phones. They wouldn’t have done it if Google didn’t make it easier for them to update them.

    Great post, Taylor.

  • anujahooja

    Is it a theme engine for just OEMs, or also for developers to theme the overall experience? I’d be interested to see if there will eventually be a theme API so that developers can use the user’s theme choice and apply it to their applications as well. All apps with a consistent look, yet coordinated by the user – now _that_ would be awesome.

  • Healthy

    yeah, definitely love your articles Taylor. write ups like this that go above and beyond ‘me too’ articles are why i read before all the rest.

    • TheDrizzle

      I totally agree. I always skim the other Android blogs for general news but come here if I want actual information. I know if its posted here that it is worth reading. Taylor is definitely my favorite Android reporter. I know these are all rumors but they are mostly backed by sources and reason.

      Great article!

      • pekosROB

        The Drizzle!

        Who is he? I don’t know, no one does!

  • labrat

    Another thing that was confirmed in one of the Google I/O Video is all the touch to share NFC features. These looks pretty fantastic.

    Looking forward to see ICS!!!

  • Gabriel

    Great article, I expected to see all that feature soon. I have a Nexus one, I hope they update it to ice cream

  • Nate B.

    I could give this site a hug!

    I can wait. I just hope they take their time and do it right. Quality and a beautiful experience. That’s you compete and blow competition out of the water. Go above and beyond. Don’t just settle.

  • Franz

    Good article, don’t think I agree with the last statement of “another half-baked release like Honeycomb”.

    half-baked for what? you or the consumers?

  • JenUI

    “Here at Android and Me we love to speculate, ”
    This is one of the reasons I don’t read your stuff much anymore. Idle speculation is a waste of resources. Suppose all of your speculations are wrong, what then? You’ve accomplished nothing more than making yourselves look like total idiots.

    If I had eggs, I could have eggs and bacon.. if I had bacon.

    Write something useful and save the idle speculation for the morons who deal in that sort of thing.

    • Nate B.

      There speculation is damn near close if not on point. Makes sense always to. Its never to far fetch. They have reasons as to why they come up with these things. They don’t just pull things out the air.

      Almost all mobile or tech blog sites start off as rumors. Nothing starts off as concrete unless it comes directly from the oems or whatever. Even iPhone next device starts off as rumors. Next Gen laptops start off as rumors. As long as they make sense and keep up the hope and imagination we have for such a device I wouldn’t complain. They also point out the obvious fake articles and rumors.

      • Brandon

        “There speculation is damn near close if not on point. ”

        If that was true, there would be no need to call it speculation.
        The fact is, it’s guessing.

        • KidPhat

          Yea, but there’s such a thing as an educated guess (like Nate B. indicated). Even the stuff Google announced in Google IO can be considered “speculation” until it is officially announced. It becomes an educated guess because Google said so.

    • ihatefanboys

      80% of the information on sites like these is speculation. if all these sites waited for confirmation or real facts there would be nothing to read. id rather speculate than not have anything at all. speculation is curiosity, if no one speculated no one would imagine anything. imagine if columbus never speculated that the earth was round. or if newton never speculated that gravity existed…see where im goin with this ?

      its impatient people like you that make reading the articles on here hard, not the posters. there was some schmo that threatened to call the media on t-mobile because his phone didnt get the gingerbread update when t-mobile said it would…you people need to masturbate or take sedatives or something…smoke some pot, life is too short to waste on the internet complaining about “idle speculation”

  • jr

    wow great article you have me here with a HUGE SMILE GO ANDROID

  • aj

    Definitely looking forward to the honeycomb like UI for my phone and also the Unification of their operating system so they can unify the team for more efficiency and more people to work on it.

  • josegb2011

    im looking forward for the next update to make me some actual ice cream sandwich…please..

  • JaylanPHNX

    I’m looking forward to two things. 1) Dual-core optimization. I’m using an HTC Sensation currently and it’s no faster than my rooted MyTouch4G (in fact, the MT4G overclocked with a lightweight ROM is faster and smoother). This shouldn’t be. With hardware acceleration offloading UI processes to the GPU, these dual-core Android phones should be 100% smooth, big bucks, no whammies. 2) The holographic UI. Pardon my blasphemy, but I’m not a fan of stock Android. I’d like to have CM7 and the performance it provides, but so much is lacking that something like Sense provides (Sense’s cantacts, browser, email, and camera apps are all just better). And stock Android’s UI is somewhat plain and boring. But with the updated UI, I have a feeling I will be using CM8 as soon as it’s available for my device.

    • Nate B.

      I understand your post but we all have yet to see what IC will bring us as far as to what it will look like and what it will have as far as for the user experience. I’m sure Cyanogen 8 will be sweet but it looks like stock just with mods and a little more useful features. Can’t knock it until we see it.

  • SliestDragon

    So. Freaking. Excited for Ice Cream Sandwich! If even half of that were to only make it in, I would still be a VERY happy camper! :D

  • Galen20K

    Really looking forward to this Update, it’ll be nice for my Tablet and phone to run the same version and probably have even more compatibility! – D

  • warrenbzf

    I would also like to see dual independent multi-monitor support. But what I really really want is USB and Bluetooth HID support so I can use my smartphone as a computer. And with dual independent multi-monitor support, that would be icing.

  • Tran Lang

    I’m looking for more optimization for my G2x on the hardware side, Tegra 2 dual core processors, and a CyanogenMod 8. My G2x is now running CyanogenMod 7, and I love it in all features it brings to my phone. So, I can’t imagine how it runs on CM 8. Yet, I’d rather wait for Google to fully cook the Android 4.0 well then release.

  • alamoe

    all great features. I think all of the speculated features are spot-on. And the virtual camera operator seems like it would be perfect for mobile Google+ Hangouts.

  • Dennis

    Blah…blah…blah!! Remember all the hype that this clown dedicated to dual core devices last year and early this year? “ZOMG!! DUALZ CORE IZ COMING!! ZOMG!!!” Right. Look how that turned out. Don’t get sucked into the hype again. As usual, Google will claim a lot of things about the software but if they don’t work hand in hand with the hardware manufacturers in that so called “alliance” that was formed at Google I/O then what we will have is another bunch of phones left behind and because their hardware is too “old” to support Ice Cream Sandwich. Even those that are lucky to get updated will be forced to wait in the rain for almost a year! Just look at Gingerbread. It came out holiday last year and most devices are still yet to get it. How sad is that?

    • josegb2011

      you do realize that the dual-cores for phones aren’t optimized yet which means they cant run on their full potential

    • Azeem

      And look how that turned out. Dual core processors in almost every new phone release since then. 2.3.4 introduced some optimizations for dual cores, and even more will be baked in to 4.0.

      You can shut up and run away now, little troll.

  • Eric

    Am I the only one who thinks ICS will be 3.3 or 3.4? Seriously? There’s nothing to show that ICS will be a major release for tablets. More of a Gingerbread level polish release (.x update). The real jump will be from phones (x.x update).

    • Eric

      Just to add, I think everything else is entirely possible. So excited for the NExus 3/Prime/Whatever. My next phone.

  • luiek20

    I can’t wait for my fingers to taste all this frozen goodness! As soon as the next nexus sporting ICS is announced I’m busting that piggy bank open!

  • Nathan

    I can’t wait for this to come out and hopefully it will be as bad ass as it is hyped to be :)

  • Mark Murphy

    FYI, it’s very unlikely that ICS will have the Linux 3.0 kernel. A fairly final firmware would have been in manufacturers hands well before Linux 3.0 was christened.

  • Arix

    Cant wait for ICS

  • Mario Olivio Flores

    You need to allow zooming for mobile devices. This is impossible to read on a tablet android device.

  • Dave

    really hope i will be able to hook my incredible s to a portable hard drive, with ICS

  • kwills88

    I really hope with ICS that we get better stocked apps..looks wise and usage wise..I dont mind downloading apps from the market, but it would be nice to just have really great apps right out of the box when you get your android device..overall ICS is something to be anxiously awaited.

  • Nick

    Taylor, you have missed one huge one.
    Note that it hasn’t been announced or teased, but I’d bet dimes to doughnuts that google will finally integrate BlindType in ICS.

    For those who don’t know, BlindType is a new on screen keyboard with heuristics and error correction so good that you can type blindly. Google bought BlindType in October 2010, but has been silent since then.

    I predict google will fully integrate BlindType technology in the default keyboard in ICS.

  • ExplodingApples

    I’m just glad I’m eligible for an upgrade this fall. Hopefully there’s a phone running ICS on the Verizon network some time in the next few months. It will still be nice to see my OG Droid running ICS though.

  • Leonick

    “we were told that most phones which could run Android 2.3 would be able to handle the update. That doesn’t guarantee anything for current Android smartphone owners”

    Well it, there is that agreement with (most of) the manufacturers that all devices should at least be updated to all version released within the first 18 months of it’s lifetime. Or something along those lines.
    Lets see if the manufacturers honour that, if there aren’t any real minimum requirements most, or well half (counting out all the low end crap that barely runs froyo) of android devices released in the last year and a half should get updates.

  • Kiran

    Thanks a ton for this wonderful and most awaited article ! Having galaxy tab and very much looking forward to testing ics on the device.

  • Racoon

    What about Movie Studio? I’d love to have a video editing app right on my phone.

  • Mike C.

    “They didn’t name specific handsets, but we were told that most phones which could run Android 2.3 would be able to handle the update. That doesn’t guarantee anything for current Android smartphone owners,”

    — In other words, if you’re thinking about buying an Android device and you’re going to want Ice Cream Sandwich, the only true way to know you aren’t going to get screwed is to hold off buying an Android device until Ice Cream Sandwich rolls out.

    “Last year Google was faced with a difficult problem. They wanted to release the tablet version of Android as soon as possible to compete with Apple’s iPad, so they split their development team into two groups. One team worked on the Gingerbread update for smartphones and another went to work on Honeycomb for tablets.

    “To make our schedule to ship the tablet, we made some design tradeoffs,” said Andy Rubin. ”We didn’t want to think about what it would take for the same software to run on phones. It would have required a lot of additional resources and extended our schedule beyond what we thought was reasonable.””

    — This year they’re trying to release Ice Cream Sandwich and new devices as soon as possible to compete with Apple’s iOS and phone updates in October. Any guarantees from Google that we’re not going to wind up with another round of Xooms and early Honeycomb tablets (i.e. half functional devices and half finished OS rushed out simply because of Apple’s release dates)?

    Call me crazy but I still don’t see any reason to jump aboard yet. Google has a history of releasing unfinished products and fixing them on the go. That’s great for free sowftware on the internet. Less so when I’m expected to pony up $600 for a crippled piece of hardware on an unfinished platform. I’m in with both feet once Ice Cream Sandwich has been around a while and the first iteration of those devices has come and gone.

  • Vod

    Wow, a very complete list on the upcoming Android 4. Really look forward to see this update in this coming Q4. Interested to know how to run a honeycomb-like ice cream sandwich in my nexus s.

  • Brent

    All I really wanr in ICS is a good spell checker, that yohu can invoke upon typing a bunch of text in a dialogue box, or email for example. Come on Google, give us a real spell checker!

  • Scotter

    “The Nexus Prime has an extra chip dedicated to decoding signals from a EEG-based add-on device that sits on your head. The device picks up brainwaves and relays them to the Nexus Prime in your pocket via blue-tooth. So you can control the phone by thinking. The app that comes with Ice Cream Sandwich allows a wide range of commands that you train the app to understand. The training period is usually a few minutes per command, as it needs to calibrate based on brain wave pattern analysis.”

  • sai kumar

    sir, i wanted to know whether my samsung galaxy ace s5830 with 2.3.4 gingerbread will be able to updated to latest android version 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich