Google's Ice Cream Sandwich Will Make Android All Better

Alongside the new Galaxy Nexus phone, Google unveiled its latest: Ice Cream Sandwich. No, it's not a delectable summer treat, it's a jazzed up name for Google's latest Android update. 

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Alongside the new Galaxy Nexus phone, Google unveiled its latest: Ice Cream Sandwich. No, it's not a delectable summer treat, it's a jazzed up name for Google's latest Android update. All the tech bloggers are giddy over this Ice Cream Sandwich thingy. Why the fuss? Basically: Ice Cream Sandwich is supposed to make all of Android's problems go away.

First, let's get this name thing straight. In laymen's terms Ice Cream Sandwich stands for Android 4.0. To sweeten up the boring tech speak, Google has used dessert related terms for each of its Android refreshes: Cupcake, donut, eclair, froyo, gingerbread--things like that. This time we have Ice Cream Sandwich. Yum. So next time you hear Google releases some mouthwatering edible, translate that to: New Android operating system.

But why is this making tech bloggers' mouths water? Well, it should clean up Android's big mess. Ice Cream Sandwich is a combination of two previous updates: Honeycomb and Gingerbread, Google CEO Eric Schmidt explained at Mobile World Congress conference. Right now, there are a bunch of different OS's on all these different Google phones and tablets, and its an issue for app developers explains PC Mag's Sacha Segan. "Currently, you get a choice between two kinds of tablets with Android: cheap tablets running an ugly, blown-up version of a phone OS designed for smaller screens, and higher-end tablets that lack apps because there's no obvious way to find Honeycomb tablet apps in the Android Market," he writes. By combining the two, Ice Cream Sandwich is supposed to fix all of that. Segan isn't too confident it will help things. "But Ice Cream Sandwich could make the split worse if updates to existing devices go as slowly as Android updates always have," he reasons. "That means we'll now have three major Android strains for developers to juggle."

Who knows how things will really shake out, but beyond these developer perks, Ice Cream Sandwich has some cool phone related updates:

  • Facial recognition unlocking. "You just have to face the Galaxy Nexus, hold still for a moment, and the phone unlocks itself right into the homescreen," explains This Is My Next's Vlad Savov. 
  • Screenshotting capabilities. "This one has been a long time coming," believes TechCrunch's Chris Velazco. "Hold down the power button and the volume down button to snap a screenshot."
  • Customizable dock
  • Better notifications and widgets.
  • Android Beam: Google's version of "Bump," explains Gizmodo's Whitson Gordon. "You can send articles, maps, or even Market links from one phone to another just by opening it up on one phone and touching the two together, back-to-back," he adds. 
  • Fewer physical buttons. "You’ll find three software menu keys — Back, Home, and Recent Apps, a trifecta that should be familiar to Honeycomb users — adorning the bottom of the large display and replacing the formerly necessary physical or capacitive touch buttons," continues Savov. 

Ice Cream Sandwich is only available on the Galaxy Nexus for now. But HTC is mulling the upgrade, and other Android phones will likely have it on their freshest offerings sometime soon.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.