It's time to bite into Android's Ice Cream Sandwich

Posted by Mark Raby

For the first time, we're getting a look at what could be the next major iteration of Android.

At this point, we know it will be called Ice Cream Sandwich, or ICS for short, but what surprisingly remains unclear is what the actual version number will be.

It's possible that it will be released as Android 2.4, or Android 4.0, or something in between. Android 3.0 was given the name Honeycomb, but it's a tablet-only version of Android.

As such, tablets are sitting at 3.0/3.1 right now, while most of the phones are stuck back at 2.2/2.3. ICS, however, will be used for all Android devices and as such it's unclear what numbering pattern Google will go with.

Some of the first leaked images, which were posted on Androidpolice.com, show a bluish tint to the interface, as well as a special Google Shopper app, which will make use of Near Field Communication (NFC) payments. NFC is a contactless payment standard in which users will be able to tap their phones to a credit card terminal to pay for something at a store, eliminating the need for actual plastic credit cards.

NFC requires special hardware in the phone itself, so it is not prevalent in the market at all right now. However, that's expected to change in a big way by this time next year.

There will also be adjustments to the camera app, allowing users to take panoramic photos, and an overhaul to the Gmail app. Beyond that, everything else with ICS remains a mystery, including any idea on when it will be released.