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Samsung, Google unveil latest Android OS, phone

Nancy Gohring | Oct. 19, 2011
Google and Samsung on Tuesday unveiled the Galaxy Nexus phone running Ice Cream Sandwich, the latest version of Android.

Ice Cream Sandwich includes a very useful new tool for managing data usage that some operators might not like. The data usage application shows a chart of data usage for the current billing period. Users can set a threshold after which the application will either notify them or cut off access to data, depending on the user's preference. Users can decide to prevent applications from using any data while running in the background so that the applications are only active while in use.

Ice Cream Sandwich also has a number of neat additions to the camera application. The camera has zero shutter lag--it takes a photo the instant the user hits the capture button. A new panorama feature lets a user take a panorama shot simply by slowly panning the camera across a scene. The application stitches the photos together.

The software also features a new People app that is reminiscent of the similar Windows Phone application. Barra called it a "magazine style UI" that features large blocks of photos, much like Windows Phone's Metro tiles.

Tapping on a contact in the People app displays a large photo of the person, all the contact information and all the ways a user is linked to the person, such as via LinkedIn and Twitter. Users will be able to add individual people to the phone's home screen for easy access, like Windows Phone users can.

Ice Cream Sandwich uses Near Field Communications in a new way in an application called Android Beam. Galaxy Nexus users will be able to tap their phones against another phone to share web pages, maps, YouTube videos and even games.

Users will be able to create folders of applications on their home screens in a similar way that iPhone users make folders. By dragging one application onto another, the user creates a new folder.

A new screen shot capability lets users hold down the power and volume buttons at the same time to capture a photo of the current phone screen.

Ice Cream Sandwich also now includes facial recognition technology that allows a user of the Galaxy Nexus to look into the phone's camera to unlock it, rather than typing in a code to pass the lock screen. In a demonstration at the event, the technology failed to recognize Matias Duarte, senior director of Android user experience who showed off the new operating system.

The phone features a 1.2 GHz dual-core processor and a large, 4.65 inch Samsung HD Super Amoled display with 1280 pixels by 720 pixels resolution.

The Galaxy Nexus has an unusually small bezel--or the space between the edge of the screen and the edge of the phone--which means it's still comfortable in your pocket despite the large screen size, said Kevin Packingham, senior vice president of product innovation for Samsung. "We made the screen wider but it won't feel bigger in your hand," he said.


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