The next generation of Google’s Android platform with their flagship phone model has been announced in Hong Kong on 18 Oct 2011. This is the fourth major version of the open mobile platform code-named Ice Cream Sandwich.
Here is my take on the new features and capabilities being shown now.
New look and feel – The new font is very pleasing to look with its slight curves at the ends of letters. I’ve always favoured the darker theme starting with 3.x and this version will do well to give that kind of sophistication to the device.
Face Unlock – Should be quite secure, knowing that face recognition technology can differentiate between a live human face and a photo. My concern is whether the front-facing camera is fast enough to be enabled and unlock the phone compared to existing methods. What about lighting conditions, cultural limitations, and when you are not in a comfortable position to use your face?
Android Beam – Now this is the future of sharing with friends physically near to you. It has always been a hassle to go through the vast data network just to go between devices a few feet away. Bluetooth transfers are not platform-agnostic and tends to be slow.
Voice typing – A useful feature we all know as dictation. Has to be real-time and not have to wait for it to “think” after finishing a sentence. Still, I’ve yet to see any such voice recognition technology being able to understand all variants of English. I remember IBM used to do this quite well with your own voice being trained first. Compared to Siri on the iPhone 4S, I think this lacks that extra ability to get your phone to do simple tasks without typing, such as create reminders and search for short answers.
Google+ – We already got that everywhere, Google.
Browser – Good to improve on the tab management. I find myself going to the menu too often to move between tabs. This is not difficult to implement, what took you so long?
Gmail – Offline capability is important, as much as people use this on their desktops. Bring it to Google Docs too!
Mobile Data Management – Eh, 3G Watchdog?
Single-Motion Panoramic Camera – Simple trick of recording your shot in video then stitching the best frames together to make that panorama effect. Nothing new or useful here (how often do you look or print a panorama?).
Vibrant high-definition display – 4.65″ sAMOLED with 720p screen? Sorry I don’t intend to carry a TV in my pocket and I don’t think I’ll grow bigger hands any time soon.
Contour Display – Nokia 8110, no thanks.
I’m not greatly impressed by the feature list. While it is good to leave hardware buttons in the past, ICS lacks new ideas on the way we interact with the device. Why don’t we make more use of the sensors such as the gyroscope, compass, GPS and microphone?
Location-based services are very useful these days, if you can develop the smart apps for it. Videos and other data-intensive apps need the ability to download via wi-fi and in the background, managed by the Android system.
Use the display in new ways, such as a means to communicate or as a dashboard in the car. We need better graphic API with lower cost of C/GPU usage. I’m not interested in having a 2GHz chip in my pocket when the GUI staggers along!
What are your thoughts on this phone and Android 4.0?
Google Galaxy Nexus – http://www.google.com/nexus
Unwrapping Ice Cream Sandwich on the Galaxy Nexus – http://googlemobile.blogspot.com/2011/10/unwrapping-ice-cream-sandwich-on-galaxy.html
If you often encounter the dreaded “Phone storage is getting low” notification on your Android 2.2+ phone and have already tried using “Manage applications” (under “Menu” -> “Settings” -> “Applications“) and/or “App 2 SD” to remove apps, move apps on phone storage to the SD card, or cleared the cache, you can try the following procedure to move even more “phone-only” apps to your SD card.
I have used this to gain about 30MB of phone storage by moving huge apps such as iGO (17MB), Skype (4MB) and fring (3MB). Although some of these apps have not been configured/enabled by their developers to be installed on the SD card, the procedure overcomes this by using a powerful tool called Titanium Backup.
Not every app should be moved to the SD card. You should not move system or ROM apps such as GMail, Internet, or Youtube. Apps with widgets should be avoided as well, since the widgets will break on your home screens if you move them.
When you have Titanium Backup on your phone, it can also perform detailed backups of your apps and data and remove ROM or manufacturer-installed apps (aka bloatware). Another three apps below allow you to download and purchase apps from Market if you are in a country or with an operator with limited Market access.
Warning: please make a full backup of your phone before attempting this procedure. I am not responsible for any outcome resulting from this procedure.
- Android 2.2 (Froyo) or above phone
- VISIONary+ by MoDaCo (download link)
- Superuser by ChainsDD (download link)
- Titanium Backup by Joel Bourquard (download link)
- Market-Enabler by Andrea Baccega and Tim Strazzere (download link)
- Go to “Menu” -> “Settings” -> “Applications” -> “Development” and check/enable “USB debugging“.
- Download and install VISIONary+. Launch VISIONary+ and click “Temproot now“. The display will show an icon and some text indicating its progress and return back to the menu. Go back to your home screen.
- Download and install Superuser. You may launch Superuser to look at its interface, but there’s nothing you need to do there at this point.
- Download and install Titanium Backup. Launch Titanium Backup and Superuser will interrupt with the following screen (not the exact wording here, just an example). Tap “Allow” to grant Titanium Backup temporary superuser/root access.
- Titanium Backup will now gather the list of apps installed on your phone (dialog will indicate “Building exact app size information“), which may take a few minutes to complete.
- Tap “Problems?” button at the bottom, and tap “Yes, do it“. This downloads an additional tool called busybox into Titanium Backup’s data.
- Note the amount of free phone storage just above the bottom row of buttons, labelled “Internal“. The next few steps should attempt to increase the free amount.
- Tap “Backup / Restore” button at the top, you will see the list of apps that you can backup, remove and other operations.
- For each app that you want to move to SD card, tap the app and tap “Move to SD card“. After a while, the app will be moved from your phone storage to the SD card. You can note the additional free space gained in Titanium Backup.
- Optional – If your Market is limited, download and install Market-Enabler. Tap “Settings list” on top and select one of the more popular (read US) operators to fake your phone to. Go back to Market and see if you can search for and download more/premium apps.
I managed to go from 9MB phone storage available to 40MB, which gives more space for data-intensive apps such as Google Maps, Google Reader, Internet and Opera Mini. Hope this helps you, enjoy!
I have been doing video calls on my Nokia phones over 3G/3.5G although the compression ratio may be high and video quality is not as good as FaceTime. Front-facing cameras have been around for years on phones so Apple is not breaking new ground here.
The notable difference here is that Apple is offering this technology in open source format, so I hope this does not only work between two iPhone 4 units for long which sounds more like a marketing strategy now.
Android phones can use Skype and Fring for this with any other phones with the same app.
This technology is very impressive, possibly making the iPhone to have the more defined display quality on a portable electronic display, but I’m not personally bought on this.
To me, the phone is a daytime companion that handles my communication and multimedia needs. It should complement my daily routine, not be in the centre of it. There should be a practical physical size limit to a display on the phone because our hands and pockets don’t grow continuously. Thus, how much more resolution can you fit into the same display size? At 300dpi, does it really make a difference in viewing text and images? Personally, I’m not going to spend more time than necessary staring at my phone’s screen, which is no more than an hour.
Battery runtime is also directly and significantly related to display properties. I’m happier with a small but comfortable size with efficient lighting. This is where I believe AMOLED displays used in most Android phones outshine Apple’s.
Perhaps this is attractive to folks who read a lot on their devices, especially during transit.
Nothing new here too. I’ve seen Android phones with over ten apps running simultaneously with negligible performance impact.
However, the Android design by default does not require apps to close when they are no longer needed, which takes a mind set change to get used to. This remains to be seen how iOS 4 handles this.
I wonder if double-tapping on the Home button for this will soon wear it out?
HD Video Recording and Editing
Again with the same reasons for Retina Display, I don’t want to spend time messing with my videos on my phone. My life doesn’t revolve around the phone. If I want to enjoy 720p or 1080p video, I’d do it on my large wide screen display with hi-definition audio without sticking my hand up the whole time.
To record HDV, I’ve got my videocam with a better sensor and optics.
I wouldn’t need this on Android as well, but in both cases it would be nice if they can wirelessly send the video playback to a TV.
The geeks at xda-developers just hacked the Nexus One to record in 720p video…
5-Megapixel Camera with LED Flash
Come on… LED flash? Just how long does it take for manufacturers to use ultra-low light sensors and wireless flash?
Wait a minute, are we talking about a camera or a phone here? Right.
Being the thinnest smartphone isn’t a good thing. Do you want to hold a sheet of paper to your face? Steve, we live in a 3D world and our hands are actually big squishy stuff that grab things.
Aluminosilicate Glass Front and Back / Stainless Steel Band
The technology in the band is impressive, but the length and shape of it is not. Together with the two glass pieces, I have doubts on the durability of the construction. The iPhone 4 just feels like a window frame to me, which protects against two axes of pressure.
Now, the HTC Legend and a long-forgotten xda are superior here. They are aluminum enclosures which support pressure from all three axes. Aluminum is lighter, typically by three times. The Legend is even machined out of a metal unibody, like the Apple PowerBooks.
Steel does present better strain rate sensitivity and fatigue performance, but is attracted to magnetic fields. In the case of the phone, this probably has a detrimental effect on the wireless sensitivity since electromagnetic waves are used here.
The fact that Steve Jobs even announced the multi-color Bumper accessory gives me second thoughts on the glass-cum-steel sandwich design and durability.
Dual-microphone Noise Suppression
This is a great feature which is found in the Google Nexus and HTC Desire phones. Clever technology that works well.
One gripe that is common to all phones about dual microphones – it benefits the other parties. Why can’t it be used to cancel ambient noise around me by feeding it to my listening speaker?
The location of the speakerphone on the iPhone 4 is weird. On my Nokia N78 and many other phones, there are stereo speakers on either side!
What do you think? Comment below.