Gmail has new 'experimental' features in Android 4.0

By JR Raphael (@jr_raphael)

Gmail Android 4.0

Google's Android Ice Cream Sandwich release may only be a couple of months old, but already, new flourishes are starting to show up in the software.

While tinkering around with the recently delivered Android 4.0 upgrade on the Asus Transformer Prime, I noticed an extra section in the settings of the Gmail app labeled "Experiments." The section currently contains two optional features: one that allows Gmail to index the text of your messages in order to provide locally based full-text search, and one that enables drag-and-drop functionality for the "contact chips" used in Gmail as of ICS.

Gmail Android 4.0 Experimental (1)

The first feature is fairly self-explanatory. As for the second, Gmail's new "contact chips" are small tiles that show the name and image of the person you're emailing; they replace the plain-text addresses used in past versions of Android. With the experimental drag-and-drop feature activated, you can press and hold any chip to move it around between the regular "To" field and the "CC" and "BCC" areas of the screen.

Gmail Android 4.0 Experimental (2)

Revolutionary stuff? Nah -- of course not. But a couple of nice little hidden touches that are well worth activating when you get the chance.

The new experimental features show up in version 4.0.3-239410 of the Gmail Android app, which is the version loaded by default on the Transformer Prime following its Ice Cream Sandwich upgrade. As of now, the Galaxy Nexus -- while an ICS device -- is using a slightly older version of the Gmail app that doesn't have the options in place.

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Experimental features aside, you can learn more about Ice Cream Sandwich and how it'll change your phone or tablet in my Android Ice Cream Sandwich FAQ. And for the latest upgrade status of any Android device, click over to my Android 4.0 upgrade list; it's always kept up-to-date with the most current info available.      

JR Raphael writes about smartphones and other tasty technology. You can find him on Facebook, Twitter, or Google+.

Article copyright 2012 JR Raphael. All rights reserved.

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