Google and Samsung just wrapped up their joint event showcasing Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich and the Samsung Galaxy Nexus phone. Cali and John were there giving the play-by-play commentary during the live stream and I was live blogging about the event from my site. After watching the stream I have to say that I’m really excited for both ICS and Samsung’s new handheld. To start off, here’s a rundown of the Galaxy Nexus’ specs:
Samsung Galaxy Nexus
Aside from the basic specs listed above, the phone will also have LTE and, according to Samsung’s J.K. Shin during the live stream, they may release an HSPA+ version depending on consumer demand. One of the biggest points of interest to me was the screen on this beast of a phone. It will be sporting a 4.65-inch Super AMOLED screen with a native resolution of 1280×720 and have a contrast ratio of 100,000:1. To accentuate the gorgeous screen even more, they’ve given it a bezel that is just 4.29mm thick! Top that off with the slight ergonomic curve that we saw with the Nexus S and a total thickness of 8.9mm and we’ve got one attractive device.
The phone will also be sporting a 1.2GHz dual-core processor, this proc has an integrated POWERVR™ SGX540 graphics accelerator and for the power users out there it can be overclocked to 1.5GHz! We’re also looking at 1GB of RAM which should be able to handle anything that you’re going to throw at this phone and ask for more. Judging by what I saw from the live stream the video capture and still capabilities of the Galaxy nexus are really excellent. The sensor may only be a 5 MP but sensor size as we all know does not dictate image quality. You’ll be able to capture 1080p video with this camera and thanks to a nifty feature of ICS you’ll be able to snap still simultaneously as well. Now the 1.3-MP sensor on the front of the camera seems a bit lacking to me, I’m sure it was just another way to keep costs down, but I would love to see a front-facer with a bigger sensor. That being said, after seeing the image from Google’s demonstration of facial recognition unlocking I am a bit less concerned about the quality. It at least looked passable from what I saw.
Overall the phone looks really slick, the image quality on the screen from what I could see looks really crisp and colors pop well, but then most AMOLED screens look really drool worthy. We’re still not in the territory of the iPhone’s retina display though. *Sigh* The specs look really good on this phone and I am really digging this curved design that we’re seeing from Samsung. My only big question is battery life. With a 1750 mAh battery I am very hopeful that we’ll see solid times. Thank goodness we’ll be getting a notification LED on the phone as well. I will most certainly be buying one of these phones!
Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich
Matias Duarte came on stage and posed the question, “Can a machine have a soul?” After watching his demonstration of ICS, I think that I can get behind his evangelical approach. ICS looks to be a serious step in the right direction for Android. Let’s just hope it can help to unify the OS under at least a general design concept.
To start off Matias showed off ‘Roboto’ which is an entirely new typeface designed for ICS. Pardon me while I go uber-nerd for a moment and talk about fonts for a moment. The font on a UI can do a lot to communicate a personality of the OS itself, and Roboto looks to do for Android what Segoe did for Windows Phone 7. It stands out, it looks elegant and clean, but it also has a very solid geometry. I think that it succeeds in its task, but we’ll have to see just how deep into the OS this new typeface is integrated.
The lock-screen looks like it’s retaining the circular unlock from Honeycomb. There isn’t a ton to say about that. The stock widgets have been given a makeover as well; they seem to mesh well with the feel of the Roboto typeface. They will also be scrollable and resizable which can be nice for filling in awkward gaps on your home screen. One slick little eye-candy feature I saw here was that running apps all get live tiles for multi-tasking and switching between them. Folders have also been simplified; they can be created now by just dragging and dropping icons on top of each other. And by popular demand you can take a screenshot from anywhere by simply pressing and holding the power and volume down buttons. The keyboard has been tweaked a bit for higher accuracy and the contextual word suggestion strip now emboldens words that you are most likely to use. Text entry is also made easier as you are able to simply drag-and-drop blocks of text.
One of the niftiest features I saw in the live stream was the voice-to-text feature. Or more specifically that it was instant and required no activation. Matias was able to simply reply to a text by verbal response, and he even demonstrated ICS’ ability to understand phrases like ‘smiley face’ and print the corresponding characters. This garnered a pretty big applause and rightly so. He also tried to show off ICS’ facial recognition unlock feature but seemed to be having trouble. I’ve never used a consumer level device that does this that I’ve been pleased with and I do not expect to be pleased with this, but we will see. Another big concern for me here is security, I have seen systems like this defeated with printed photos before. When I get my hands on one of these I’ll be sure to put it through its paces and see what it takes to break it.
The browser has gotten some love here with live synching of bookmarks between your Chrome browser and Android and the ability to ‘request the desktop version’ of a site as the browser defaults to mobile versions when available. We’ve also got screen cap tiles for tab switching as well with up to 16 tabs capable of being opened simultaneously. In the Gmail app users can swipe left to right between messages, email addresses have been ‘transformed into chips’ to provide contact images and names, and here’s the big one; say it with me “OFFLINE SEARCH”! That’s right; you can now search through the last 30 days of e-mails without access to any kind of network. There are not polite, family-friendly words for how happy this makes me.
The calendar app has had a complete UI overhaul; you can now pinch-to-zoom from the agenda view which you really need to see. I am super excited about this as I use my Google Calendar and the app to remind of everything including my own birthday. No Joke. Another big deal for ICS is that the music player now has the ability to be controlled from any app, so no more hopping around to control things, it’s always in the notification bar when you’re using it. One really nice addition to the settings portion of the OS is the Data Usage app. From here you can see a histogram of your data usage down to the app-by-app level; likewise you can also call up a projected usage to get an idea of how your data usage will statistically trend in the future! Sound boring? Well maybe it is, but that doesn’t make it any less of a big deal. You’ll also be able to set warnings for when you’re nearing your cap and even lock your data usage to stop before you hit that cap! So your carrier can eat it with their ridiculous ‘over-use’ charges.
The camera app looks like you would expect; it does in-fact take pictures! Google have streamlined the app so that you can take a still and have it online within 3 taps though. The app can also detect real human faces and pretty well differentiate between living people and inanimate objects, so you can have the app set to automatically snap an image once it sees a real person. The image editor is about the same with everything you’d expect; cropping, angle adjusts, red-eye remover, instagram style filters, etc. They claim that they also have “zero shutter lag” and while I will say that I was seriously impressed with how quickly they were able to take successive shots I think that claim might not be technically accurate. But then I may be wrong. But skepticism aside this camera app is pretty slick with its ability to take panoramic shots and stitch them together seamlessly and its built-in subject tracking. It also appears to shoot really impressive time-lapse photography and shoots nice, crisp video.
The contacts app seems to have been renamed the “People” app. I have to say I think this is one of the nicest looking apps that we were shown even if it does seem to ape the Metro UI just a bit. Everyone in your contacts people app is given a high-res image if available and all of their contact methods are front-and-center; the app seems to have pretty decent social networking integration, to the point that it will even show you status updates from a contact across multiple social networks.
Lastly we have Android Beam. This is an implementation of the NFC technology that’s built-in to the Nexus S, Galaxy Nexus, and presumably other devices that will allow ICS users to share things by simply touching their phones together. The example given was to share an article from a web page by tapping another phone and it appearing on the screen of the other. I’m not sure how often it would get used for that specific purpose, but it could be really useful for transferring contacts between people quickly.
I was thoroughly impressed with everything I saw. Nothing particularly disappointed me but I am very skeptical of ICS’ facial recognition unlock feature. I can’t wait to plunk down my cash for a Galaxy Nexus and likewise fiddle with the myriad changes to Android. Ice Cream Sandwich looks exactly like what I was hoping for. Let me know what you guys thought in the comments, too!