A pair of leaks have provided the first glimpse at Ice Cream Sandwich. The OS has its expected influences from Android 3 tablets but also appears to take some direct cues from iOS. The always-on app shortcuts on the home screen now have an iPhone-like grid, RootzWiki saw, and now also appears to have iOS 4-style app folders.
Only a few unique-to-ICS features have emerged so far. The camera app can now shoot auto-stitched panoramas, and an NFC-aware version of Google Shopper will ship alongside to use the short-range wireless if a device has the hardware support. Gmail has been given a new theme that matches up with the blue colors of the "holographic" theme. Google has already said that ICS would support head tracking for cameras that can switch focus or even pivot.
Android Police added that the notification bar has been changed to be more visual and descriptive.
Despite borrowing from the tablet interface, the new OS is expected to place few if any extra demands on phones. As such, many devices from the past year shouldn't have trouble getting an update.
The build is "very recent" and shows that Google may still have some time to go before it has a complete release. Official plans have ICS shipping sometime during the fall. Nexus S owners would get it through an update, but it would first ship on the Nexus Prime, Google's Android showcase phone for 2011.
If it holds, the interface design might not help Google's attempts to fend off patent challenges. Samsung is already facing a legal challenge from Apple over the similarity of its TouchWiz app tray and other elements, and the similarity of Google's new interface to the iPhone could invite a similar response not just from Apple but from Samsung.