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Top 10 things you can do on your Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich (ICS) phone


Published onMay 29, 2012

Everyone is going ga-ga over Ice Cream Sandwich. Ever since it was released, third-party Android developers have been hard at work porting leaks into every possible phone and improving the stock firmware with additions of their own. We’ve seen Ice Cream Sandwich in stock form, in it’s purest form without HTC’s Sense UI on top, various aesthetically modified versions, as well as those that have been given performance boosts.

It makes sense that because Ice Cream Sandwich is the hottest thing making rounds in the Android development community that everyone would want a piece of it, but what makes Ice Cream Sandwich so great? To answer your question, we’ve put together a list of the top 10 things you can do on your Ice Cream Sandwich phone. Keep in mind, this is in no particular order.

Face Unlock

The first thing you notice with Ice Cream Sandwich is that it looks different from Gingerbread but you’re probably being too busy checking out the new wallpaper on your lock screen to realize that you can unlock your phone without entering a password.

Thanks to Face Unlock, your phone uses its front-facing camera to recognize you. This means that it unlocks only when you pick it up, effectively preventing nosy friends, family and strangers from perusing your phone’s content when you aren’t looking. Simply hold up your phone at eye level and your phone should detect your face.

Face Unlock isn’t perfect, though, and a number of factors may prevent your phone’s front-facing camera to see your face properly. While setting up Face Unlock, you can choose between Pattern unlock and PIN unlock as a backup plan if ever Face Unlock fails to identify your face.

Another possible problem is if someone who looks like you, like a family member with the same set of features, or an evil twin, may actually be able to effectively unlock your phone with his/her face. But, what are the chances of that happening?


Since phones have become more powerful, packing specs that the phones of yesteryears could only dream of, the temptation to do too many things at once on your Android device has been calling to users. The number of things we could do with apps certainly isn’t helping us keep away from temptation.

In older versions of Android software, users had to download a task switcher application for their phones, but with Ice Cream Sandwich, that is no longer necessary. Just long-press on the Home button to see which applications are open.  Scroll through little screenshots and tap the one that you want to jump into. You can jump back out by tapping the same button.

If that isn’t cool enough, multitasking also means lightening the load on your phone. When you’re looking at the list of open applications, you won’t need to individually jump into an application to close it. Simply swipe the application’s little screenshot off your screen to the right and the application is gone and closed. Ice Cream Sandwich effectively lets you manage your resources without wasting unnecessary time.

Quick Call Response

There are two things that all safety-conscious drivers nowadays should know. The first one is “Don’t drink and drive.”  The second one, which is equally important, is “Don’t text and drive.” In fact, if you can help it, don’t pick up your phone. You never know when an accident is just lurking behind the corner.

But let’s just say that you can’t resist your phone ringing several times and you really want to tell the person calling that you can’t answer his/her call because you’re driving. You don’t need to wait for a red light to answer the call just to tell him/her that.

Quickly dismiss calls with a text message; that way the person who’s calling knows that he/she needs to wait. Instead of just swiping to dismiss the call, swiping up while someone’s calling you gives you the option to send the caller a text message.

Ice Cream Sandwich comes with a number of dismissal templates, including “I’ll call you later” and “I’ll call you right back.” The phone will then send the message of your choice to the caller. If you’d like to customize your dismissal message, Ice Cream Sandwich lets you do that, too, with the lowermost option, “Custom message.”

And, yeah.  This nifty feature works not just for drivers.  It also works if you are in the middle of a meeting or in cases when you simply don’t feel like answering calls.

Voice Input

Multitasking seems to be Ice Cream Sandwich’s big thing. Not only do you have easy task switching, but you also save yourself time and your life by being able to send a quick message to callers while you’re driving.

Another feature of Ice Cream Sandwich is voice input. If you’re the type of person who comes up with the best ideas while just talking free-flow, Ice Cream Sandwich’s voice input engine is here to take notes. Literally.

Tap the microphone button located at the bottom of the keyboard and start talking. The voice input engine will transcribe your words onto the screen for you. When you’re done talking, look over what the voice input engine’s managed to transcribe of your words. Since not all things are perfect, you can correct typos and misinterpreted words before sending off your message.

Customize and Organize

What would Android be without the ability to customize? Just like in Honeycomb, Ice Cream Sandwich users will find that they can add widgets to their homescreen for easy access to the data that apps can provide and actually resize those widgets, having power over seeing more information or less.

If you’ve got a ton of apps but you don’t want to do away with any of them, you can de-clutter your homescreen with homescreen folders. If you’re familiar with how iOS’s own homescreen management works, simply long-tap and drag an application icon over to another icon. Release and you’ll find that a folder has now been created on your homescreen.

By default, the folder is unnamed but you can easily rename it yourself. How you group your applications into a folder is completely up to you. You can group applications into a folder solely for Productivity, or a folder for your Music. The power to customize and organize is in your hands.

That’s not all; Ice Cream Sandwich lets you put speed dial shortcuts of people you might frequently contact into folders or even put people in the favorites tray. Talk about accessibility.  Here’s how it’s generally done:

  1. Open the App Drawer.
  2. Scroll to the Widgets section and find the widget icon for “Direct Dial.”
  3. Long-tap on the Direct Dial widget and drop it onto the homescreen.
  4. When the People app or Contacts list appears, select the contact that you wish to assign to the Direct Dial icon on your homescreen.
  5. Repeat the process as many times as there are contacts you’d like to assign Direct Dial to.  To organize the Direct Dial shortcuts into a folder, simply drop a new Direct Dial shortcut onto an existing on.

Uniform Web Browsing Experience

Not so long ago, people had to wait until they got home to surf the Internet. When the Internet became accessible to phones, it was a little slow, clunky and a lot of pages weren’t optimized for mobile browsing yet.

Now that a lot of websites have specific layouts tailored just for people browsing on their mobile devices, users still have the problem of not having the same browsing experience they have on their computers. What about your bookmarks that you spent all night consolidating and organizing? What if you didn’t get to bookmark the sites you needed but you know you had them in your search history?

The good news for Chrome and Firefox users is that both browsers are available for Ice Cream Sandwich. What that means for the people who want to stay organized and who want to have everything within their reach is that bookmarks, search history, and usernames and passwords can be synced up. The mobile browsers even let you view the tabs that you had open on your computer so you can pick up reading that article on your phone where you had left off on the computer.

Control Network Data

Don’t get too distracted with surfing the Internet. Unless you’re hooked up to a Wi-Fi connection, your hours surfing the web may not just be burning your battery but also burning a hole in your wallet.

With how we can easily browse the Internet on our phones, it doesn’t take a lot for us to go over our monthly limit. You might find yourself paying a whole lot more than you should next time your bill comes in.

Ice Cream Sandwich helps you monitor your Internet usage. Found under Settings, the Usage page provides you with data meters that you can adjust. If you have a certain limit per month, simply adjust the meters to reflect it. You can also adjust the warning meter to your desired warning threshold, say half-way to your usage limit, so that Ice Cream Sandwich can notify you when you’re almost at the end of your limit.

Android Beam

Near Field Communication (NFC) sounds a whole lot like something from a science fiction flick, but it’s actually a new development in the world of technology. A few years ago, NFC started figuring in pilot studies, particularly in European countries where people only had to tap their phone against a chip whenever they got on and off a train. Their daily fares were then calculated and the railway sent monthly invoices.

Though that hasn’t quite clicked, NFC has other purposes such as transferring information between two phones. Of course, the phone you have and the phone you’d like to swap information with must be equipped with NFC chips. Simply tap your phones together to activate NFC functionality and swap data like YouTube videos, contact information, and other bits of information.

Dismiss Notifications with a Tap of Your Finger

You might have seen the pull down-style notification tray on iOS but Ice Cream Sandwich isn’t willing to just be a third-rate copycat. In fact, it one ups the iOS’ notification tray by giving users the power to literally flick away notifications you don’t care about.

If you don’t feel like addressing your notifications at this moment, simply dismiss the ones that aren’t very important and save the ones that matter for later.

You don’t even need to unlock your phone to be able to access your notification tray either; you can just pull it down from the lockscreen.

Camera and Photo Gallery

If you’ve been hanging around the Android development community, you’ve probably seen people try to port the Ice Cream Sandwich Camera app to other phones that don’t seem to have Ice Cream Sandwich in their future.

But, why import just the Camera app, you ask? That’s because the Ice Cream Sandwich Gallery application has been revamped, displaying images in a magazine-like layout with not a lot of ugly space between photos.

Tap on a photo and you’ll be able to edit it with all sorts of filters and after-effects. For a stock camera app, the number of editing options are pretty decent. You have access to options like highlights, Shadows, Auto-fix, Cross-process, Posterize, Lomo, Documentary, Vignette, Film Grain, and Fisheye. Not bad for a shutterbug on the go.

And, while taking screenshots is not exactly a function of the phone’s camera, Ice Cream Sandwich was built with native capability for taking screenshots of your phone without your having to install an screengrabber app.  All you need to is hold down the Power and Volume Down buttons simultaneously.  Your screenshots will be saved to your phone, and you can view them from within the Gallery app, from where you can share those screenshots with your friends.

Grab a Bite of ICS Today

If that list of features has got your mouth watering, wipe that drool away and stop dawdling. We’ve given you the top 10 things you can do on your Ice Cream Sandwich phone, so why hold back? If your phone’s got an official update for the firmware, update now. If it doesn’t, take a look around the Android development community. Chances are quite high that you’ve got Ice Cream Sandwich for your phone in one way or another, whether it’s a port of the actual stock firmware or a custom ROM based on Ice Cream Sandwich.

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