Ice Cream Sandwich features drip onto the net

Ice Cream SandwichWell, the official wrapper is finally off of Android 4.0, perhaps better known as Ice Cream Sandwich (ICS for short). Although we don't have a complete list of features yet, what we know so far of the Great Dairy Treat that will hopefully be our phone's OS one day seems quite sweet.

So let's tear off the wrapper and take a few bites.

The web browser is better. The default web browser now supports tabbed browsing and up to 16 tabs. In case you're wondering, the stock browser currently supports windowed browsing and can be a real pane (see what I did there?).

In addition it appears there will be a method to automatically sync bookmarks and other data with Chrome, making something you find on your phone something you can find back at home. Hopefully the implementation of phone to Chrome will be as painless as Chome to Chrome bookmarks are (mine are auto synced from work to home and vice versa simply by signing in to Chrome).

Nobody else can use your phone. Okay, this is sort of a lie, but ICS has built-in facial analysis to only unlock the phone for you. The first thing I thought of was a nightmare situation in which you're in an accident and it can't recognize your face, but I think the more common horror story will be people unable to unlock their phones at drunken Halloween parties due to bad makeup, and that might not be such a bad thing.

Notification dismissal by giving it the finger. Individual notifications can be dismissed or hidden by swiping them. Several rooted ROMs have had this feature since 2010, but it's a pretty neat thing to be able to kill individual notifications without launching them.

Favorites Tray + Widgets. Widgets will now have their own page like the apps do. You should be able to press and hold a widget just like an app to push it to the home screen. Alternately I guess you could have the widgets running in the widget tray.

Folders act like iOS. Dragging one icon onto another now creates a folder, like it does in iOS. Folders are also reported to be re-arrangeable internally. How they got this long without adding that feature I do not know.

Voice-to-text works better. If you've ever tried speaking your email/text messages, you'll know how stiff and robotic you have to be to get the default voice app to recognize you and not stop processing because it thinks your done. Supposedly in ICS, voice-to-text will be more fluid and natural, being listed as an "open microphone" that you can dictate to until you stop.

Gmail+. Gmail will be adding two line previews.

Data usage. You will be able to monitor your data usage on the phone, by app, and by times. You can also give each app a limit it must obey, otherwise it gets cut off or throttled severely.

Android Beam. If you need to share a contact, picture, video, or pretty much anything on your phone, you'll be able to do it with Near Field Communication (NFC). It's unclear to me whether they're going to use existing 802.11/Bluetooth to do this or if they're building something entirely new that our EVOs will not support.

Resizable widgets. Just like in Honeycomb, widgets can be resized. App icons can be too. Perhaps this means there's no more need for an app like MultIcon?

New font. They are replacing the current font (Droid Sans) with Roboto. I'm not terribly excited about this.

Phone+Voicemail. The phone application is reported to have Google Voice integrated into it for in-line transcriptions and voicemail pickups. No more requirement to have a Google Voice inbox?

Native screenshot. They're adding a native screenshot capability to the OS, which HTC EVOs have had for a while with Power+Home. The Android version will default to Power + Vol Down, so to get into recovery in the future EVO owners will be able to say "like taking a screen shot, but with your phone turned off."

Contacts. The Contacts list has been renamed to People, and now functions like the Contacts on most AOSP ROMs I've used for the past 8 months, or the People on HTC Sense.

Calendar. A newly designed calendar app that sounds a lot like the HTC Calendar app to me. I have not seen it, so I can't say for certain.

Camera. There's going to be facial recognition in camera mode. I don't know if that was stock in my HTC EVO 3D or if both of the last two ROMs I used have this feature already built in, but I thought it was an HTC Sense thing. In any case, it's already on my EVOs. Also included is the ability to take a high-def picture while recording video.

SPLEE CHK. ICS has an in-line spell checker, which we've had with Swype and other keyboard replacements for a while now. This appears to be mentioned around the messaging app more than anywhere else, though, so it may be IM specific.

Lock screen. The new lock screen appears to be a Google version of the Sense 3.0 lock screen.

If you know of any other important new features that should be included in this list, please let us know in the comments.

[Techcrunch | HBL | AnandTech | Android Police]
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Paul E King

Paul King started with GoodAndEVO in 2011, which merged with Pocketables, and as of 2018 he's evidently the owner. He lives in Nashville, works at a film production company, is married with two kids. Facebook | Twitter | Donate | More posts by Paul | Subscribe to Paul's posts