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29 Dec 12 Video: Hands-on With Nexus 4, Miracast and the Netgear PTV3000

nexus 4 miracast netgear ptv3000

Miracast technology, one of the lesser talked about features of the Nexus 4, hasn’t had much play over the last month or two as adapters and TVs with the capabilities have yet to really reach the mainstream. There are a couple though, one of which happens to be the Netgear Push2TV PTV3000, which can be found at a variety of tech retailers. I picked one up yesterday, updated the firmware on it, and decided to take Miracast for a spin so that the DL community can see what it’s all about. 

What is Miracast? It’s a technology created by the Wi-Fi Alliance to give users the ability to share content between screens over WiFi. Most of you know this as mirroring, something that can already be done over a hardwired connection in a variety of HDMI docks. The beauty of this, obviously, is that you don’t need wires. You simply need Miracast built-in, a WiFi connection, and a TV, monitor or smartphone.

Is the Netgear PTV3000 worth buying? It’s about $60 at Best Buy, but you should be aware that the firmware out of the box does not actually allow you to use Miracast. The device is simply Miracast-ready, but needs a firmware update to allow that functionality. At this time, there are a couple of beta firmwares in the wild that give it Miracast, however, most are buggy and have their share of issues. If you like to be on the bleeding edge of technology, though, feel free to pick one up to tinker with. (There are instructions down below for updating your Netgear to some of the beta firmwares.)

Ready to see it in action?

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So as you can see from the video, it’s a neat technology, but until we get official firmware on devices like the Netgear PTV3000, it has some issues. In a way, it reminds me of NFC, in that it’s a fabulous idea that needs industry-wide adoption in order to be fabulous.

*Note – I’m told that this works with the Galaxy S3 and Note 2 and AllShare Cast, however, I had issues trying to connect my Note 2. There are apparently other firmwares out there that work better depending on the device.

To turn on Wireless Display (Miracast):

1.  Open SettingsDisplay on your Nexus 4.
2.  Scroll to the bottom to find “Wireless display” and tap on it.
3.  Toggle to “On.”
4.  Search for Miracast-ready devices.

Netgear PTV3000 Firmware Instructions:

1.  Download one of the newer firmwares to your computer:

2.2.2 | 2.1.5 | 2.1.4

2.  Plug-in your PTV3000 to a power source.
3.  Push the WPS button on the side of the unit for more than 5 seconds.
4.  On your computer, open your WiFi network manager and connect to “Push2TV.”
5.  Open a browser and navigate to –
6.  This is the firmware update page, so follow the instructions.
7.  Browse for the new firmware that you downloaded above, and upload it.


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15 Dec 12 Google Adds Carrier Billing To Google Play To Improve Monetization

Disclosure: I have no positions in any stocks mentioned, and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours. I wrote this article myself, and it expresses my own opinions. I am not receiving compensation for it. I have no business relationship with any company whose stock is mentioned in this article. (More…)

An IDC report released this week indicates that smart device shipments broke records in Q3 2012, reaching 303.6 million and are expected to grow to 362 million in the holiday quarter. This statistic coupled with the fact that smartphone users worldwide will download more than 45 billion apps this year, almost twice as many as last year according to the research group Gartner, makes for a truly exploding market. The industry is expected to grow from 31 billion downloads in 2011 to 66 billion downloads by 2016, an annual growth rate of 20% over the next five years.

As I indicated in my previous post, mobile app search is becoming a critical component for any company in the mobile sector. Google (GOOG), Microsoft (MSFT), Apple (AAPL) and Amazon (AMZN) all understand this and are doing their utmost to make apps as easy to find as possible on their respective platforms. Of equal importance, and somewhat overlooked, is app discovery. Finding an app that is of interest is rewarding, however discovering similar apps you may not have even thought of can sometimes feel like striking gold. Mimvi (MIMV.OB) understands this, and has just launched the Mimvi app discovery and recommendation engine on Microsoft Windows Phone 8 platform with versions for the iOS and Android platforms to follow. Meanwhile, Berlin, Germany-based Xyologic announced an international app search partnership with phone maker Nokia (NOK) that is designed to help Lumia smartphone owners discover Windows Phone apps based on the iOS and Android apps they know and like.

Once users have found an app they want, the next logical part of the process is making it as easy as possible for users to perform in-app transactions. So-called “carrier or operator” billing enables this by allowing users to purchase a product or service on their mobile device and have it charged directly to their phone bill. This type of carrier billing has been popular in Europe for some time, allowing users to pay for myriad services and products with their mobile devices.

Google just signed a deal with mobile carrier billing company Bango to bring carrier billing to Google Play, beginning in Australia. The deal could be a vital factor in driving up conversions and revenue for Android developers. Despite its greater market share, Google’s mobile platform generates significantly less revenue and fewer paid customers than rival Apple’s iOS. In a press release, Bango CEO Ray Anderson suggested that carrier billing could be a big step in helping Android developers monetize their products. “As user numbers soar, we will see an increasing flow of developer talent and compelling content channeled through Google Play,” said Anderson. “We’re expecting that operator billing from Bango will boost conversion rates and developer monetization.” A study by Flurry, a leading mobile analytics firm, in March of this year concluded that for the same number of users per platform, every $1.00 generated in the Apple App Store, will generate $0.89 in the Amazon Appstore and $0.23 in Google Play. Google has been working on making carrier billing an option for customers, so they don’t need a credit card to buy an app or to pay for in-app purchases, for the past few years. In October, Verizon (VZ) became the last of the major U.S. carriers to adopt carrier billing. ATT (T), Sprint (S) and T-Mobile have all been accepting charges for quite some time.

Mobile Payment Sector

There is plenty of action in the world of mobile transactions right now. Here are some of the other companies that are striving to make mobile transactions as seamless as possible. Square has introduced a new way to send gift cards. Using Square wallet, you can go through the businesses that use Square, pick the right one for your gift and then purchase a gift card in the amount that you choose. Then you can send the gift card to your friend or family member by email. When someone buys you a gift card and you have Square wallet installed, it’ll pop up in your Passbook in iOS 6. Square recently raised $25 million in funding, led by its new partner Starbucks and is being integrated into all 7,000 of the U.S. Starbucks stores. With Starbucks gift cards as popular as they are, Square’s payment infrastructure could be very busy indeed this holiday season. The company is already processing $10 billion in payments annually (not including the Starbucks partnership.)

Cardfree announced that it has raised $10 million in Series A funding from Jeffrey Katz, who founded Mercury Payments Systems, a payments processor. Cardfree is a new mobile merchant service that wants to make it easy for small businesses to drive traffic into their stores, increase incremental visits and allow for more meaningful engagement. It accepts payments from mobile devices, browsers or at the point of sale. Using Cardfree, small business owners can offer promotions, mobile payments, loyalty and social media engagement backed by reporting and analytics that allow them to see how well it is working. Cardfree also allows merchants to create prepaid digital payment cards that are compatible with 90 percent of point-of-sale systems on the market. Like LevelUp, this means Cardfree’s mobile payments systems aren’t tied to one particular technology.

LevelUp has seen increased adoption by eliminating credit card processing fees for merchants with its Interchange Zero program. Rather than making money on interchange fees, LevelUp plans to sell services to merchants with the aim of getting new consumers in the door and keeping them coming back. However if it really wants to solve the mobile payments problem, LevelUp has to support every method people use to pay with their phones. The startup added another big piece, announcing in September new hardware that supports NFC payment for any phone with NFC capabilities.

As the mobile marketplace continues to rapidly expand, the leading companies involved are fighting on multiple fronts. Search, in-app transactions and the nascent mobile advertising sector are all areas of heavy competition. Likewise, the mobile transaction field is getting very congested. All of the startups mentioned here must be considered acquisition targets with Google, Microsoft, Apple and, of course, Visa (V) and MasterCard (MA) likely suitors. For its part, Google has had a real problem monetizing Google Play. Its new relationship with Bango will surely help it improve this situation by increasing in-app transactions. Given Google’s current PPS and its strategic partnerships, I would consider it a buy.

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13 Jun 12 Samsung TecTiles Automate Android Tasks Via NFC

10 Ways To Get More From Your Android Device
(click image for larger view and for slideshow)

Hoping to increase interest in near-field communication (NFC) technology, Samsung Mobile on Wednesday plans to introduce TecTiles, programmable NFC tags that can be used to automate actions on NFC-enabled Android phones.

The company plans to sell TecTiles in packs of five, online and in-store through ATT, Verizon, Sprint, and T-Mobile stores, for $15. The Android app required to program TecTiles is available at no charge in the Google Play store.

The tiles are not much to look at–glossy little 2″ squares–but their affordability and flexibility could help hasten the arrival of the much anticipated Internet of Things.

[ Read Apple WWDC: New MacBooks, iOS 6, Mountain Lion. ]

Dale Sohn, president of Samsung Telecommunications America, said in a statement that Samsung sees “an opportunity to expand the value of NFC beyond mobile payments.”

Samsung suggests that TecTiles have the potential to transform how businesses engage with customers. A store using a TecTile could, for example, program the tag to send a text message, load a Web page, launch an application, display a notification, or perform some other marketing or social networking function. A cinema could post a TecTile on a wall to offer customers the chance to mute their NFC-enabled Android phones as they enter the theater.

TecTiles could also be used for personal convenience. A TecTile on the table beside one’s bed could alter phone settings to prevent calls from interrupting one’s sleep. A TecTile in one’s car could disable texting. A TecTile in one’s office could enable access to the office Wi-Fi network.

Such tasks can be accomplished without NFC, using automation apps like AutomateIt and Tasker. But for people disinclined to create automated tasks, TecTiles offer a way to make pre-programmed commands accessible.

TecTiles do not work on metal surfaces and at present work only with these NFC-enabled Android phones: Samsung Galaxy S III on ATT, Sprint, T-Mobile, US Cellular or Verizon; Samsung Galaxy S II on T-Mobile; Galaxy Nexus on Verizon, Sprint, and GSM Unlocked;
Nexus S 4G on Sprint; and Samsung Galaxy S Blaze 4G on T-Mobile.

Apple does not yet offer NFC technology with its iOS devices, though some industry watchers expect that to change when the iPhone 5 arrives later this year.

At this year’s InformationWeek 500 Conference C-level execs will gather to discuss how they’re rewriting the old IT rulebook and accelerating business execution. At the St. Regis Monarch Beach, Dana Point, Calif., Sept. 9-11.

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03 Jun 12 Product Review: HTC’s Android 4.0 phones are not identical twins

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It seems there is a new crop of Android phones every few months, which is great if you’re in the market for a new phone.

I got separate pitches from ATT and T-Mobile a few weeks ago about new phones from HTC.

First, T-Mobile sent me the HTC One S, which arrived promptly and sat on my desk for a week.

Then ATT sent me an email about its HTC One X. I read that email on my iPhone when I was away from the office and quickly replied that I had that same phone from T-Mobile.

It seems I was mistaken.

The phones look similar, cost the same and share a lot of the same features, but there are differences internally and externally.

The One S from T-Mobile retails for $199 with a two-year contract and after a $50 mail-in rebate.

Anchored by a 4.3-inch Super AMOLED touch screen, the One S has a 1.5 GHz dual-core Snapdragon processor with 16 gigabytes of internal storage and 1 gigabyte of RAM.

The screen resolution is 960 x 540 pixels.

The body of the One S is aluminum, is 7.8 mm thick and weighs just 4.22 ounces.

The One S has two cameras — an 8-megapixel rear camera with a 28 mm f/2.0 wide-angle lens that captures 1080p HD video, and a lower-resolution camera on the front for video chats.

The One S was the first phone I’ve seen with Beats Audio, a sound-enhancement software to “enrich” the listening experience.

The One S runs on T-Mobile’s 4G network and is the first T-Mobile phone to ship with Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich).

PROS: metal body, slim, fast network, Android 4.0

CONS: no card slot for extra storage; the screen resolution could be better

BOTTOM LINE: a good phone for the money

The One X, offered by ATT, is the big brother to the One S in that it sports a larger display and a slightly larger battery.

With a polycarbonate body, the One X is 8.9 mm thick and weighs 4.6 ounces. The display resolution is 1280 x 720 pixels.

The One X also has a 1.5 GHz dual-core processor.

The phone has the same 8-megapixel rear camera as the One S, but it has a slightly better 1.3-megapixel front camera.

The X also has 16 gigabytes of storage and 1 gigabyte of RAM, and runs Android 4.0.

Neither phone has an external slot for extra storage.

The One X also has Beats Audio enhancement.

The One X features NFC (near field communication), which allows the phone to support Android Beam or Google Wallet, two technologies for device-to-device data transfer. Think of it as a way for the phone to act like a credit card.

Both phones can act as a Wi-Fi hotspot for other devices.

I used the One X as my Internet connection for a weeklong business trip and found the 4G LTE network to be very fast.

I did have to hunt for the setting that disconnected the Wi-Fi hotspot after a few minutes of inactivity, but once I did, the One X had more than enough battery power to last an entire day of surfing with my laptop and iPad.

The One X is $199 with a new two-year contract and a qualifying data plan.

PROS: screen size, NFC, fast 4G LTE, Android 4.0

CONS: no card slot for extra storage

BOTTOM LINE: This is a flagship phone for ATT. One of the better choices for Android devices.



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30 May 12 Android 4.0: Tracking Ice Cream Sandwich’s Availability on Smartphones

Last week HTC published a list of phones that will receive an update to Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich, along with approximate launch dates and a projected completion date of late August 2012. This is not a very encouraging prospect considering Google officially introduced ICS last October. Also because Android’s next major revision codenamed Jelly Bean will be close to release by then (slated for Q3/12).

But this is not an issue with HTC phones exclusively. In fact, Ice Cream Sandwich is more the exception rather than the rule on Android devices across the board. Theres a total of four smartphones shipping with the OS preloaded, just over a dozen with upgrades available, and more than 30 on the coming soon list (also: see a list of Android 4.0 ICS highlights).

Your choices here are limited to the Samsung Galaxy Nexus, which was released in December in partnership with Google and features an unskinned version of Android 4.0, and the HTC One lineup comprising the One S on T-Mobile, One X on ATT, and Evo 4G LTE on Sprint. These are soon to be joined by the Samsung Galaxy S III, which is expected to launch globally soon, including all four major carriers in the US.

These smartphones are already being upgraded to Android 4.0. If you own one of these and are still waiting for the update to come through, keep in mind that theyre being rolled out over a period of several weeks.





Galaxy S II (unlocked, Canada)


Xperia Ray


Sensation XE


Galaxy S II LTE (unlocked, Canada)


Xperia arc S


Sensation 4G (T-Mo, Bell, Virgin Ca.)


Galaxy Note (unlocked)
Xperia neo V


Vivid (ATT)


Nexus S 4G (Sprint)


Xperia arc


Velocity (Australia)


Nexus S (unlocked)


Xperia neo


Amaze 4G (T-Mobile)

Raider 4G (Bell Canada)

Not all phone manufacturers are offering specific details as to when each of their devices are getting upgraded to Android 4.0. Motorola is only listing them by quarter, while HTC recently provided a two-month release window, and Sony is being a little more specific with the next round of updates starting this week and continuing throughout June into the third quarter. Samsung is not giving out any dates whatsoever.

HTC notes that due to localization, testing, and partner approvals, updates do not roll out to all devices at the same time. For devices on a wide variety of carriers and in many countries, rollouts can take up to 45 days from the initial update to reach everyone. You can manually check for updates by going to SettingsAboutSoftware Updates if you are not prompted to update automatically.

The upgrade to Android 4.0 will include Sense 3.6, not Sense 4, since some aspects of Sense 4 require dedicated hardware, which is not available on all devices.

To date, the only Motorola device that has been upgraded to Android 4.0 is the WiFi-only XOOM (and only the versions in the US or Canada). The company outlined their 4-step updating process back in December and plans to start rolling out a few of those soon. Regarding the selection of phones that qualify for updates and the ones that dont, Motorola has this to say: Obviously we want the new release to improve our devices. If we determine that cant be donewell then, were not able to upgrade that particular device.

Samsung has been at the forefront of the move from 2.3 to 4.0, rolling Ice Cream Sandwich out to a number of unlocked devices, including the hugely popular Galaxy S II. Unfortunately, updates to branded devices tend to get held up in carrier-specific testing so a lot of users with subsidized phones are still waiting their turn. Making matters worst neither Samsung nor carriers are sharing a timeframe for the update.

Sony has been pretty forthcoming about its Ice Cream Sandwich rollout and so far theyve mostly kept true to their planned upgrade schedule. Just recently they started rolling out updates for two of their 2011 devices and more should follow throughout the week and over the next month. Notably, the Xperia Play will be the only Xperia phone from last years lineup not getting the update, as Sony cited stability and consistency issues.

Sony is rolling out Android 4.0.4 to its devices while remaining on kernel 2.6.32 technically, ICS should feature Kernel 3.0.X+. Its unclear if this will result in any issues or missing features. A developer for Sony Ericsson had previously said that it takes a lot of testing and validation to make a new kernel stable, so they decided to keep the tried and tested 2.6.32 kernel to release ICS as quickly as possible.

If theres one lesson to learn here is that you should buy a phone that makes you happy today, not one that promises new features with an update that may or may not appear. Granted, thats a valid advice for any consumer electronic purchase, but Android serves as the perfect example for it.

That said, its not unreasonable to want your one-year-old phone to be able to get the latest software update, especially when you know its technically capable of running it. There are many new features to be gained in the transition from Gingerbread to Ice Cream Sandwich. Here are a few of the most noteworthy:

  • UI Improvements: Android 4.0 is based on a new look and feel, the Holo theme, which offers a more consistent experience throughout the OS and makes it easier for users to find those common buttons and actions. Theres also a new Roboto font thats easier on the eye and has a more modern feel.

  • Multitasking, Widgets, and Folders: Theres a new Recent Apps button that lets users jump from one task to another, and a side-swiping gesture to get rid of apps youre no longer using. Users can also resize widgets to their liking and drag and drop icons on top of each other to create folders.

  • Contacts and sharing: ICS ditches the old Android 2.3 contact list for one that shows richer profile information, including large profile picture, phone numbers, addresses, and a button for connecting on integrated social networks. Theres also a new NFC peer-to-peer sharing feature that allows users with NFC-capable devices to share apps, contacts, music, videos by touching one phone to another.

  • Improved speed and full hardware acceleration: Tests have shown significant performance improvements in Android 4.0 when it comes to handling graphics and using the web browser.

  • Data usage manager: Android 4.0 allows users to monitor total data usage by network type and application, as well as set limits on those data-hungry apps so you dont incur in expensive overage fees.

  • Various other new features and enhancements: You can access the camera and notifications without unlocking your device first, theres a new face-unlock feature, Wi-Fi direct support to share files between compatible devices, improvements to the camera and video apps, and more.

Lastly, its also worth noting that the lack of timely updates exacerbates Androids fragmentation problem, which makes it that much harder for developers to QA apps. If youve ever wondered why you run into bugs and other unexplained behaviors on Android but not on iOS, well, fragmentation probably played a part on it.

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10 Apr 12 Google upgrades Android emulator with better performance and hardware support

Google has upgraded its Android emulator for developers with hardware acceleration and support for a broader range of inputs, the company announced today on the Android Developers Blog.

“The Android emulator is a key tool for Android developers in building and testing their apps,” Android team members Xavier Ducrohet and Reto Meier wrote on the blog. “As the power and diversity of Android devices has grown quickly, it’s been hard for the emulator keep pace. Today we’re thrilled to announce several significant improvements to the emulator, including a dramatic performance upgrade and support for a broader range of hardware features, notably sensors and multi-finger input.”

One of the biggest improvements is built-in GPU support. Android devices are increasingly relying on the graphics chip to boost performance, so now the emulator will be able to take advantage of hardware acceleration to create a more realistic simulation. As an added bonus, OpenGL apps can now run inside the emulator.

Another improvement is new hardware support to better test apps. Developers can tether an Android device and a test an app in the emulator using inputs on the tethered device.

There’s also added CPU performance in the emulator. Ducrohet and Reto Meier write:

We’ve also improved the CPU performance of the Android emulator. Hardware floating point operation has been available for system images since Ice Cream Sandwich (Android 4.0), allowing CPU operations to be emulated roughly twice as quickly. Last week’s r17 developer tools release included x86 system images and host drivers (available through the SDK Manager), allowing the emulator to access the host CPU natively and offer significantly faster execution. We’re working on providing emulator support for more hardware features including Bluetooth and NFC.

Check out the videos below to see the new emulator in action:

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19 Oct 11 Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich: Our top ten favorite features

Ice Cream Sandwich has finally come out of the Google freezer and it’s easily the most significant Android update to date. Representing more than just a bunch of neat features that has typified previous OS updates, Ice Cream Sandwich is a radical rethink of all things Android.

The old user interface we’ve known from the past has gone; with Ice Cream Sandwich comes a new UI that’s an evolution of the black and green/neon themes of Gingerbread and Honeycomb along with refreshed browser, Gmail and Google Calendar apps.

Ice Cream Sandwich represents a “unified user experience for phones, tablets, and more” and is due to be rolled out to existing Android smartphones at some point too. There’s no timetable for rollouts to devices just yet but you can be sure we’re keeping an eye out for those.

There’s many reasons to be excited about Ice Cream Sandwich; here’s the ten things that we’re most excited about right now, why they’re important and why you should care.

1. New keyboard, new font

In line with Google’s commitment to making a unified OS, Ice Cream Sandwich prominently features a new font that’s “optimized for HD displays,” so it’ll look at home on huge 10.1-inch tablets as well as smaller smartphone screens.

Google has also “dramatically improved the keyboard,” adding faster and more accurate word prediction, with the auto-suggestions now being sensibly limited to three suggestions at a time.

2. New browser with Google Chrome bookmark syncing, offline reading and full desktop sites

Speaking of the new font, you’re also able to increase the default text size across the system for improved readability; this extends to the web browser.

Being able to send links from Chrome and Firefox (and vice versa) to your phone is something we’ve been able to do for a little while on our Android phones, but the process required involved a bit of a workaround.

As cool as this is, we’re pleased to hear that the stock Ice Cream Sandwich browser allows you to sync bookmarks from your desktop on Chrome with those on your phone.

You’ll also be able to save copies of pages for reading articles offline (perfect for train journeys) and toggle between desktop and mobile versions of sites.

This is something that you can already do on certain phones, like the browser on the HTC Sensation, but it’s great that this feature will be an Android standard in the post Ice Cream Sandwich world.

3. Android Beam – Tap to share docs, contacts and more with NFC

Back when Google announced Android 2.3 Gingerbread along with the Nexus S, much was made of the NFC capabilities of the phone and the platform in terms of how it would revolutionise spending.

The m-commerce revolution hasn’t quite happened yet, but there’s more to NFC than just turning your phone into an expensive, battery-powered credit card.

Ice Cream Sandwich comes with a neat new feature called Android Beam. Similar to BlackBerry Tag announced just over a week ago, Beam will allow you to tap two NFC’ed Android phones together and share things like contacts, URLs, YouTube links, map locations and directions, and apps.

“Simply hold two NFC enabled Android phones close to each other and touch to beam and share,” says Google.

Sadly, it won’t let you shoot frickin’ laser beams at goofy British spies.

4. Improved notifications

The all-important notification bar that’s been a staple Android feature since the year dot has got a welcome refresh. From the pull-down bar you can manage individual notifications, dismissing them one at a time instead of wiping the entire slate clean like before.

From the notif bar you’ll also be able to “play music tracks, see real-time updates from apps, and much more.”

Additionally, you’ll also be able to access the new notification bar from the lock screen, which will allow you to control music without opening the phone. The new lock screen also features a new ‘unlock to camera’ option, a la HTC Sense.

5. Cut down on bloatware thanks to the ‘disable pre-installed apps’ option

It’s always been a kicker when we see an Android phone that’s got a bunch of apps installed on it that we can’t uninstall, at least not without rooting the phone which not everyone is able or inclined to do.

In any case, you’d have to spend time (while voiding any warranty) doing something that you ought to be able to do from the Applications menu in the Settings.

Ice Cream Sandwich won’t be able to cut pre-installed apps out totally, but will allow you to ‘disable’ them. “From the All Apps launcher, users can now simply drag an app to get information about it or immediately uninstall it, or disable a pre-installed app.”

Google engineer Dan Morrill says on his Google+ that disabling an app means that its “resources never run and its launcher icon is gone until you re-enable it,” but it won’t “free up any space — it can’t, since pre-installed apps are included in the read-only system storage. But it does put them “out of sight, out of mind.”

6. Redesigned gallery app with a ton of editing features

As we heard earlier in the week the standard Android Gallery app has been significantly beefed up for Ice Cream Sandwich. The Gallery now comes with a bunch of effects that essentially turns your phone into a mini Photoshop for pictures taken on your phone.

Elementary editing tools like crop, rotate and flip are now built in, along with correction options for red eye and shiny face removal.

As well as this you get the ability to adjust the contrast and pick from a number of artistic effect filters.

7. Redesigned camera app adds panorama mode and face detection

As well as post-photo editing options, a panoramic sweep mode has been added to the standard Ice Cream Sandwich camera app, allowing you to stitch together huge pictures. Google says that “the user starts an exposure and then slowly turns the Camera to encompass as wide a perspective as needed. The Camera assembles the full range of continuous imagery into a single panoramic photo.” We’re assuming this means you’ll get a full 360 degree panning as we’ve seen on this iOS app.

Things like face detection, tap to focus come built in, as do decreased shot-to-shot speed, continuous focus and zero shutter lag exposure which ought to allow for snappier, more precise pictures.

While shooting video, you’ll also be able to take snapshots at full video resolution while the phone is still recording. So, on the Galaxy Nexus, with its Full HD video recording capabilities, this means you’ll be able to snap pics at 1920×1080 (1080p). Nice!

Though many of the higher-end Android phones out now come with some decent camera software built in, it’s great to see that all this kind of stuff will be available to any Ice Cream Sandwich phone.

8. Taking screenshots is now a piece of cake

Taking screenshots on your Android phone is a feature that was actually tucked away in Android 2.2 Froyo, but for some reason wasn’t enabled on all phones. We recently found out that you could do this on a handful of phones by holding down the power button and tapping the Home key.

On phones that don’t have this function, you can also enable screengrabbing without having to root them with a little workaround, which is obviously great.

Thankfully, this elementary screengrab feature will be baked in to Ice Cream Sandwich. “Users can now share what’s on their screens more easily by taking screenshots. Hardware buttons let them snap a screenshot and store it locally,” says Google.

9. Better data management

With Ice Cream Sandwich, you’ll be able to have greater control over the amount of data your phone munches through, as well as setting up alerts for when you’re close to the end of your monthly data allowance.

You’re also able to set hard limits that will disable 3G connections altogether once a certain threshold has been reached and manage data used by individual apps.

Again, we’ve been able to do this in the past thanks to apps like 3G Watchdog and Onavo for Android, but its great that this type of functionality comes built straight in out of the box.

10. Face Unlock – no more PIN numbers, no more unlock patterns

We’ve seen PIN numbers, we’ve seen that iconic green discs unlock pattern, we’ve seen boring old passwords and even fingerprint scanners on Android phones.

Now Ice Cream Sandwich brings things one step further with a new Face Unlock tool, similar to the recently announced Symbian app.

Using the front-facing camera of your Android phone, Ice Cream Sandwich used face detection technology, allowing you to unlock your phone just by smiling at it. Genius and super-secure as should your phone go missing, anyone who picks it up won’t be able to unlock it unless they happen to have your face lying around.

We’re really curious to see how this works for ourselves; we’re wondering if somebody could take a picture of your face, hold it up to your ICS phone and if it’d accept that, a la Demolition Man.

Seeing as the front-facing camera of the Galaxy Nexus doesn’t appear to be a 3D camera we wonder if the software could distinguish between a 2D image and a real face.

As we said, there’s much much more to Ice Cream Sandwich than these ten points, but this is what we’re most excited about at the moment. You can have a look at Google’s own Android Platform Highlights, and the Google Mobile Blog.

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