Samsung, Google unveil latest Android OS, phone

The Galaxy Nexus will become available worldwide and will run Android 4.0, also known as Ice Cream Sandwich

Google and Samsung on Tuesday unveiled the Galaxy Nexus phone running Ice Cream Sandwich, the latest version of Android.

Galaxy Nexus phone
The Galaxy Nexus phone from Google and Samsung

The phone and operating system were developed collaboratively by engineers from both companies that literally worked in the same building, said Andy Rubin, senior vice president of mobile at Google, speaking during a webcast event to launch the phone and operating system in Hong Kong.

The name of the device combines that of Samsung's line of Galaxy phones and tablets with the Nexus line of phones that were made by various manufacturers but were known as Google phones because they included all of Google's mobile services.

The phone will run on high speed LTE networks as well as HSPA+ networks, depending on market demand. It will become available in November in the U.S., Europe, and Asia, including China and Japan. Japan's NTT DoCoMo is the only operator the companies announced and they did not disclose pricing information.

While Ice Cream Sandwich was designed to unite the tablet and phone versions of Android into one operating system, there was no mention of tablets during the event. Honeycomb, the previous version of Android which has yet to be released as open source, was designed just for tablets.

Ice Cream Sandwich has some updates that appear relatively minor, but Google has added some neat features to some of its services, many of them reminiscent of features on other mobile operating systems.

One of the most noticeable changes to the operating system is that it requires no physical buttons. The Galaxy Nexus only uses buttons that appear on the screen as part of the user interface.

The user interface now includes a new swipe feature that lets users drag applications or items off the screen to shut them down or delete them. It also features a new font that Google developed for Android, called Roboto.

Most of Google's applications are updated for the new operating system. The browser will let users opt to view the full web site instead of the mobile version by clicking on a drop down menu item.

The browser also lets users save pages for offline reading. That feature can come in handy for people who might want to save a boarding pass, concert tickets or train schedules, said Hugo Barra, Google's product management director for Android.

Gmail gets a number of updates, including featuring two lines of a message in the preview page, new action options at the bottom of pages, and offline search. Gmail will automatically search the past 30 days of emails but users can set that time period for anything they like, Barra said.

The calendar app has also been updated so that pinching and zooming on a list of appointments for a day displays more details of each appointment.

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