Google unveils Samsung Galaxy Nexus, first Ice Cream Sandwich Android phone
We've been hearing about the next-generation of the Android operating system, code-named Ice Cream Sandwich, for awhile now and last week several announcements were made that bring it closer to reality. Last Wednesday, the software developer's kit (sdk) was released and a joint announcement was made, with Google and Samsung, to introduce the first-ever smartphone designed specifically for Ice Cream Sandwich; the Galaxy Nexus.
Everyone's watching this, including Apple, because this next selection on the Android dessert cart is the one that's supposed to unify all Android devices so they will be running on the same version of the OS. Right now we have a veritable dessert smorgasboard with Froyo and Gingerbread running on the smartphones and some tablets and Honeycomb running exclusively on the larger Android tablets (Motorola Xoom, Samsung 10.1, etc.). And because the phone carriers control the updates instead of Google, we have ended up with a system where some of the latest/greatest phones have come out with an old version of Android. To make matters worse, many pre-Honeycomb apps will not run on a Honeycomb tablet, and that has severely limited the number of apps available to those tablets. Does this sound confusing and irritating? That's because it is.
I've always had a soft spot for ice cream sandwiches so I'm hoping this new version of Android is going to restore some order and make Android more competitive on the app front. Some of the new features look great, and they include:
- Face Unlock - Unlock your phone by looking at it, using face-recognition technology
- New Browser - Google says the browser is "desktop-class" and includes the ability to sync bookmarks with Google Chrome. It's also supposed to have GMail client integration
- People App - Provides a new way to browse your contacts by combining high-resolution photos and status updates from Google+ and other social services
- Camera app - Lag time between photos is said to be greatly reduced, face detection is included and there is a new photo editor with more filters. A simple and intuitive way to take panoramic pictures, with no stitching, also is included.
- Android Beam - Similar to the "Bump" app on iOS, easily share contacts, websites, apps, maps, directions and YouTube videos with nearby phones at the touch of a button.
- Voice Typing - This is one of the more popular features in Siri for iOS. Use your voice to instantly type emails, SMS, or in any situation where you need to enter text.
- Google+ - It should be no surprise that Google+ is integrated into the OS, with Hangouts and Messenger and the ability to video chat with up to nine people at a time (oh, the bandwidth!).
- Improved Interface - A new font that’s optimized for HD displays was created and all hardware buttons have been eliminated in favor of adaptable software buttons, maximizing use of display space. The keyboard is improved, notifications are more interactive and widgets can be re-sized.
These are just some of the included features and more details were surface as we get closer to release. I noticed one feature, the ability to create folders by dropping apps on top of each other, that is bound to raise some eyebrows and open some briefcases in the Apple orchard. I guess we'll see.
On the hardware front, the Galaxy Nexus looks like a capable phone with some nice features. With a large, 4.65” Contour Display, HD (720p) resolution and a dual-core, 1.2ghz processor it will run on 4G LTE or HSPA+ networks. It will will be available in the United States, Canada, Europe and Asia in November and will ship with Ice Cream Sandwich installed. For more hardware specs go to the Galaxy Nexus site.