The joint Samsung/Google event just came to a close and I must say — Google definitely stole the show. Ice Cream Sandwich seemed to propel the OS light years ahead of it’s predecessors and competition thanks to an all new overhauled UI implemented throughout the entire Android OS. One of the areas Google did a great job at addressing was the aging core apps. Now, they’ve been completely revamped unifying not the the way the apps look, but the way the behave as well. The same gestures found everywhere else in Ice Cream Sandwich will work the same as in these core apps. Let’s take a look.
One of my favorite overhauled new apps is the Android Browser. The all new browser features easy a whole new way of tabbing. Tabs behave the same way as opening up your most recently used apps, being displayed vertically for you to swipe through or swipe to the left to close a tab. My favorite part about the all new tabs is how they can now be saved for offline viewing.
In a move that is sure to make a lot of Android/Chrome users happy, Google has finally provided bookmark syncing with Chrome which means whether you’re on your phone or desktop, you’ll always have your bookmarks easily accessible. A few more features Google added was an easy to click “request desktop site” option in the menu for when you want to see the full, desktop version of a site and the new “incognito mode” for viewing those special sites online.
Our beloved Gmail app has been shown some love in Ice Cream Sandwich featuring an all new, UI and a new “action bar” along the bottom of the app for accessing your most used functions. Navigating through the app is done very much the same way as in the rest of the UI. Once a message is open, simply swipe left or right to move to the next or previous message. Skimming through your email inbox has never been easier. My favorite part? The offline function that can store all your emails for easy access of up to 30 days of email without any data connection.
The Calendar app saw a revamp as well. Featuring that same consistent UI and swipe gestures for navigating. A new pinch-to-zoom function has also been added which allows for you to see a little or a lot of information on upcoming events.
The Settings app added a new feature with what Google is calling “Data Usage Controls.” Clicking on DUC allow you to see a full chart of all your data usage for the current billing cycle and even gives you a projection of where you’ll be at the end of the month. The data chart is fully interactive allowing a user to set a “threshold limit” using the onscreen bar that will cut off all background data for the month once you’ve reached a specified amount of data. While I like how Android is putting users in full control of their smartphones, I can see how this will be an extremely complicated process for soccer mom’s and Joe Schmoe’s.
The old and aging Android camera app has finally been revamped in Ice Cream Sandwich featuring zero shutter-lag for taking quick snap shots. Google has also added some features to the camera app like the always fun and functional, panaroma shot for taking sweeping pictures of landscapes or events. A few video features have also been added like continuous focus, taking video snapshots and even the ability to zoom while recording.
Editing photos has never been easier or looked better thanks to the all new and improved Gallery app. First off, gone is the 3D Gallery app and it’s been replaced with Android’s “magazine UI” featuring big, eye-popping thumbnails and displaying information like friend tags. Also built into the app is some light photo editing tools, giving users access to various “hipster filters” and immediate posting to social sites.
If there was one area I was always embarassed of Android — it was the contacts/dialer. Thankfully, the contacts or “People” app has finally seen a dramatic facelift. The all new People app features the same gestures found in the rest of the Android OS which the ability to swipe left or right to get to dialer, or call logs. My favorite part? The addition of high resolution photos for your contacts. No more blurry pictures of your friends and family when they call you. Google is really attempting to make the contacts application more than just a quick dialer. They’re calling it a “live window into your social life” thanks to social updates and “quick contacts.” Oh yeah — and they’ve also gone ahead and included visual voicemail in the call log “where it should be.” Also added was the ability to reject an incoming call with a text message and swiping gestures for accepting or rejecting a call.
YouTube, Maps, Google+ and Music was also mentioned as receiving overhauls but weren’t shown on stage. As far as Android Ice Cream Sandwich’s all new revamped UI and system features, don’t forget to check out our overview of all that good stuff here.
As you can see, Google has done a great job at completely overhauling the UI and how we as Android users will, moving forward, interact with the OS. It’s a more unified experience and something Android has been desperately needing for a long time now. How do you guys like all the new additions?