Android-Ice-Cream-Sandwich-Logo Google has announced the next version of Android and it’s gearing up to be the best outing yet for the mobile operating system. After Android Honeycomb which brought Google’s thinking to tablets, Google Ice Cream Sandwich (every incarnation is named after a sweet tasty treat) shifts the focus back to phones.

Google is planning to launch the new OS before the end of 2011, and we already know quite a lot about what it’s got in store. Read on for 10 cool treats Android Ice Cream Sandwich will contain…

1 A unified OS for tablets and phones

Android Honeycomb was created for tablets but Android Ice Cream Sandwich will be one OS to rule them all, bringing together phones and tablets with one common user interface and set of features. That means it’ll be much easier to pair an Android tablet and an Android phone without needing to handle two different sets of menus and settings.

2 A slicker look

Android Ice Cream Sandwich will bring the slick holographic user interface, updated app launcher and interactive home screen widgets of Android Honeycomb to all devices. It’ll also include a simpler, smarter system for multitasking.

3 Apps that work on every device

Android Ice Cream Sandwich will arrive along with a new developer API which will make apps that work on both Android tablets and Android phones the norm. That’s great news for owners of Android devices, because syncing data between phones and tablets will be far simpler.

4 Google Music

Another bold feature of Android Ice Cream Sandwich is Google Music, which is now available in beta in the US. It lets you store your music collection online and simply sync playlists across different Android devices.

5 Movies on the go

Just as music has been given some attention with Android Ice Cream Sandwich, Google is aiming to turn your phone into a mobile multiplex with Google Movies. In the US, it’s offering films to rent for 30 days. Hopefully, like Google Music, its a service the UK will see soon.

6 Face detection

App developers will be able to access a phone or tablet’s sensors to detect where your head, nose and eyes are. It’s a slightly mad idea, but opens up the possibility of apps that can be controlled with your eyes, or facial expressions. Imagine video conferencing apps and games that know where you’re looking. Clever app makers could make your game of Angry Birds pause when you look away from the screen. Now, tell us your mind isn’t already racing at the possibilities? 

7 Super-charged sharing skills

Sharing information simply by tapping two devices together is going to be a big Android Ice Cream Sandwich feature. It’ll use the NFC features of the newest Android smartphones to fling almost any item, including web pages, contacts and YouTube videos between devices with a tap.

8 An accessory bonanza

Another interesting feature coming to Android with Ice Cream Sandwich is the ability for your phone or tablet to act as a “USB host”. That means you’ll be able to hook up peripherals like mice, a keyboard and even Xbox controllers to squeeze even more from Android. It’s likely to keep tablet owners happy, since they’ll be able to play games or type lengthy documents easier on the move.

9 Improved Wi-Fi skills 

Android Ice Cream Sandwich will also deliver a major enhancement to the way your Android device deals with Wi-Fi connections. The OS will add a high-performance Wi-Fi lock to keep a strong connection to a network even when a device’s screen is off. A more consistent Wi-Fi connection makes continuous audio and video streaming more stable, even when your phone is asleep, and means long Skype calls or Spotify music streaming will be more stable.

Connecting to work Wi-Fi networks will also be easier with Android Ice Cream Sandwich, as the OS will give you the option to enter custom settings for any hotspot you hook up to. If you need to get into technical details like proxy hostname, ports and subdomains, Ice Cream Sandwich will make the process a lot simpler.  

10 Android that adapts to your phone

Rather than creating an OS that outdates all versions before it, Google is promising that Android Ice Cream Sandwich will work on as many existing devices as possible by adapting to the hardware it’s running on.

Want to find out more about the history of Android? Try our Android versions guide

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