Google just announced Android 4.0
, code named Ice Cream Sandwich
, and a new "this is what a good Ice Cream Sandwich phone is like" Galaxy Nexus
. A couple of the new features really stand out for me:
Powerful voice input engine
Android 4.0 introduces a powerful new voice input engine that offers a continuous "open microphone" experience and streaming voice recognition. The new voice input engine lets users dictate the text they want, for as long as they want, using the language they want. Users can speak continously for a prolonged time, even pausing for intervals if needed, and dictate punctuation to create correct sentences. As the voice input engine enters text, it underlines possible dictation errors in gray. After dictating, users can tap the underlined words to quickly replace them from a list of suggestions.
The main reason I'm not a big fan of cell phones is that I'm a very writing-centric person and producing any quantity of words on a smart phone makes me want to bang my head with a Model M
. But smooth dictation with easy correction might be enough for me to get a mobile data plan. Speaking of mobile data plans,
Control over network data
Mobile devices can make extensive use of network data for streaming content, synchronizing data, downloading apps, and more. To meet the needs of users with tiered or metered data plans, Android 4.0 adds new controls for managing network data usage.
In the Settings app, colorful charts show the total data usage on each network type (mobile or Wi-Fi), as well as amount of data used by each running application. Based on their data plans, users can optionally set warning levels or hard limits on data usage or disable mobile data altogether. Users can also manage the background data used by individual applications as needed.
One reason I haven't gotten my Android on a cell network is that T-Mobile prepaid data comes in two categories, "30 megabytes" and "unlimited." (In their contract plans, they've also got "Unlimited (200 MB)" and "Unlimited (2 GB).") How much data would I transfer in a month? I have no idea because the last time I cared about minimizing network bandwidth was 1998 when I was using a dialup modem. But if I can easily monitor and control bandwidth on cellular networks while transferring as much as needed over WiFi, I might be convinced to pay for the former.
Android Beam for NFC-based sharing
Android Beam is an innovative, convenient feature for sharing across two NFC-enabled devices, It lets people instantly exchange favorite apps, contacts, music, videos — almost anything. It’s incredibly simple and convenient to use — there’s no menu to open, application to launch, or pairing needed. Just touch one Android-powered phone to another, then tap to send.
Wi-Fi Direct and Bluetooth HDP
Support for Wi-Fi Direct lets users connect directly to nearby peer devices over Wi-Fi, for more reliable, higher-speed communication. No internet connection or tethering is needed. Through third-party apps, users can connect to compatible devices to take advantage of new features such as instant sharing of files, photos, or other media; streaming video or audio from another device; or connecting to compatible printers or other devices.
These two features sound like an opportunity for developers to create some awesome experiences. Imagine a game you play at a large party or gaming convention where people have different clues to a puzzle on their phones and when you meet someone you get closer to finding the solution. Or, in a world where music labels realize that giving away music to gain new fans makes sense, your friend says "Hey, check out this new band I've been digging," you tap phones together, and now you have a copy of the song too.
Oh yeah, you can also unlock your phone with facial recognition. Or, if you have a Richard Stallman approach to passwords
, you can set your password to Guy Fawkes