Earlier this week, Google officially announced the latest version of its popular Android mobile OS, v4.0, a.k.a., "Ice Cream Sandwich," along with a brand new device that runs Android 4.0: The Samsung Galaxy Nexus--formerly referred to as the "Nexus Prime."
Though Google is really targeting consumers with Android 4.0, the new OS packs a handful of new features and functionality that could be valuable to businesspeople and the IT administrators who support them. The following list spotlights eight of the most noteworthy business features in Android 4.0, which should become available on a variety of new devices in addition to the Galaxy Nexus, and via software updates for some existing handhelds, in the coming weeks and months.
1) Android 4.0 Supports On-Device Encryption
The latest version of Android, 4.0, supports full on-device data encryption, according to Dan Morrill, a Google engineer who works on the Android OS. Past versions of the Android handheld OS could connect to Microsoft Exchange Servers for access to corporate e-mail, calendars, contacts and more, but only if those Exchange Servers did not have a device-encryption IT policy enabled. (Microsoft's brand new Windows Phone 7.5 "Mango" OS does not support on-device encryption, and as such, I recently dubbed it unsuitable for business use.)
Android Ice Cream Sandwich device encryption means any corporate data stored on users' devices is "scrambled" to protect the info if the handheld is lost or stolen.
Google's latest tablet OS, Android 3.0 "Honeycomb," already supports on-device encryption, according to Morrill.
2) Voice Typing Enhancements in Android 4.0
Android's talk-to-talk engine got a lot "smarter" with Ice Cream Sandwich, according to Google. Text should instantly appear on screen as you speak. You simply touch the microphone on your Android 4.0 device's keyboard and use your voice to instantly type your emails, SMS, or anywhere you want to enter text.
These enhancements should make the feature a much more viable option for business users.
3) Improved Copy and Paste in Android 4.0
The copy and paste function in Android Ice Cream Sandwich also got an upgrade, according to TechCrunch. Selecting, copying and replacing content should be significantly easier. And users can now move around full blocks of text. Enterprise users who send lots of e-mail and other messages are sure to appreciate this enhancement.
4) New Calendar Features in Android 4.0
The Android Ice Cream Sandwich OS has a revamped calendar UI that makes navigating calendar pages easier and more intuitive. And a new pinch-to-zoom feature makes precise zooming in on calendar items much simpler.
5) "Face Unlock" in Android 4.0
Google hasn't really released too many details on the new "Face Unlock" feature in Android Ice Cream Sandwich, which lets users unlock their handhelds by simply staring into their devices' digital camera lenses. So it's unclear whether or not Face Unlock will meet organizations' security requirements and serve as a suitable number- or alphanumeric-password replacement. But if so, the feature could make it easier for users to unlock devices while still maintaining data security.
6) Disabling Apps in Android 4.0
Android Ice Cream Sandwich has a new feature that lets users disable practically any application they may want to, including those pesky carrier pre-installed apps that can strain device resources and drain battery even if you choose not to use them, according to Google's Morrill.
Android 4.0 adds the ability to disable an app outright so it never runs unless you launch it, Morrill says.
7) "Android Beam" Uses NFC to Share Data
Android Ice Cream Sandwich also makes sharing contact information, URLs, maps and directions, videos and media quicker and easier thanks to a new, Near Field Communications (NFC) based feature called "Android Beam." Businesspeople can instantly share data by simply holding two NFC-enabled, Android 4.0 devices close together to initiate the process.
8) Screen Shots
A brand new screen shot feature in Android Ice Cream Sandwich lets you easily capture your device's screen and then save it to your camera roll. Using the Samsung Galaxy Nexus, you simply hold down the power and volume-down buttons simultaneously to snap a screen shot. (Google's Android 3.0 Honeycomb tablet OS also has a native screen shot feature.)
This new feature can make it easy for enterprise users to share images of webpages. Also, screen captures sent to IT by users can help administrators diagnose and resolve smartphone technical issues, among other things.