Oct 19 AT 12:36 AM Nick Gray 53 Comments

Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich details and highlights


Lock Screen

Tonight, Google unveiled the long-awaited Samsung Galaxy Nexus. While the phone itself is an amazing piece of technology, the underlying software is really what makes the phone unique among the latest flagship devices that have hit the markets over the past month or two. After Samsung took a few minutes to talk about the new Samsung Galaxy Nexus and its hardware, Google took the stage to talk about Android 4.0 and its many features and improvements.

Google realizes that consumers recognize Android is extremely powerful but frustrating at the same time. People like their Android phones, but not many people love them. Google highlighted that their focus for Ice Cream Sandwich was to make the UI “enchanting, beautiful and seductive.”

In order to achieve that goal, Google has gone back to the drawing board and completely revamped the UI and improved Android’s multi-tasking capabilities and cloud integration. They also added new features like facial recognition and Face Unlock.

Google highlighted that their focus for Ice Cream Sandwich was to make the UI of Android “enchanting, beautiful and seductive.”

The first thing to change within Android 4.0 was the type face. Google created a new font named Roboto, which was designed from the ground up for high definitions displays.  The font is used throughout the operating system and gives Android a much cleaner look.

Next on the list of improvements is the device lock screen. Ice Cream Sandwich features a lock screen that should look very familiar to anyone who has used Honeycomb. To unlock the device, drag the circle to the right or to the left to launch directly into the camera application. Face Unlock does exactly what its name implies. Users can now use Android 4.0’s facial recognition functionality to unlock the device by simply holding the front-facing camera up to their face.

Face Unlock Incoming Call

Once the device is unlocked, the new UI of Android 4.0 comes into full focus. As we’ve been expecting for months, ICS now includes the standard hardware buttons within the UI at the bottom of the screen.  This allows the buttons to rotate with the screen and also completely disappear while watching video.  The home screen changes include the ability to create folders or shortcut groupings by dragging icons on top of each other. Folders can even be docked on the quick launcher at the bottom of the home screen.

Widgets within Android 4.0 have a few upgrades as well. Google has added scrolling, flipping and widget resizing to the native functionality. Just like Honeycomb, widgets are now stores within the application drawer under the widgets tab. Just drag and drop a widget to the home screen and change its size to fit your needs.

Task Manager

In order to improve consistency throughout the OS, Google is now relying on swiping gestures to move between screen, contacts, pictures and different pages within applications. The swiping gesture is also present in the new multitasking function on ICS. Tapping the multi-tasking button on the home screen reveals all the running application on the device. While Android can handle keeping multiple apps chugging along in the background, you can manually discard or close application by swiping the app off the screen to the right.

This same gesture feature has been added to notifications. Rather than clicking on a notification to clear it from the list, just swipe it off the screen and watch it disappear. But that’s not the end of the updates to notifications. Google decided it would be a good idea if users could access notifications without having to unlock the phone. Pull down the notifications bar from the lock screen and then jump right into an application by selecting a notification.

As we reported earlier today, Android 4.0 will feature native screenshot support. To save an image of your screen, press the Power and volume down keys at the same time and a high resolution .png file will be saved to your image gallery.

The software keyboard within ICS has been dramatically improved over previous iterations. The keyboard is more responsive and accurate with better error correction and inline spellcheck. Google has also beefed up Android Copy & Paste functionality by adding Drag & Drop to move words around if you’re working within an email or sending a text.

Talk to Type has been available for nearly two years and now is able to instantly transcribe your voice as you talk rather than waiting for you to pause or finish your sentence.  This new change allows for smoother transcriptions and makes it easier for the user to use Talk to Type for longer messages without having to press the button multiple times.

In addition to changing the core Android UI, Google has revisited all the Android applications to bring consistency to the platform.  The browser has a revamped tab layout which works similarly to the multitasking function of the OS. Users can have up to 16 tabs open at a time and can easily close them by swiping them off the screen. The browser also allows users to have entire pages for offline viewing, desktop Chrome bookmark syncing and Chrome’s infamous incognito mode.

Lock Screen Notifications

Google has revisited the Gmail application with Android 4.0 with the intent to “build the best mobile experience you can find anywhere, period.” In order to do that, Google has added two line message previews so you can get a short glimpse of your messages without opening them. A new action bar at the bottom of the screen highlights your labels, search and contextual functions based on where you are within the app. To switch between emails, simply swipe left or right rather than using the back button to return to your inbox. And to top things off, Gmail now supports offline email search, which indexes all your emails for the past thirty days.

The calendar application within Android has gotten a few tweaks as well. The UI has been cleaned up, making it extremely readable. Swipe between days, weeks or months with a simply flick or view more details in a calendar entry with pinch-to-zoom functionality.

Data Usage Monitor

Data Usage Monitor

One of the new features to Android 4.0 is the new Data Usage monitor, which tracks all applications on your device that consume data. Data Usage keeps track of which applications use the most data (similar to the battery Usage monitor currently present within Android) and can manipulate the graph and pinpoint data use within a specific time frame. In addition to tracking data, the monitor can also project future data use, alert users if they’re reaching a certain preset threshold or actively cut off data consumption on the device in order to avoid overage charges from carriers.

The camera app within ICS has gotten a complete overhaul.  Snapping pictures is as simple as ever and sharing them is only one click away. New camera features include an on-screen slide zoom bar, autoset exposure, facial recognition and a panorama feature. To take a panoramic picture just touch the icon and the shutter to start, let the tracker on the screen guide you through one smooth, continual motion and the final result in automatically generated. Video recording capabilities include 1080p capture, continuous focus, time lapse and video snapshots, which can be captured while recoding a video by simply tapping the screen.



The new Android gallery application puts more focus on your picture with a magazine style layout. The gallery supports traditional albums, but thanks to geo tagging and facial recognition, it also generates albums based on people and different locations.  The gallery also includes new photo editing features that give users the ability to apply “hipster filters,” adjust image angles, crop and even remove red-eye.  All image edits are saved as a copy; you can always revert to the original.

The contacts application within Android has been replaced with a more advanced People app. Contact cards have evolved, adding high resolution pictures of your contacts and importing contact details from multiple sources (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc.), which update automatically through the cloud. Google is using a new open API that they’re making available to developers and can be used to feed details into contact cards.

The new dialer application shows off high-resolution images of your contacts. It takes up most of the screen. New features include an automatic SMS response to contacts if you don’t want to answer their call. Simply swipe up on the dialer and your phone will send them a canned SMS (which you can control) to let them know you can’t take their call at the moment.

If they decide to leave you a voicemail, you’ll be able to access your visual voicemail directly within the dialer call log where they belong. The visual voicemail functionality even allows you to speed up or slow down the voicemail playback.

Last year, Google introduced NFC support to Android on the Nexus S. This year, Google is giving manufacturers a real reason to include an NFC chip in their new phones. NFC functionality within Android 4.0 now allows users to quickly share content between two phones by simply holding them together. The demonstrations Google showed highlighted website sharing, Google Maps sharing and contact card sharing. Users will even have the ability to share application (sharing the link to the app on the Android Market) or set up multi-play games, group chats and much more.

This was just a quick overview of what Google showed off at the Samsung Galaxy Nexus unveiling today. We’ll be digging through the Android 4.0 SDK (now available for you to download) and will be bringing you a more in-depth look at many of the features we’ve highlighted.

Though there’s a lot of information to digest, feel free to share your thoughts on Android 4.0 and all the new features Google packed inside. Which new Ice Cream Sandwich feature are you looking forward to the most?

Source: Android 4.0 highlights

Nick is a tech enthusiast who has a soft spot for HTC and its devices. Nick joined the Android and Me family in the summer of 2010.

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  • Derrick D

    Re: browser tabs – is that supposed to read 16 or is it really 216? If so, impressive. Overkill, but impressive.

    • kzjle

      16 tabs. On a side note, the browser is still named browser and is not Chrome although it sports many Chrome-like features such as incognito, bookmarks synchronization and offline viewing.

    • http://htcsource.com Nick Gray

      It’s 16, sorry about that. Stayed up way to late to finish the post and must have hit the 2 key by accident.

  • Nate B.

    Overload :)!

    • Bindisi

      fuckin LOL.this interface has got to be a joke. i dont care what kind of comments you little nerdy android fanboys have, you know it that this looks like those cheesy samsung interfaces from 2006. if you dont see it, then you are either blind, have no very low standards and your girlfriend is really ugly(for that %0.1 chance that you stop jerking on your nes emulator with pirated roms and actually have a girlfriend). .

      • RxS47

        Lol apple fanboys crack me up coming onto an android site

      • Christopher

        Bindisi, you must be an apple fanboy

      • aj

        IF you have to be a jerk and horribly taunt other people with specific things like you mentioned then there is a 100% you have a ugly girlfriend and jerk off to apples while squinting at your tiny screen bland screen

        • aj

          *tiny bland screen(sorry rage type)

      • xdroidx

        That was truly the biggest d-bag statement of 2011…..I hope your lame iPhone navigation app takes you and your ugly girlfriend right off a cliff. FYL

      • xdroidx

        That has to be the biggest d-bag statement of 2011…….I hope your crappy iPhone navigation app sends you and your fubared girlfriend right off a cliff…..while my shiny nexus boldly takes me where no iPhone has ever gone before! Lmao….thnx android for exploiting the insecurities of iPhone consumers……..I’d be haten on android to if I spent a bunch of money and didn’t even get navigation…..wtf

  • Brandon


    But personally I love the screenshot feature and the new UI us pretty sexy. The facial rec. feature makes me wish I had a front facing camera. (;

  • Brandon

    Nevermind :P

  • inviolable

    One thing I’ve been confused about is hardware/gpu acceleration. I think it was supposed to be included with Gingerbread, but I’m not certain it made the grade. Is it not a part of 4.0?

    • http://www.nexsoftware.net Justin Shapcott

      Yes, it’s included in 4.0.

  • kyriakos

    Any chance this beast will have LED notifacations?

    • ags29

      It does have an led notification. It was not highlighted but you could see it in one of the demos. It was a green light at the bottom left of the phone, not the top.

      • kzjle

        As far as customization goes however with regards to color and functionality, it is unknown how versatile it is compared to the Nexus One.

        • http://www,beeandroid.net Alan Mac

          I will vouch for any Samsung phone as being solid, I accidently deep fried my Galaxy S, And it still works almost perfectly.

          • Brendon

            lol how the hell do you deep fry a phone???

          • http://htcsource.com Nick Gray

            did someone forget to tell you that the dessert treat that’s running in your phone is not edible?

  • Jackie

    Froyo and gingerbread looked soo much better. Bummed.

    • inviolable

      In what ways? I think it’s just silly to say Froyo looked better. It’s pretty bare bones by comparison. Gingerbread added some subtle visual enhancements, but again, as an overall UI, in what ways?

    • http://htcsource.com Nick Gray

      Froyo and Gingerbread may have been a little more elegant with shiny buttons and layers, but Google stated that they wanted to do away with UI elements which tried to look like something they were not. The goal was to make things plain, simple, and published. You don’t get any rounded corners or glossy overlays with android 4.0, just clean lines and simple colors.

  • Arnold

    I did read that there will be a LED for notifications, but did they actually put it ?

    • kzjle

      Yes, there is a LED notification right below the menu buttons -it is very subtle.

  • Gregulah

    Any word on weather it is possible to unlock to applications from the locks screen (like Sense 3.5) I love this feature.

    • http://htcsource.com Nick Gray

      You can unlock the camera directly from the lock screen, but it didn’t look like Google built anything into Android 4.0 which would let users customize or replace the camera unlock with other applications.

      Don’t forget that you can unlock and launch app from the unlock screen if you have a notification for that specific app.

      • Mike Richter

        Does the Notification pulldown from Locked Screen respond to when you have password/patter enabled?

  • fatspirit

    As long as it all will run smoothly – it’s ok.

  • kwills88

    This is just first of many to come updates and improvements, google give you guys something to work with for now, you guys expected more, eventually this will evolve, being better down the road..they finished it up as fast as possible so developers can start working and making changes to the OS..you guys haven’t even have a chance to use it for yourself and wanna throw out disappointment, remember future phones will be coming out with this update and as a nexus device it means it’s just the base which every other phone will be working off to make their upcoming devices better.

  • Maax555

    As an Atrix owner still on Froyo (come on T-Mobile get your act together) I would imagine ICS would run smoothly on my Atrix but cant see that T-Mobile will ever support it.
    I changed from iphone to android a couple of months ago and the one thing I see is that Apple really do there best to take care of customers in that they provide new improved operating systems for as long as the phone can handle the new software. Even when there is stuff that the phone cant handle they dont just abandon the phone they simply leave it out (like siri for older phones). Android updates dont seem to work like that. It looks more like you are stuck with the op system on your android or might get one update if your lucky.
    I happily lived with the 3GS for over 2 and a half years and they are still supporting it.
    If the time comes when ICS is released as an update to existing phones and they dont support my Atrix i will move back to Apple. Love Android and the ability to pretty much do anything you want with it, but there are loads of bugs with Froyo on my phone (mainly wifi) and an update should have been along sometime ago. Perhaps should have gone for Gallaxy S2?

    • Cody

      well you will be happy to know that Google has made large steps in unifying android and updates. All the major companies (manufacturers and carriers) have signed agreements that they will release timely OS updates to all new phones for at least 1.5 years. Which, considering that most peoples contracts are 2 years with many companies allowing upgrade at 18months, works perfectly fine. if you need to keep it longer than that then there is always xda-developers to help you out!

    • CactusCat

      First off, you gave yourself away with your first sentence. You’re obviously an Apple boy. If you were a true Atrix owner, you’d know that its only offered on AT&T, not on Tmobile. Thus, your entire post is nothing but junk. Now, even if you were to hack your Atrix to run on Tmo, you’d only get 2G (edge) and even then, it would be AT&T who would bring ICS to the Atrix, not Tmobile. If you reply with, “Oops, I made a mistake, I meant AT&T”, then maybe you shouldn’t be posting at all. All your post stated was how happy you were with Apple and how well they do things, then continued to beat up Android with the “loads of bugs” statement, blah, blah. Please just put your Atrix away, and go play with the simple GUI of Apple. It’s much more your level.

  • aj

    Listen Nick gray I think a better question is what feature am i not looking foward to in ICS? No but seriously i guess if i had to choose one right now it would be the improved camera. I dont use cameras much but with these cell phone cameras espcially like the say( dont hate) iphone 4s because of its new features practically replaces a decent point and shoot but now this new camera in the Galaxy nexus samsung prime(jk I know its the galaxy nexus) is freaking amazing and will definitely give more reason to use my camera knowing that i dont have to wait forever to take the shot.

    • http://htcsource.com Nick Gray

      Keep in mind that ICS camera app will just be the starting point for OEMs to work off of. HTC and Samsung have already built camera apps that probably work better than what google has put together.

  • hgshh

    can xperia x10 get updates?

    • http://htcsource.com Nick Gray

      I would be shocked if it did. SONY will probably have a hard enough time getting Ice Cream Sandwich loaded up on their 2011 lineup.

  • Nathan

    So excited on getting this phone (eventually)

  • Rashad

    I was kind of disappointed that mobile chrome wasn’t announced, but I am glad we did get a few chrome features.

    The new UI looks amazing, even more of a step up than Gingerbread over Froyo.

    • http://htcsource.com Nick Gray

      It could be that Google will be releasing mobile Chrome as a separate application on the Android Market so that it’s only available on official Google certified devices just like all the other Google Apps (Market, Gmail, Maps, and such).

  • Maax555

    @CactusCat, I was hoping for an adult response not a some moronic rant. I habe an Atrix on T-Mobile IN THE UK. I am no Apple boy or Android boy, I simply want the best phone I can afford for for requirements. I actually took the Atrix with the intent of selling it on Ebay as soony as the new iphone came out. As the iphone simply beefed up its specs to match the newer Androids I decided I was better off with the Atrix.

    @CactusCat your apology is accepted (I assume it’s coming?).

    If you still dont believe I have an Atrix feel free to test me :-)

    @Cody, thanks thats the kind of reply I was hoping to hear.


    • http://htcsource.com Nick Gray

      I love it when people make comment personal then start calling people stupid and throw around insults. I do agree that Apple does an incredible job at keeping their phones up to date. Google and Android OEMs need to work a lot harder at that.

      We’ll see how the ICS update plays out, but I doubt many phones will be getting the update before Q2 of 2012.

      • NaThaN

        It’s easy to keep your software up to date when you only have one piece of hardware and limited carriers to support. I’d rather choose my hardware and carrier and get my updates through XDA than be stuck with the hardware/carrier Steve Jobs thought I needed (RIP). However I don’t have this problem since I have an HTC on Sprint (both have a pretty good rep for updates). Update come pretty quick, will have ICS before Christmas.

  • Odell

    I’m really looking forward to all the new feature this is what android is all about….

  • http://k-selezneva.blogspot.com/ KatSelezneva

    The new ICS has a lot of useful features both for users and developers. I’ve made a short overview of the most important novelties here: http://k-selezneva.blogspot.com/2011/10/dessert-for-developers-some-ice-cream.html

    • spydie

      I can’t believe he said “Google realizes that consumers recognize Android is extremely powerful but frustrating at the same time. People like their Android phones, but not many people love them. “. how many of you guys don’t LOVE ur android???? I’ve had both (apple and android) more than once and always go back to android because of features I can’t get and don’t want to live without on iphone. Google actually thinks we don’t love our phones? That’s pretty brainless, and if a Google exec actually said that, he needs to go work for apple.

      • http://htcsource.com Nick Gray

        I think you’re taking it a bit out of context. Android enthusiasts (people who customize their phone, root, hack, flash ROMs or keep up with Android news) are not the ones who don’t love Android. While there are a lot of us who fall into this category, there are even more Android users who own Android devices simply because they wanted a smartphone and didn’t care what they purchased. There users like what they have, but would gladly trade up to something with a little more sex appeal if they could.

        Google is making Android more friendly and ICS would be a lot more intuitive and allow those casual users to fall in love with it’s simplicity and ease of use and entice them to stay on the platform the next time they purchase a smartphone.

  • Androidcrazed


    so i wanted new phone because i have an outdated(noteven touch) phone

    i was wondeing to get the samsung galaxy nexus if and once it goes to sprint, or wait for any new phones in 2012, or get any current phone (for example htc evo deshighn) on sprint

    Please and thank you >.<

  • xdroidx

    Aight Google I’m all in……just missen the “gmac”