Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich

by Bottle Rocket

The recently delayed Android 4.0 – ice Cream Sandwich (ICS) event went on at 9PM Tuesday night, and showed off a lot of direction Android is taking.

The ICS talk started with Google’s strategy for the future of Android. They have three main goals for Android:

  • Enchant Me
  • Simplify My Life
  • Make Me Awesome

They claim that they used these goals to simplify, beautify, and enhance ICS in ways across the entire UI.

It begins with a new typeface called Roboto, which supposedly looks great on extra-high-density displays like the Galaxy Nexus will have (they didn’t explicitly say whether Droid would be going away). Google is enhancing most of the interfaces with what they kept referring to as “Magazine-style” layouts. Also, there will be no hardware buttons on the front of the device, replacing with soft buttons like in Honeycomb (check out our Android tablets to see the basic style).

Consistency was mentioned several times in the presentation, with the same gestures being shown in a lot of different areas. Swiping to the left and right can page between views, so all the work we did on Top Chef and AARP to add in this behavior will definitely help us be forward-compatible for ICS. Borrowing from iOS, swiping a single item can remove it (flinging it offscreen) in several places.

As far as other things taken from iOS:

    • Folders created by dragging one icon on top of another. Folders existed before, but couldn’t be created this way.
    • Apps can be killed from the multitasking list (using swiping to fling them away instead of a red X)
    • Individual notifications can be removed from Notifications (again using swiping)
    • Screenshot functionality added (Power + Volume Down)

    And lots of other tweaks to the UI & Apps:

    • View notifications from lock screen.
    • Spellchecker added to text entry areas (red line underneath words it believes are misspelled).
    • Talk to Type is now instant, typing as you talk instead of after you complete your sentence.
    • Face Unlock – facial recognition to unlock your device.
    • Accessibility – explore-by-touch uses a single tap to read the item being touched, another tap in that place opens it.

    Core App changes

    • Browser – manage tabs in the Action Bar, Enable Desktop version of a site with a checkbox option, bookmarks synched with Chrome, save pages for offline reading later, Incognito mode
    • Gmail – Swipe to page between messages, offline search (last 30 days, configurable for longer time periods)
    • Calendar – Pinch to zoom on days, swipe to page between days
    • Settings – Data usage charts (like Battery usage), with custom limits for a warning and a cutoff.
    • Data Usage Graph – can be filtered by time, and it shows which apps used data and how much, and whether it was foreground or background data. You can also restrict background data usage on a per app basis.
    • Photos – Launch camera from Lock screen, basic photo editing built in (including “hipster” filters), Panorama mode (takes photos automatically as you pan camera).
    • Gallery – new Magazine layout style, sorting by date, place, or tagged person
    • Video – 1080p, Continuous Focus, Time Lapse mode, some filter effects available.
    • Contacts – Concept of “Me”, Magazine style for favorites (reminds me of Windows Phone 7 tiles), Quick Contact Card.
    • Phone – When calling someone, a photo displays across the whole screen, visual voicemail integrated for Google Voice, has speedup/slowdown of message, when declining a call you can quickly respond with a preset text message.
    • NFC Sharing aka Android Beam – Touch two phones together, touch to beam, done. (Google Maps, Browser, & Contacts built-in, can also share apps by beaming a link to the Android Market)

    For Developers:

    The new SDK (and tools) are available now, you’ll need to get the new version of the Developer tools to see the new SDK, since the manager has changed.

    For Designers:

    Take a look at the new icon design guidelines, they’ve made changes to everything you know: http://developer.android.com/guide/practices/ui_guidelines/icon_design.html

    For Everyone:

    More details on what was changed here: http://developer.android.com/sdk/android-4.0-highlights.html

    Unfortunately, the first devices launching with ICS won’t be until next month, and they haven’t announced any other devices that will receive the update yet, but I would expect that information to come from Google in the next month.