This week, Samsung and Google came
better together to announce Ice Cream Sandwich. They introduced a ton of new features. Awesome features. Great features. Features we’ve seen before, in quite a few cases. Oh, you thought we only busted out this feature for iOS? Nope. We deal in equal-opportunity snark here. Here’s a rundown of where Google got the idea for some of their better features.
What it is: The new Android camera app has a couple new features for playing around with your photos. For starters, live effects. The kind that warp your face like a funhouse mirror. In a similar vein, the Gallery app also has some “hipster” (the actual word used in the presentation) photo filters. Even some easy-peasy methods for sharing photos to your social networks.
Where it’s from: The live effects are all but a direct rip from Photo Booth. If you’ve ever used a Mac, you’ve taken a picture of yourself with this app. It’s almost impossible not to. As for the “hipster” photo filters, this is Instagram territory. Minus the built-in photo sharing. Unless you count Google+, which users of Instagram will tell you, they don’t.
What it is: Another new photo-related feature, the new Camera app has the built-in ability to stitch photos together into a single panorama view. Great for getting shots of city scapes, beaches, stadiums, or anything else you need to turn your head to see completely.
Where it’s from: Microsoft’s Photosynth. Sort of. Photosynth isn’t strictly panoramas, per se. Photosynth isn’t so narrow-minded. With Photosynth you can take pictures in just about any direction, and the app will piece them together in as coherent a way as possible. Still, the app has existed for iOS for a while now. The fact that it’s now made it to Android natively is reminiscent at the very least.
Swiping To Dismiss Notifications
What it is: Selective notification dismissal! Yay! While Android’s notification system has been head and shoulders above iOS for a while, Apple recently made waves by introducing their own notification shade with a few improvements. Among them was the ability to selectively dismiss notifications. Now Android users can get in on the action with a simple swipe to dismiss notifications. Sipe to the right and it’s gone, without having to dismiss all.
Where it’s from: Did you think I was gonna say Apple? Close. Apple did implement selective notification dismissal before Android, but before both of those was CyanogenMod, a custom Android build. Apple’s selective dismissal requires the tapping of a box, but CyanogenMod’s implementation is literally the exact same swiping gesture. It’s unclear if Google pulled the same code (it is open source, after all), just the idea, or if there was ever any talk with the CM Team, but in any case, it’s good to see it in official builds, even if it’s not a new idea.
The People App
What it is: It’s the contacts app. But more betterer! Now each of your contacts gets their own “card”. On that card, you’ll see all their social networking information as well as all their regular contact info. Integration of social networks isn’t a terribly new thing for Android, but now you’ll be able to see all the updates from your friends directly in the People app, as well as a “magazine style” look at your most recent contacts.
Where it’s from: Seriously? Google. I’m a little disappoint. This points directly to the Windows Phone People app. It’s even called the People app. And it uses squares and, and….well frig. I don’t know how it can be made any clearer. The design is different, clearly, but it’s still about as obvious as making an oral sex joke whenever Bill Clinton is on the news again.
What it is: As on Honeycomb, you’ll now have a dedicated, on-screen button that will pull up your recent apps list. Scroll up or down to see thumbnails of all the apps you’ve been using recently. Tap one to jump straight into it, or swipe it to the side to close it. This marks the first time that a user can kill an app without fifteen taps, and more importantly, should put a lot of people still married to their task killers at ease. Though, seriously. Don’t use task killers.
Where it’s from: This one feels like a cheap shot, but the style is very reminiscent of WebOS’s “cards” interface. You’ve seen it before. You can pull up card view to swipe between open apps, and swipe any card up or down to close it. So, it’s basically the same WebOS gestures, just rotated 90 degrees. So, why is it a cheap shot? Well, because not only was Matias Duarte instrumental in designing both the WebOS interface and all the Android interfaces from Honeycomb forward, he was also on stage introducing this very feature personally. Hard to say one product copied another when the same man designed both of them, but still. Very familiar.
And Et Cetera
The bulk of the latest Android update was largely a UI refinement. Importing the design from Honeycomb, adding some tweaks here and there. While there’s either not much, or a ton of things you could count as “ripped off” features (depending on how important you think some of these are), the overall theme is actually pretty similar to Windows Phone, what with the high contrast solid colors and hard angles. Plus a heavier emphasis on gestures, which seems to be a nod of “ok, you might have a little bit of a point” in iOS’s direction.
There’s still plenty to be excited about in Ice Cream Sandwich. Zero-lag shutter in the camera app, type-as-you-speak voice transcription (a much needed boon from the “every five words” approach they’ve had up until now), not to mention finally integrating the tablet and phone versions. Still, lest we forget: everyone copies. This is a part of the tech world we live in, ladies and gents.