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Android 4.0 SDK and Platform Highlights

Google has just released Android 4.0 (ICS) preview SDK and platform highlights.

Android 4.0 Highlights Summary

New User Features:

ICS Logo

Official Android 4.0 Logo

  • Refined, evolved UI – Common action more visible, new typeface, improved multitaksing and notifications.
  • Home screen folders and favorites tray – New home screen folders offer a new way for users to group their apps and shortcuts logically.
  • Resizable widgets – Interactive widgets are resizable, so users can expand them to show more content or shrink them to save space
  • New lock screen actions – The lock screens now let users do more without unlocking such as accessing the camera app.
  • Quick responses for incoming calls – Respond by pre-written SMS if you are busy during a call
  • Swipe to dismiss notifications, tasks, and browser tabs
  • Improved text input and spell-checking – The softkeyboard now comes with a spell-checker and can automatically correct typos.
  • Powerful voice input engine – Talk to write SMS.
  • Control over network data – Control data usage on Wi-fi and 3G data networks.
  • Designed for accessibility – Audible feedback with explore-by-touch mode allow visually impaired to use the phone.
  • People and profiles – The new People app offers richer profile information, including a large profile picture, phone numbers, addresses and accounts, status updates, and a new button for connecting on integrated social networks.
  • Unified calendar, visual voicemail
  • Rich and versatile camera capabilities - The camera app allows advanced features such as continuous focus, zero shutter lag exposure, face detection, panorama mode and more.
  • Redesigned Gallery app with photo editor – Larger thumbnails and the picture gallery widget allows you to see pictures in the home screen.
  • Live Effects for transforming video – Apply different effect during video chat or while shooting videos.
  • Sharing with screenshots – ICS finally ships with screenshot capability.
  • Powerful web browsing – The Android Browser can now sync Google Chrome bookmarks, supports offline browsing and performance has been greatly improved.
  • Improved email – More easier-friendly gmail and improve enterprise support (EAS v14)
  • Android Beam for NFC-based sharing – Exchange apps, contacts, music, videos and more via NFC
  • Face Unlock – Unlock your device with face recognition. [I wonder if they can handle twins :)]
  • Wi-Fi Direct and Bluetooth HDP – Wi-Fi peer-to-peer connection and Bluetooth Health Device Profile.

New Developer Features:

  • Unified UI framework for phones, tablets, and more
    Android 4.0 brings a unified UI framework that lets developers create elegant, innovative apps for phones, tablets, and more. It includes all of the familiar Android 3.x interface elements and APIs — fragments, content loaders, Action Bar, rich notifications, resizable home screen widgets, and more — as well as new elements and APIs.
  • Communication and sharing:
    • Social API. A shared social provider and API provide a new unified store for contacts, profile data, status updates, and photos. Any app or social network with user permission can contribute raw contacts and make them accessible to other apps and networks. Applications with user permission can also read profile data from the provider and display it in their applications.
    • Calendar API. A shared calendar content provider and framework API make it easier for developers to add calendar services to their apps.
    • Visual voicemail API. A shared Voicemail provider and API allow developers to build applications that contribute to a unified voicemail store. Voicemails are displayed and played in the call log tab of the platform’s Phone app.
    • Android Beam. Android Beam is an NFC-based feature that lets users instantly share information about the apps they are using, just by touching two NFC-enabled phones together. When the devices are in range, the system sets up an NFC connection and displays a sharing UI. To share whatever they are viewing with the other device, users just touch the screen.
    • Modular sharing widget. The UI framework includes a new widget, ShareActionProvider, that lets developers quickly embed standard share functionality and UI in the Action Bar of their applications.
  • New media capabilities:
    • Low-level streaming multimedia. Android 4.0 provides a direct, efficient path for low-level streaming multimedia so that media applications can now retrieve data from any source, apply proprietary encryption/decryption, and then send the data to the platform for display. To support this low-level streaming, the platform introduces a new native API based on Khronos OpenMAX AL 1.0.1. Tools support for low-level streaming multimedia will be available in an upcoming release of the Android NDK.
    • New camera capabilities. Developers can take advantage of a variety of new camera features in Android 4.0 such as ZSL exposure, continuous focus and image zoom. For easier focusing and image processing, a face-detection service identifies and tracks faces in a preview and returns their screen coordinates.
    • Media effects for transforming images and video. A set of high-performance transformation filters let developers apply rich effects to any image passed as an OpenGL ES 2.0 texture. Developers can adjust color levels and brightness, change backgrounds, sharpen, crop, rotate, add lens distortion, and apply other effects. The transformations are processed by the GPU, so they are fast enough for processing image frames loaded from disk, camera, or video stream.
    • Audio remote controls. Android 4.0 adds a new audio remote control API that lets media applications integrate with playback controls that are displayed in a remote view.
    • New media codecs and containers. Android 4.0 adds support for additional media types and containers: WebP, VP8, HTTP Live streaming protocol, ADTS-contained AAC content and Matroska with Vorbis and VP8 content.
  • New types of connectivity:
    • Wi-Fi Direct.Developers can use a framework API to discover and connect directly to nearby devices over a high-performance, secure Wi-Fi Direct connection. No internet connection or hotspot is needed.
    • Bluetooth Health Device Profile (HDP). Developers can now build powerful medical applications that use Bluetooth to communicate with wireless devices and sensors in hospitals, fitness centers, homes, and elsewhere.
  • New UI components and capabilities
    • Layout enhancements. A new layout, GridLayout, improves the performance of Android applications by supporting flatter view hierarchies that are faster to layout and render. GridLayout is also specifically designed to be configured by drag-and-drop design tools such as the ADT Plug-in for Eclipse.
    • OpenGL ES texture views. A new TextureView object lets developers directly integrate OpenGL ES textures as rendering targets in a UI hierarchy. The object lets developers display and manipulate OpenGL ES rendering just as they would a normal view object in the hierarchy, including moving, transforming, and animating the view as needed. The TextureView object makes it easy for developers to embed camera preview, decoded video, OpenGL game scenes, and more. TextureView can be viewed as a more powerful version of the existing SurfaceView object.
    • Hardware-accelerated 2D drawing. All Android-powered devices running Android 4.0 are required to support hardware-accelerated 2D drawing. Fro this reason, developers can rely on accelerated scaling, rotation, and other 2D operations, as well as accelerated UI components such as TextureView and compositing modes such as filtering, blending, and opacity.
  • New input types and text services
    • Stylus input, button support, hover events. Android 4.0 includes full support for stylus input events, including tilt and distance axes, pressure, and related motion event properties. To help applications distinguish motion events from different sources, the platform adds distinct tool types for stylus, finger, mouse, and eraser.
    • Text services API for integrating spelling checkers. Android 4.0 lets applications query available text services such as dictionaries and spell checkers for word suggestions, corrections, and similar data. This is independent from the IME.
  • Enhanced accessibility APIs
    • Accessibility API. The platform adds accessibility events for explore-by-touch mode, scrolling, and text selection. For these and other events, the platform can attach a new object called an accessibility record that provides extra information about the event context. 
    • Text-to-speech API. A new framework API lets developers write text-to-speech engines and make them available to any app requesting TTS capabilities.
  • Efficient network usage
    In Android 4.0, users can see how much network data their running apps are using. They can also set limits on data usage by network type and disable background data usage for specific applications. Android 4.0 provides network APIs to let applications meet those goals.
  • Security for apps and content

    • Secure management of credentials. Android 4.0 makes it easier for applications to manage authentication and secure sessions. A new keychain API and underlying encrypted storage let applications store and retrieve private keys and their corresponding certificate chains. Any application can use the keychain API to install and store user certificates and CAs securely.
    • Address Space Layout Randomization. Android 4.0 now provides address space layout randomization (ASLR) to help protect system and third party applications from exploitation due to memory-management issues.
  • Enhancements for Enterprise

    • VPN client API. Developers can now build or extend their own VPN solutions on the platform using a new VPN API and underlying secure credential storage. Enterprises can take advantage of a standard VPN client built into the platform that provides access to L2TP and IPSec protocols.
    • Device policy management for camera. The platform adds a new policy control for administrators who manage devices using an installed Device Policy Manager. Administrators can now remotely disable the camera on a managed device for users working in sensitive environments.

Installing Android 4.0 SDK and Documentation

Google has released Android 4.0 SDK.  It can be downloaded for Windows, MacOS or Linux.

If you have already installed Android development environment, you can install Android 4.0 SDK by launching Android SDK and AVD Manager (from the start menu or Eclipse) and installing the following components:

  • Documentation for Android SDK (API 14). This includes a complete API reference, new developer guides, and an API differences report between Android 4.0 and 3.2.
  • SDK Platform for API 14
  • Samples for SDK
  • ARM EABI v7a System Image
  • Google API by Google Inc.
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