Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich Coming in October?

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Since its release the Android mobile operating system has shipped on millions of phones worldwide and if recent figures (350,000 device activations per day!) can be believed it has recently overtaken Apple’s iOS to become the most widely used mobile phone operating system around.

After making its official switch to the tablet market in early 2010, Google is now on the brink of releasing its fourth major Android release, one that takes the best aspects of version 2.0 (Gingerbread) and the tablet optimized version 3.0 (Honeycomb) and combines them into version 4.0, known as Ice Cream Sandwich.

Another Version of Android?!

Do we really need a new version of Android?

After all, the operating system – launched as recently as 2008 – has gone through several versions since version 1.0 was first seen on the HTC Dream, or G1.

In the intervening months there have been many versions, bringing us right up to date with the current Android 2.3 Gingerbread for mobile phones and Android 3.0 Honeycomb for dual-core tablet computers.

So is there really any need for a new version? Well, it depends on how you use your phone. If you’re only enjoying phone calls and web browsing with a little help from standard apps and email then you probably don’t need to upgrade your phone. Your current version of Android has things nicely tied up for you.

On the other hand, if you strive to be on the cutting edge of the latest mobile phone development and have the fastest device with the quickest operating system and access to good quality apps and games then of course you need a new version of Android.

The problem here is the long-denied issue of platform fragmentation, a matter which the Android developers seem to have developed something of an “ostrich mentality” in their attempts to avoid talking about.

Gingerbread + Honeycomb = Ice Cream Sandwich

Naturally when you combine gingerbread with honeycomb then you will find yourself with an ice cream sandwich – at least that’s what the Android developers seem to think!

Sweet snack naming conventions aside, Android 4.0 has the unenviable task of combining the key features of Android 2.3 with Android 3.0. This has various potential pitfalls, not least the possibility of complete failure if implemented badly.

Fortunately, leaked photos and video clips reveal that the coming Android release has been put together with style. On phones, this means placing the navigation buttons of Honeycomb across the bottom of the screen and combining these with the standard Android phone software buttons such as the apps list. Similarly the overall user interface is optimized for a phone display while adopting the home screen scrolling and widget adding method.

It all looks very nice, and if the leaked videos are anything to go by, slick, smooth and most of all effective.

New Features and Expectations

Updating the user interface to reflect the enhancements introduced to tablets is one of the key elements of the Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich release, but it is by no means the only thing to look out for. For instance in the background the APIs of the tablet and phone versions of Android have also been unified, indicating that there will be no need for developers to issue multiple versions of the same app for different size screens.

Additionally, some of these APIs are intended to combat the possibility of platform fragmentation, although how successful this proves to be will depend on the market and the success of Android 4.0. There are rumours of Kinect-style motion detection, movies available from the Android Market and wider use of the Google Music app (where available), and Near Field Communication looks likely for sharing contacts with other Android users nearby - something that has great implications for gaming!

Anyone expecting a minor, iPhone 4S-style upgrade should think again. All of the signs are pointing to this being a major addition to the Android family, one that comes accompanied by a brand new phone, not to mention the possibility of a new tablet.

After all, anything iOS can do, Android can do too!

October 18th is the Big Day!

You won’t have to wait long to find out the full set of features in Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich. Although postponed from October 11th 2011 as a mark of respect for the late Steve Jobs of Apple, it is now believed that Google plans to unveil their new chilled desert-themed mobile phone operating system on October 18th at the AsiaD: All Things Digital event in Hong Kong.

It is here that the Nexus Prime handset is expected to be unveiled, revealing the combined mobile phone and tablet UI that is Ice Cream Sandwich.

While iOS is essentially a unified operating system for iPhones and iPads, there are distinctions between the two versions. Android’s new version is a single, scalable release that can be configured to run on either phone or tablet device.

As you’ll agree, these are exciting times…