At events in Hong Kong this morning, Google unveiled a new version of its Android operating system that’s designed both for smartphones and tablets.
Called “Ice Cream Sandwich,” the software is Google’s big hope for extending its lead in the smartphone business and catching up to Apple’s iPad in the evolving market for Web tablets.
For consumers, the most noticeable change is a cleaner interface, a new browser and keyboard, and the integration of Google products such as its Google Plus social network and Hangouts video chat service.
Also included are new photo editing capabilities, voice transcription for text input and wireless sharing of files between Nexus devices.
The gee-whiz feature is a facial recognition system that can be used to unlock the phone, although it failed to work during its first public demo this morning, apparently.
Google announced the software and a new flagship Android phone, the Galaxy Nexus, at an event with Samsung. Then Android boss Andy Rubin provided details during an interview at an All Things D conference in Hong Kong.
Rubin showed the facial recognition system to host Walt Mossberg but it didn’t work for Mossberg, according to the event’s live report.
Samsung is being given first crack at Android 4.0 for the Nexus, which uses its new Galaxy chassis with a thin screen and small bulge at one end. Other companies will use the software eventually. Motorola said it’s going to release phones with it in early 2012, according to Pocket-lint.com.
Here’s Google’s video showing hightlights of the Galaxy Nexus, which has a 4.65-inch curved display, a 1.2 gigahertz dual-core processor and radios for both 4G LTE and HSPA+ networks. The video shows a Verizon Wireless model, but Rubin sidestepped questions about the Verizon release, according to a live blog from All Things D.