android2.3vs4.0Users of the Android OS are very familiar with the delicious names that are released – Cupcake, Donut, Eclair, Froyo, Gingerbread, Honeycomb, and Ice Cream Sandwich. Even the latest release, Android 4.1-4.3, has been dubbed Jelly Bean. The two favorites in the Android world are Gingerbread (Android 2.3) and Ice Cream Sandwich (Android 4.0). If you have an Android device running Gingerbread, you might be wondering why you should even update to Ice Cream Sandwich. Let’s take a look at Android’s development and see what’s changed from the time Gingerbread was released to the release of Ice Cream Sandwich.

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What Gingerbread Added to Android

Released in December of 2010, Gingerbread introduced a multitude of new features. Android’s development team updated the user interface (UI), improved the ease of use for the keyboard, improved the copy and paste function, and added plenty more new features. With new power management tools, users had better control over the length their battery lasted. The increase in the use of social networking encouraged the development team to introduce new social networking features and video call support. They also added Near Field Communication support and Native VoIP/SIP support.

Gingerbread also increased performance and added NDK. Audio effects were improved, support for multiple camera sensors was added, and a new debugging mode was added – strictmode. These features were introduced with the 2.3 update, but Gingerbread was updated to 2.3.3, 2.3.4, 2.3.5, 2.3.6, and 2.3.7. Each update brought along improved features or new features to help both users and Android app developers alike.

The release of 2.3.3 improved NFC API and added unsecure Bluetooth sockets. 2.3.4  introduced the ability to talk via voice or video using the Google Talk application. 2.3.5 improved the network performance for a specific phone, fixed Bluetooth issues on another specific phone, and improved the Gmail application. 2.3.6 fixed a voice search issue, and 2.3.7 added support for Google Wallet for a specific type of phone. After this, Android’s development team turned from Gingerbread to Honeycomb.

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What Honeycomb Added to Android

Honeycomb was first released in February of 2011 as the 3.0 update. The new update added support for multiple cores and increased tablet support. The user interface received another update allowing for customization of the homescreens, viewing of recent applications used, and the keyboard layout was redone. Google Talk was updated for improved video chat, and Google eBooks were released. Android mobile browsers now allowed for private browsing, and a system-wide clipboard was introduced.

A new contextual action bar was added, and the 2D graphics were accelerated with hardware. 3D graphics were added with a renderscript engine, and a pluggable DRM framework was added. 3.0 also added device administration, forced rendering of layers, and a stronger wi-fi lock. This update also allowed the user to view network traffic stats and added an LRU cache.

Honeycomb 3.1 improved the user interface and released support for mice, joysticks, and gamepads. Home screen widgets could now be resized. 3.2 increased optimization for tablets, allowing more tablets to run on Honeycomb. It also increased the compatibility for display modes and allowed for syncing media from an SD card. API was also extended to manage support for screens.

3.2.1 released updates for the Android Market allowing updates for applications to be automatic and an update for Google Books. There were improvements made to wi-fi connections, and Chinese handwriting predictions were improved. Another update was released not long after 3.2.1 but only to fix minor issues. 3.2.4 released “pay as you go” for tablets, and 3.2.6 was another update for minor fixes.

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What Ice Cream Sandwich Added to Android

This version of Android, 4.0, gave users new lock screen actions. It also improved text input and spell-checking. Ice Cream Sandwich also gave its users control over the way they use network data. Email applications now support EAS v14. A new grid layout was introduced along with spell check. Android 4.0.1 allowed for facial recognition to unlock the user’s phone. User interface hardware was updated to accelerate it, and Android’s voice recognition software received an update.

With 4.0.1, the mobile browser now allowed up to sixteen tabs, and the launcher was now customizable. A new application called Android Beam allowed users to share data using NFC. 4.0.2 was released not long after 4.0.1 and only for minor fixes. Ice Cream Sandwich 4.0.3 changed Contacts to allow for social streaming.

Video was updated to improve stabilization and QVGA resolution. The calendar also received an update. Ice Cream Sandwich 4.0.4 improved stability and allowed for better camera performance. It also released smoother screen rotation.

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What’s the best choice for you?

The only way to decide if you should update from Gingerbread to Ice Cream Sandwich is what you want from your Android devices. If you enjoy what your device offers you now, there’s no reason to update – especially if you have a device that isn’t compatible with Ice Cream Sandwich. Even if Ice Cream Sandwich is available for your device, your mobile carrier might not allow you to update. If you do want to update to Ice Cream Sandwich, you might have to root your device.

If you have a compatible device, your mobile carrier has approved the update, and you would rather have more features and fixes, you should definitely consider updating to Ice Cream Sandwich. One of the best features released with Ice Cream Sandwich is definitely the ability to control network data. If you’re like many mobile users these days, your mobile carrier has lowered data usage.

If you tend to be away from a wi-fi network, this control over your network data will allow you to deny certain applications access when you’re on your carrier’s data. This is especially great for those who use their phones for work and don’t want their mobile games sucking up the data they need to use to check important emails or access work websites or even when testing programmed Android apps. Without a doubt, Gingerbread is a great Android operating system, but Ice Cream Sandwich definitely gives it a run for its money.

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