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Ice Cream Sandwich Does Business: Pictures

Google's latest release of Android--called Ice Cream Sandwich--contains many enhancements that have a lot of potential in the world of business.

Ice Cream Sandwich Does Business

Earlier this month, Google introduced the newest version of the Android operating system, Ice Cream Sandwich. The new platform brings in features that could be very useful for businesses of all sizes. Better multitasking, voicemail and call management, an improved email client, and a unified calendar make this update compelling. Here's a look at a number of those features (with more info here).

Multitasking

When you get an email about a meeting to discuss a document, you want to be able to switch quickly between that message, your calendar, and your office program. Multitasking in Ice Cream Sandwich is more visual with recent apps now showing as thumbnails rather than as just an icon.

Improved Lock Screen

Ice Cream Sandwich adds many task shortcuts to the lock screen. Without unlocking the phone, you can now jump directly to the camera, pull down the notification window, and manage music playback.

Quickly Respond to Incoming Calls by Text

When a call comes in and you're not in a place where you can answer, you now have the option to dismiss the call and send a text reply at the same time. From the incoming call screen, you can slide a control to see a list of optional responses, and tap one of them to send it and end the call.

Spell-Checking and Improved Dictionaries

The red line makes an appearance in Ice Cream Sandwich with a new spelling checker. When you tap on a misspelled word, you'll get multiple spelling suggestions and options to delete the word or add it to the dictionary. The software keyboard also offers improved word suggestions and better handling of double-typed characters, skipped letters, and missing spaces.

Improved Voice Input

Upgrades to the voice input engine include continuous listening and streaming voice recognition. This means you can talk as long as you want with whatever pauses you want. When dictation is finished, possible errors are underlined and can be replaced with a tap.

Better Control Over Data Usage

For users on tiered data plans, Ice Cream Sandwich adds new controls for managing network data usage. You can set warning levels, hard limits, disable mobile data completely, or just limit the data used by individual apps.

Better Contact Management and Improved Email

A new People app integrates contacts throughout the system. Profiles are richer, with large pictures, phone numbers and addresses, accounts, status updates, and a new button for connecting on integrated social networks.

Sending email is easier with improved auto-completion of recipients. You can also create “quick responses”--blocks of frequently used text stored in the app and inserted from a menu.

Integrated Calendar and Visual Voicemail

The updated calendar app integrates personal, work, school, and social agendas.

The revised calendar API will allow third-party apps to add events to the shared database to manage alerts, attendee lists, dates, and reminders. Apps can also read from the database to display alerts and reminders.

The phone app will now feature visual voicemail, with transcriptions. Third-party apps can also add voice messages and transcriptions to the inbox.

Easier Screenshots

You'll no longer need to root your phone or install a third-party app to grab a screenshot. Hardware buttons will allow you to snap a screenshot and store it locally. From there, you can edit it or share it through the Gallery or other image-editing app.

Android Beam

Android Beam is a content-sharing feature for phones that have NFC (Near-Field Communication) enabled. With Beam, you can share apps, contacts, music, videos, and other content by touching two NFC-enabled phones together and then tapping them to send.

Face Unlock

The fingerprint swiper on the original Motorola Atrix may not have gone over so well, but with Ice Cream Sandwich, you can use your face to unlock the phone. The OS takes advantage of facial recognition technology to register and recognize faces when unlocking the device. The phone will still have a PIN backup system if you're having a particularly bad hair day.

Wi-Fi Direct

Wi-Fi Direct support allows users to employ a peer-to-peer connection to connect directly over Wi-Fi. Third-party apps can take advantage of this technology to instantly share files and other media between devices or with a desktop PC. You could also use the feature to stream media to a Wi-Fi-enabled TV or to send a file to a Wi-Fi printer.

Better Stylus Support

Ice Cream Sandwich will better support stylus input including use of tilt and distance, pressure, buttons, and erasers. The platform will distinguish between finger, stylus, and mouse. This gives app developers the opportunity to create precise drawing apps as well as apps using handwriting and shape recognition.

Enterprise Enhancements--VPN and Camera Policies

A new API for VPN allows developers to build or extend their own VPN solutions with secure credential storage. There is also a standard, built-in VPN client that provides access to L2TP and IPSec protocols.

Administrators can now remotely disable the camera on a device managed with the Device Policy Manager for users working in sensitive environments.

Enterprise encryption has also improved with support for EAS v14. It supports EAS certificate authentication, provides ABQ strings for device type and mode, and allows automatic sync to be disabled while roaming.