Android 4 also borrows some features introduced in Apple's iOS 5, such as the ability to apply silly effects to video (using the Photo Booth app in iOS), to edit and adjust photos (an enhancement to iOS 5's Photos app), and to sync Chrome browser bookmarks via the cloud (one component of Apple's iCloud service). Camera enhancements include single-motion panoramic capture, automatic facial focus, and stabilized image zoom. The latter two are enhancements found in the recently released Apple iPhone 4S.
Unique capabilities in Android 4 include face identification that can be used in lieu of passwords and the ability in the Chrome browser to tell websites to provide their full desktop vesions rather than their mobile-optimized versions.
In the revised OS, a new social API lets developers create applications that can integrate contacts, profile data, and calendar events from any of the user's activities or social networks. Calendar services are also now made accessible to apps. A new sharing API lets apps share data through a standard mechanism across the OS.
Android 4 also supports Wi-Fi Direct, a recent standard for creating ad hoc wireless networks among devices, and Bluetooth-based health care devices, such as wireless monitoring equipment. Android 4 now supports styli with a set of APIs that can distinguish pressure, angle, and other pen-oriented input nuances. The combination of support for Bluetooth-enabled medical equipment and pen input suggests Google may be making a push into the health care market with its tablets.
As previously promised, Android 4 also supports near-field communications for use in mobile payment systems and for "beaming" bursts of data between devices.
The UI changes appear meant to provide more customized information to users, such as sizable widgets and configurable alert displays, as well as more gesture controls for interacting with tasks rather than relying so heavily on Android's menus. Google has published a summary of the Android 4 changes at its website.
This article, "Google unveils what's new in Android 4 'Ice Cream Sandwich'," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Follow the latest developments in business technology news and get a digest of the key stories each day in the InfoWorld Daily newsletter. For the latest developments in business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.