Android phones now make up over half of all smartphone sales. This year's update to Android 4.0, code-named Ice Cream Sandwich (ICS), contains numerous changes to make Android friendlier than ever, and that may even make you more productive. The new OS is expected for widespread release early in 2012. Here are notable changes that will make you want a new Android phone, or hope that yours can upgrade.
1. Data Usage Monitoring
With unlimited data plans, you didn’t need to be concerned about how data-intensive your apps were. There was no worrying about syncing via Wi-Fi instead of while on the road. With unlimited data now a rarity, however, knowing your data usage is important. ICS not only includes an app for viewing data usage, but for estimating if you’ll exceed your limit. It even allows you to set up alerts to let you know when you’re approaching your limit, and lets you cap usage so you don’t incur additional charges.
If your work involves capturing images, ICS adds a big improvement. Where current versions of Android generally require you to unlock the phone and then open an app to take pictures, ICS will let you activate the camera from the lock screen. It will also include “zero shutter lag”, allowing you to capture multiple shots quickly, and more easily capture what you are seeing, instead of pressing a button, waiting a second or two, and missing what you hoped to capture.
3. Bookmark Sync
Chances are you do most of your Web browsing on a desktop or laptop computer. You never know when you’ll want to access what you’ve bookmarked. Bookmark syncing between your computer's Chrome browser and ICS allows you to have access to all your bookmarks no matter where you are, bringing your on-the-road experience one step closer to your office capabilities.
[More in pictures: Ice Cream Sandwich Does Business]
Using the on-screen keyboard to take notes or fill in forms can be challenging, especially on phones with small and medium-size screens. ICS brings big improvements to the stock keyboard, making it more accurate in capturing your taps, as well as offering improved auto-correction for when it doesn’t get it quite right.
5. Speech to Text
Speech to text conversion is not new to Android, but improvements in ICS make it much easier and more powerful. Instead of you speaking and then waiting for the translation, text is now converted while you speak, and pauses won’t automatically end your input. This makes speech input in virtually any app, especially dictation type apps, far more appealing and useful.
Getting voicemail on the road is quite common, and ICS adds improvements to make dealing with them better. There's the capability to speed up the playback of your voicemail, allowing you to make it through a long message more quickly. You’ll also see voicemails listed in your call log. An application programming interface (API) has been added that will allow developers to have voicemails transcribed, so a carrier could potentially enable its voicemail system to include this visual voicemail feature, much like Google Voice users have had for some time.