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Google unveils what's new in Android 4 'Ice Cream Sandwich'

Galen Gruman | Oct. 19, 2011
Unified mobile OS for tablets, smartphones clones some iOS features and focuses on a slicker UI and new developer APIs

In the revised OS, a new social API lets developers create applications can integrate contacts, profile data, and calendar events from any of the user’s activities or social networks. Calendar services are also now made accessible to apps. And a new sharing API lets apps share data through a standard mechanism across the OS.

Android 4 also supports Wi-Fi Direct, a recent standard for creating ad hoc wireless networks among devices, and Bluetooth-based health care devices, such as wireless monitoring equipment. And Android 4 now supports styli with a set of APIs that can distinguish pressure, angle, and other pen-oriented input nuances. The combination of support for Bluetooth-enabled medical equipment and pen input suggests Google may be making a push into the health care market with its tablets.

As previously promised, Android 4 also supports near-field communications for use in mobile payment systems.

The UI changes appear meant to provide more customized information to users, such as sizable widgets and configurable alert displays, as well as provide more gesture controls for interacting with tasks rather than rely so heavily on Android's menus. Google has published a summary of the Android 4 changes at its website.


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