Google’s latest version of Android should make its way to existing handsets faster than the rollout of other milestone releases, according to the company. And it will also give software developers a chance to build one Android app for both phones and tablets, although one’s mileage may vary.
Ice Cream Sandwich was formally introduced as Android 4.0 last night during an event in Hong Kong for the launch of Samsung’s Galaxy Nexus phone. While an impressive phone, Android 4.0 is an operating system that will eventually wind up on dozens of new and existing Android phones, and Google (NSDQ: GOOG) hasn’t set any limits as of yet on which phones will be able to run the upgrade, according to Hiroshi Lockheimer, vice president of Android Engineering.”
“There’s no hard requirement in terms of, without this, Ice Cream Sandwich doesn’t work,” he said in a interview Wednesday with paidContent. For example, while the Galaxy Nexus uses a dual-core processor, Android 4.0 will run on phones with single-core processors. And while the Galaxy Nexus has a 720p resolution display, that’s not a requirement for Android 4.0 phones.
And the same thing goes for phones with hardware buttons: even though the Galaxy Nexus lacks hardware buttons, phones with dedicated buttons will still be able to do everything with Android 4.0 that buyers of Samsung’s latest phone will be able to do.
As a result of the work that Google and its partners have done on streamlining the Android update process, expect to see older Android phones updated to the new operating system faster than past releases, Lockheimer said. “There’s a lot of pent-up demand for Ice Cream Sandwich,” he said, citing Motorola’s announcement that it will bring Android 4.0 to its just-announced Motorola (NYSE: MMI) Razr in early 2012.
Other notable Android 4.0 developments:
—Disabling apps: In an interview with This Is My Next, Google’s Matias Duarte said that Android 4.0 users would able to disable any application they don’t wish to run, including applications that are preloaded onto their phones by carriers or handset makers. Lockheimer clarified that while Android partners retain the right to prevent their users from implementing this feature, “some operators that you’d think definitely do not want this feature are asking us for this feature.”
He further clarified that the feature doesn’t technically uninstall those apps: the code will remain on the device. However, it will prevent those apps from using any system resources or running in the background, and it will remove them from the home screen.
—Tablets: Given that Samsung was holding this event to launch the Galaxy Nexus, it’s only a little surprising that we didn’t hear more about plans for tablets running Android 4.0. But as Google said in May at its Google I/O conference, a key aspect of Android 4.0 is that it allows developers to write one Android application that will scale to multiple screen sizes, including both tablets and smartphones.
Google is taking a slightly different approach than Apple (NSDQ: AAPL) in this regard. iOS apps written for the iPhone will work on the iPad, but the user experience isn’t as nice as it is with apps designed specifically for the iPad. Android 4.0, on the other hand, promises that developers won’t have to design two separate applications. We’ll see how this works in practice.