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Google tries to stay a step ahead of Apple

Apple, Inc. (AAPL) and Google, Inc. (GOOG) are racing neck and neck when it comes to the smart phone platform war.  Apple's iPhone 4S just launched last Friday, setting sales records.  But Google's Android enjoys a healthy lead over Apple, thanks to its broad lineup of devices from multiple manufacturers.

Yesterday at a long-awaited special event, Google unveiled the Galaxy Nexus smartphone by Samsung Electronics Comp., Ltd. (SEO 005930).  That phone came packing a brand new operating system -- Android 4.0 "Ice Cream Sandwich".  

Past Google smartphone operating systems have only been targeted at one kind of device -- e.g Android 2.2 "Frozen Yogurt" target smartphones, as did Android 2.3 "Gingerbread", while Android 3.0 "Honeycomb" targeted tablets.  Unlike its predecessors, Ice Cream Sandwich's goal is ubiquity.  It merges the Honeycomb and Gingerbread code trees, offering a single OS for all Android mobile devices.

Andy Rubin (right) chats with AllThingsD's Walt Mossberg.
Android Chief Andy Rubin introduces Ice Cream Sandwich at All Things D's AsiaD conference.

With the new operating system Google is making several important changes and improvements.

Ice Cream Sandwich includes:
Ice Cream Sandwich Face Unlock
Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich [Source: Google]
  • Deeper design minimalism, with physical buttons replaced with on-screen icons.
  • Lock screen notifications.
  • Android Beam, a NFC feature that shares web links or content, when you tap to Ice Cream Sandwich devices together.
  • Redesigned, scrollable multi-tasking screen.
  • App and shortcut group via dragging icons on top of each other.
  • Improved Mail app with ability to create nested subfolders.
  • Improved voice commands via a constantly "on" microphone.
  • Improved Camera app with "zero" shutter lag, and time lapse settings.
  • A new built-in Internet app with up to 16 tabs and syncing with desktop Chrome bookmarks.
  • The option to disable apps
The biggest addition is clearly the home screen facial unlock, but ultimately the fact that the market will now have one operating system for both tablets and smartphones is probably the most important story of Google's new operating system.




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