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Google launches Android 4.0 “Ice Cream Sandwich”

Major new release unifies smartphone and tablet operating systems

Google has released the latest version of Android, code-named “Ice Cream Sandwich”. This major release unifies the smartphone and tablet versions of the operating system, the latest versions of which are Android 2.3 “Gingerbread” and Android 3.2 “Honeycomb”. The software is currently only available on the new Samsung Galaxy Nexus, launched at the same event, while developers can download the Software Developer’s Kit (SDK) to start creating applications that will work with the new release.

The new version of Android is code-named
The new version of Android is code-named “Ice Cream Sandwich”

Android 4.0 has many new features, and overhauls the interface for smartphone users dramatically, bringing it more in line with the Android 3.2 “Honeycomb” tablet interface. The new lock screen is identical to Honeycomb’s: a circle with a lock icon in the centre – you drag the icon out of the circle to unlock the device.

Similarly, some new phones, including the Galaxy Nexus, don’t have any physical buttons. Instead, there’ll be a new line of icons along the bottom of the screen to replicate the Home and Back buttons, and there’s a new button to bring up a new multi-tasking view. This is copied directly from Honeycomb – it brings up a list of apps you’ve recently used, with screenshots of each to make them more easily identifiable.

A new Tasks button lets you view recently-used apps
A new Tasks button lets you view recently-used apps

Apps can now be organised into folders, simply by dragging one app onto another in the tray. The app tray also has a new tab that shows available widgets – again, much like the Honeycomb interface – and widgets can now be resized, making home screen customisation more flexible. App notifications now have more information attached, and can be dismissed by flicking them off the screen.

The app tray includes a new tab for widgets
The app tray includes a new tab for widgets

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