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Google launches Android 4.0 “Ice Cream Sandwich”

Major new release unifies smartphone and tablet operating systems


To back up the new camera, the gallery app now lets you make quick edits to photos, such as cropping, rotating, setting brightness or contrast levels, removing red-eye and adding effects. You can now sort photos by time, location, people and tags. Videos can also have live effects added, such as custom backgrounds or funny facial transformations.

The web browser has been beefed up, too. Bookmarks now sync with your desktop Chrome browser, and you can save web pages for offline browsing. Users also have far more control over text sizes and zoom levels. Google also claims it’s speeded up the Webkit browsing engine, producing a 220% improvement over the Android 2.3 browser using the V8 Benchmark Suite.

The updated browser is faster and has new features, including Incognito browsing
The updated browser is faster and has new features, including Incognito browsing

Other features are brand new, rather than improvements over the original. Face recognition means you can now unlock your phone just by looking at it – assuming you have a front-facing camera. If you’ve got a new phone with an NFC (Near-Field Communication) chip, you can use Android beam to share any phone content with another NFC-equipped phone. Developers can build this into their own apps too.

Support for Wi-Fi Direct lets users connect to other nearby devices over a peer-to-peer network, without the need for tethering or an internet connection. There’s also support for Bluetooth Health Device Profile devices, such as the heart-rate monitors joggers use.

There are many other changes – including a brand new, system-wide font – and not all of them are obvious to users, either. Developers have a whole new palette of tools to work with, too, so expect richer apps that tie into the phone’s core functions. We also can’t wait to see what new phones arrive with the new OS.

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