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Google's mobile OS gets a major upgrade this week if the tipsters are right, but there's no need to wait to see some of the new capabilities in action.
The first smartphone sporting Google's latest version of its mobile OS — Android 4.0 "Ice Cream Sandwich" — is the Samsung Nexus S due in mid-November, with more devices expected for the holidays and upgrades available for at least some existing devices. Android 4 unifies the tablet and smartphone with a single OS that promises a more compelling, touch-savvier, and slicker interface.
Although no devices running Android 4 are yet available, InfoWorld ran Android 4 on Google's SDK simulator to provide a first look as to what's different in Android 4 from the previous Android 2.3 "Gingerbread" version for smartphones and Android 3.x "Honeycomb" for tablets. The screen images here are from the smartphone emulator.
Most of what's new in Android 4 is new to smartphones, which have been running the 2.x OS versions for a year or more; many of the new capabilities for Android smartphones — such as many of its security and widget capabilities — come from Android 3.x for tablets. But Android 4.0 also has new features for both smartphones and tablets, such as its ability to recognize your face and use it to unlock your device.