Android Ice Cream Sandwich Explained

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On Wednesday, Google and Samsung announced the Galaxy Nexus smartphone (previously rumored as the “Nexus Prime”). But a phone is only as good as its software, and Android Ice Cream Sandwich, which will debut on the Galaxy Nexus, is a major update that will eventually be the standard for Android phones and tablets.

Here’s a closer look at the new Android software:

New Look, New Font

Ice Cream Sandwich strives for the same minimal, wireframe vibe as this year’s Android Honeycomb tablets, with sharp edges and slender lines separating elements of the user interface. The OS also has a new font called Roboto that looks a bit rounder than previous fonts.

(MORE: Will Android’s Ice Cream Sandwich Take a Bite Out of iOS 5?)

Improved Multitasking and Notifications

In older versions of Android, holding down the home button brought up a grid view of your recently used apps, represented as icons. Now, those apps will be presented as a vertical strip of thumbnails that you can scroll through. Android’s notification bar has also been tweaked in Ice Cream Sandwich, letting you swipe away individual items and control music playback.

Lock Screen Capabilities

Turns out there’s a lot you can do from the lock screen in Android Ice Cream Sandwich. Users can swipe down the notification window to see new messages, manage music playback and jump directly to the camera. And when you’re ready to unlock the phone, Ice Cream Sandwich can use your face instead of a password to authenticate.

Respond By Text

When getting a call that you don’t want to answer, Ice Cream Sandwich lets you dismiss the call and select from a list of preset text message to send, such as “Can’t Talk Now. What’s Up?”

“People” App

A new app called People will replace Android’s old Contacts app, with a new look that includes larger profile pictures instead of tiny thumbnails. Contact pages can also include recent updates from social networks.

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