With Google teasing us about the next major release, codenamed Ice Cream Sandwich, of its popular mobile operating system fan sites and online forums are already brimming with speculation about what new features the latest incarnation of Android could contain.
We already know from Google’s announcement at I/O 2011 back in May that ICS is going to combine Gingerbread and Honeycomb into one operating system, avoiding the need for two separate versions of Android, and that this version of Android is “the most ambitious yet” when compared to previous incarnations such as Gingerbread and Froyo.
Leaked screenshots posted on the Internet a few days ago show that ICS has heavily borrowed from Honeycomb (for example the slidable application changer) and the ring unlock screen. They also confirm what everyone has been speculating: that this version of Android will be known as Android 4.0.
Two leaked screenshots of Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich), courtesy of Romanian website Mobilissimo
But Google are still being sneaky and not disclosing all the new features that we can expect. After looking at some of the past faults in Android as an operating system, here are eight features that I would love to see in the upcoming release!
Android has been criticised recently for being a relatively unsecure operating system, and seeing as it is the most popular smartphone OS in the world, it is naturally the target for hackers and their bugs and viruses. Since we use our smartphones for lots of different things, such as checking our e-mail or browsing our favourite social networks, it is a bit unnerving to think that our personal details could be in the hands of hackers.
The security of Android has been brought into question recently
It would be nice to see an integrated security system (something like Windows Defender) built in to ICS just to assure Android users that their personal details are safe and cannot be accessed by others. This would also mean that Android users don’t have to sift through the range of security software on the Market, which is diverse to say the least.
2. Improved OTA Updates
Apple has always had the upper hand over Android when it comes to software updates. Unlike Android, Apple pushes out software updates to all of its devices that are compatible with the new system, unlike Android where it is down to the individual device manufacturer to approve and push out the update.
Manufacturers of Android devices haven't got the best track record when it comes to pushing out software updates
This can mean that Android owners can be left waiting months for the new update to be pushed out to their phone, which probably explains the popularity of custom ROMs (such as CyanogenMod), where owing to the much more active developer community updates are pushed out more often. Google should address this “fragmentation” of Android and push out updates centrally, instead of making owners wait months on end. I certainly want ICS on my phone as soon as it is officially released…
3. Google Music
Google Music was announced at Google’s I/O back in May this year, however the service is still in the beta stage and only available to users in the United States.
Google Music offers cloud-based streaming for up to 20,000 songs
It would be nice to see Google Music released to everyone around the world alongside ICS, since Apple’s iCloud service, which offers pretty much the same thing (plus a few more features), is set to be released this Wednesday.
4. Better Look
I may get a lot of stick for this, but I still think that Android has been designed more with functionality in mind rather than aesthetics. The whole OS is still quite blocky looking, in comparison to iOS’s smooth, round design. Although Android has its advantages, the whole look of the operating system isn’t one of them.
iOS certainly beats Android (currently, anyway) when it comes to looks
I would like ICS to take a good few leaves out of Honeycomb’s book, as I found the design of Honeycomb a refreshing change to Android. However, judging by these screenshots, it seems like Google have sussed this one out already…
5. Application Development
One of the major gripes about Honeycomb was the fact that developers had to actually optimise their existing Android applications for the new, tablet-based operating system. This meant that although existing Android applications will work on Honeycomb devices, they are simply stretched to make use of the bigger screen. As ICS is one operating system for phones and tablets, I would like to see Google make the transition between phone apps and tablet apps a lot easier, meaning that two separate applications don’t have to released for each platform.
6. Better PC and Mac Integration
Anyone who has tried to sync an Android phone with a PC or a Mac will know that it’s not a pleasant experience. Most manufacturers provide their own solution, but these can vary greatly. Google should have one program for all Android phones (like iTunes) to make it easier to synchronise phones and tablets with computers.
Kies is Samsung's program which helps you synchronise your Android phone with your PC or Mac
Whenever I want to take a screenshot of my phone, I have to dig out my phone’s USB cable, fire up the Android SDK kit, make sure USB debugging is activated on my phone and take one that way. Many of the screenshot applications available on the Market will only work if your phone is rooted. Google really needs to address this and make it easier to take screenshots on your phone without having to search around for your USB cable…
The most important feature about ICS is that it should remain open-source. The great beauty about Android is that manufacturers and developers are allowed to freely modify it, compared to iOS where Apple locks down their operating system tighter than Fort Knox.
Android 4.0 should remain open-source and accessible for all
Developers welcome Android as a modding system as it gives them the freedom to do what they want, and the results are sometimes pretty spectacular. Look at CyanogenMod for example, which Google actively welcomes. Through the active developer community, as well as Google’s own software engineers, Android can strive to achieve far greater goals and become an operating system to rival all others.
Have you got any other wishes for the new version of Android? Share your thoughts in the comments below!