On the heels of Apple’s iOS distribution, Google has unveiled its biggest update to Android to date. Ice Cream Sandwich, or Android 4.0, boasts a sharper display and a number of new features.

Google has introduced facial recognition technology – which will replace the passcode – that will unlock the phone based on a reading of the owner’s face. If you’re in low light where the camera might not recognize your face, you can use a swipe pattern, which is required while configuring the facial detection.

The data usage monitor will help you quickly narrow down which apps are data-hogs. You can set up automatic alerts that will warn you when you near your monthly data usage cap. This is a great feature that should help you avoid data overage charges.

Similar to iOS, Ice Cream Sandwich allows users to drag apps and contacts on top of each other to create folders. Additionally you are now able to switch between application screens by swiping back and forth rather than accessing an application launcher to bring up a list.

While it’s no Siri, the Android’s talk-to-text feature is much faster with very little lag – only a syllable or two – and much more accurate, even accounting for pauses.

Android 4.0 was announced along side Samsung’s newest Android device, the Galaxy Nexus, which offers more power and a much smoother user experience.

One of the most notable changes is that the HD resolution has been increased to 1280×720 – a first for a mobile phone. While most screens are 4.5 inches, the screen on the Nexus has been expanded slightly to 4.65. This shouldn’t be considered too big as the buttons now become a part of the screen itself when in use – meaning that the hardware buttons have been replaced with software.

The Nexus also sports a new camera that is faster – boasting a one-second recover time, eliminating shutter lag – and shoots 1080p. It also comes with many instant editing options, such as red eye removal, filters, and cropping.

Ice Cream Sandwich is a much more solid operating system than its predecessor. We can’t help but notice similarities between iOS and Windows, but it seems that the updates are exciting for Android users. Samsung’s Galaxy Nexus will be available in November, but the price has yet to be announced.

[Via: TechCrunch]