In addition to the regular tap-style input, you can use Android's voice recognition technology to enter text anywhere in the system. Just tap the microphone icon on the keyboard and begin to speak; the system will transcribe text on the fly and show your words on-screen as you talk.
One nice thing about Android compared to other mobile platforms is that you aren't limited to using only the default system keyboard; you can opt to replace or supplement it with a third-party alternative if you'd like. Several popular third-party options exist, including SwiftKey -- which is known for its impressive text-predicting technology -- and Swype, which lets you type by sliding your finger from key to key without ever lifting it up.
Android devices can support a wide range of USB input devices, too, including mice, keyboards and game controllers; you can also wirelessly connect a Bluetooth keyboard to your phone if you really want to get down to business.
Android 4.0 file management and sharing
Unlike other mobile platforms, Android gives you complete control over the files stored on your phone. You can browse your Android device like a computer, moving and copying files or opening and sharing documents at will.
Android 4.0 has a built-in Downloads app that lets you access files you've downloaded from the Web, but the key to truly unlocking your phone's file management potential is installing a good file management app. I like Astro File Manager, which is available for free in the Google Play Store. (The free version of the app has ads; a $3.99 "pro" key will give you an ad-free experience.)
When you open Astro -- or any other comparable file management utility -- you'll see a list of folders and files in your phone's storage. You can navigate through the folders just like you would on your PC's hard drive; pressing and holding any item will give you a list of options like copying, moving, renaming or deleting. It'll also give you an option to send the file to any other compatible application -- if you want to share a document with someone via email, for example, or send it to your Dropbox or Google Drive account.
Android devices can interface with PCs just like portable hard drives, too: Connect your phone to an open USB port on a Windows computer, and it'll automatically show up as a media device (using the MTP protocol). You can then open the device on your computer, click through folders, and copy or move data back and forth as needed.
Mac OS X doesn't natively support the MTP protocol that Android utilizes, so you'll need to install an Android File Transfer application before you can connect your phone to an Apple computer.
Android 4.0 includes full support for near-field communication (NFC), which opens the door for some interesting contact-free device-to-device file sharing. You can pass along a contact, Web page, YouTube video or application from one NFC-enabled Android 4.x device to another simply by touching the two phones together back-to-back; once the connection is established, the system will prompt you to "beam" whatever content is currently loaded on your screen.
With its Galaxy S III phone, Samsung expanded on Android's NFC beaming functionality to allow for contact-free sharing of images, video files and music files; that expanded functionality, however, works only between two Galaxy S III phones and is consequently rather limited in practicality.
So there you have it: the ins and outs of Android 4.0. Bookmark this story, print out our cheat sheet charts for future reference, and you'll be well on your way to becoming an Ice Cream Sandwich pro.
Next: Android 4.0 cheat sheet
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