In October 2011, Android released version 4.0, the first major update for non-tablet mobile devices since Gingerbread (version 2.3), nicknamed “Ice Cream Sandwich.”
Ice Cream Sandwich provided a host of updates for the Android user interface in the form of new typefaces, virtual buttons, and an increase in hardware speed. Further aesthetic changes include simpler folder creation methods, separation of widgets from apps into separate tabs (simplifying access to the widgets), and improvements to both speech-to-text functionality and the copy-and-paste directives. Ice Cream Sandwich also increased user awareness of personal data usage, allowing for users to disable data usage upon reaching their plan limit, introducing built-in warnings about approaching limits, and shutting down data-using apps idling in the background.
Ice Cream Sandwich was the first Android version to support WiFi Direct, essentially a similar technology to Bluetooth, which allows for the transfer of data between Direct-enabled devices within a limited physical range without the need for available wireless access (essentially creating a limited WiFi-based connection). A similar advance in device-to-device communication is version 4.0’s introduction of Android Beam, which lets users share web links, contact information, or apps without the need for a pairing process by physically tapping one device to another, using Near-Field Communication instead of WiFi-based technology.
Other innovations within Ice Cream Sandwich include Face Unlock, a unique feature that allows users to utilize facial recognition software to unlock devices, and improved social network integration with the user’s contacts. Ice Cream Sandwich also transformed the Camera application, shrinking shutter lag to virtually zero, introducing panorama and time lapse modes, adding built-in editing software, and supporting higher-definition video recording (1080p). Moreover, Ice Cream Sandwich refreshes the design of the Gallery, including support for creation, storage, and sharing of screen captures, new image format support (WebP) and reorganized image stacks using location and subject recognition.
In the six months following the initial release of Ice Cream Sandwich, Android released three minor updates (4.0.2, 4.0.3, and 4.0.4), which fixed bugs and further stabilized and simplified the aesthetic experience with graphics updates and smoother camera and video performance updates. In June 2012, Android retired the Ice Cream Sandwich moniker with the introduction of Android 4.1, nicknamed “Jelly Bean.”