Google Android Ice Cream Sandwich – Honeycomb+ for the Masses!

You may have already got whiff that Google’s latest Android platform has been unveiled as being called Ice Cream Sandwich.

Google’s Mike Claren proudly announced Ice Cream Sandwich as the company’s “most ambitious release to date.”

Even though Ice Cream Sandwich isn’t out til the end of this year, which means the full spec and feature list hasn’t been fully released, there’s enough info out there to see what Ice Cream Sandwich will bring to your Android device.

At the top of the list is one subject that has been griping most Android users – Honeycomb on tablets and various other versions of the operating system spread about all the other handsets. The neatest move is to simply have one OS for every device, across the board.

“We want one OS that runs everywhere.” said Claren.

Everyone loves Android’s open source nature and supreme flexibility but the thing is, anyone that has used Apple’s iOS will notice that Android is lacking in the unification department. Ice Cream Sandwich will make moves to solving this fragmentation by bringing the two ‘droid camps of smartphone and tablets together.

The way that Google will make this happen is that Ice Cream Sandwich will act like one-size-fits-all version of Honeycomb – which means that the OS will be capable of running on dual-core tablets and entry-level smartphones with equal ease. That’s a beautiful thing right there.

That’s all well and good but the tricksy part of Ice Cream Sandwich’s (ICS) is to grab Honeycomb’s best bits and make them work on a basic blower – it should be easy enough (this is coming from me, someone that is a resolute codephobe) to do on the latest string of dual-core mobiles but what about the lesser processor-powered products?

Mike Claren confirmed that some of the Honeycomb features would make their way onto smartphone courtesy of Ice Cream Sandwich such as the groovy ‘Holographic UI’, you know, the 3D-tastic Honeycomb menu? Other bits and bobs from the Honeycomb UI will also make it over to ICS – namely the launcher and the Recent Apps multi-tasking menu.

The clever bit of all of this is that the operating system will intelligently scale itself to match the size of the device. Good news for manufacturers as there will be no need to tweak the software to get ICS running on smaller than tablet-sized tech. I’m also guessing that it will upscale to cope with oversized slates.

Ice Cream Sandwich isn’t just a one-size-fits-all version of Honeycomb though. There is a promise of all kinds of new stuff as well as a new and improved version of that lovely Honeycomb UI – Claren was bold enough to brag that it will be a “State of the art UI.”

This means that there will be a whole load of new APIs for developers to play with. One that looked particularly neat at the Google I/O get together utilises the Android device’s camera – in the demo ICS and the front-facing camera was able to track the user’s head and adjust the perspective on a 3D scene.

As well as head-tracking ICS will give your Android handheld the smarts to be able to recognise your face thanks to some face-mapping smarts. Another hand bit of camera cleverness is the “virtual camera operator” app. This app enables the handset’s front camera to automatically focus on whoever is speaking within its field of vision during a video chat – good times if there’s two or more of you crowding around the camera when on a video call 🙂

All-in-all it’s really looking like Ice Cream Sandwich will be more than a scalable Honeycomb. ICS will be more aware of what and who is around it and there will be more information broadcast before its finally realised into the wild in Q4.

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