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Google’s Ice Cream Sandwich OS Reimagines NFC With Android Beam

I’m at the launch of Google’s Ice Scream Sandwich Operating System and the Galaxy Nexus phone in Hong Kong, and two features in the Galaxy Nexus really stood out for me:
– Android Beam: is Google’s implementation of near field communications, which allows information sharing between two apps. How does it work? Say you have a website or Google Maps open on your phone, and you want to transfer that information to your friend, who also has a Galaxy Nexus. You just touch the two phones together, and the same information gets shared from one phone to another. Another example showcased: if I’m playing a game and I want to share it with you, I could just put the two phones together and the android market would launch, allowing you to download the same game. Note that in the demos showcased, information was being pulled from the web, but it would be interesting to see it being used for transfer of information from one phone to another, replacing bluetooth. Google plans to open up the API for developers to use, and this phone could help NFC go mainstream outside of Japan. It would be interesting to see how mobile payment companies leverage this integration – perhaps enabling P2P payments with just a tap of two phones?

– People App: Is a reimagining of the phone book, and integrating information from multiple social networks. While it displays user information like the phone book, a swipe allows you to view profiles of your favorite users in a magazine format, allowing you to call them with a tap on a photo. You can also add people to your phone screen. Additional contact information is integrated from social networks like twitter. This reminds me of a plugin I use with Gmail, called Rapportive, which fetches similar information and displays it in the sidebar. It is also similar to the People hub that Microsoft’s Windows Phone 7 offers.


Other notes from the presscon:

– Android 4.0 or Ice Cream Sandwich will be open-source unlike Honeycomb, Android’s last release, which means that all OEMs and not just Google Partners, will be able to offer it across various device.
-Google also showcased face recognition as a means of unlocking the phone, but at the demo itself, that failed to work.
– The video camera allows users to save photos while recording, with just a tap of the screen while the recording is taking place.
– Zero shutter lag for taking photos.
– Introduces widgets with scrolling, and they’re now resizable. They’re also added to the same menu as apps.
– It adds controls for managing data usage and features and features analytics on data usage by apps and usage statistics for cellular or Wifi data use.
– It also features a better voice input system that takes continuous dictations and converts it into text simultaneously.
-Multitasking via a recent apps button that features thumbnails, and virtual buttons for back, home and recent apps, similar to the Honeycomb experience are part of Android 4.0.
– The ICS browser features Bookmarks synchronisation from Google Chrome and supports 16 open tabs.
– The Galaxy Nexus will launch in November in the US, Europe and Asia. The launch in Japan is with NTT Docomo. Ice Cream Sandwich will also be rolled out in November, however the exact details about the upgrade path for existing Android phones and tablets were not disclosed.

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