Android 4.0 and Samsung Galaxy Nexus unveiled: 5 surprises

Google and Samsung unveiled the latest flagship Android phone and operating system last night in Hong Kong. Both look very enticing, and a few surprises about them were divulged.

Google and Samsung took the stage in Hong Kong last night and unveiled the latest offering from each of the companies. Samsung trotted out its Galaxy Nexus, the latest Android flagship phone and the first that will ship with Google's unveiled product, Android 4.0. Android 4.0 is Ice Cream Sandwich (ICS), and it borrows heavily from other mobile platforms in its design.

As I watched the presentation, I noticed a few surprises that hadn't previously leaked out about the Galaxy Nexus and ICS.

Galaxy Nexus uses the TI OMAP4460 processor. This is unusual as Samsung makes its own processors, and has in fact claimed Apple infringes on Samsung's chipsets. It makes me wonder if the TI is a better performer under ICS, especially in the graphics area. Or perhaps Samsung is avoiding any future litigation from Apple by using this chipset from TI.

Android Beam is webOS Touch to Share. Google proudly showed off its Android Beam, which uses NFC to squirt stuff from one ICS phone to another by touching the backs of the two phones together. Google showed off sending contact information and web pages. This is the same technology demonstrated by HP early this year in its webOS press event. It was designed to send web pages from a webOS phone to a webOS tablet. Google looks to have broadened the types of information that can be sent by Android Beam.

Face unlock. This uses the front camera on the Galaxy Nexus (and likely all ICS-bearing phones) to unlock the phone without user intervention. The user shows the phone what the user looks like once, and then it recognizes the user and unlocks the phone as appropriate going forward. While it failed during Google's demo last night, the technology is actually quite mature and should work fine. IBM and Lenovo have included facial recognition software to unlock PCs for a decade.

People app. Android 4.0 has a new People app that scrapes all information about contacts into one app. It facilitates looking up contact information and having access to all online information for a given contact. It is possible to see the all social network updates for the contact in the app, a nice feature. This ability is similar to the Synergy technology in webOS, and live tiles in Windows Phone 7.

Folders on the home screen. ICS will allow users to drag one app icon on the homescreen onto another to automatically create folders for organizing apps. If this sounds like iOS, that is because it is very similar indeed.

Both the Galaxy Nexus and Android 4.0 are major updates that should help both companies' efforts. ICS looks to be a solid update to the Android platform, although it is not clear how this will work with tablets. This version is the first to fully support both phones and tablets, so this tablet support will be critical for the success of the genre under Android. Google has stated that there should be no tablet-specific apps in ICS, rather all apps should work on both phones and larger devices. We'll have to see how that plays out.

Related news: