Android phones now make up over half of all smartphone sales.

This year’s update to Android 4.0, code-named Ice Cream Sandwich (ICS), containsnumerous changes to make Android friendlier than ever, and that mayeven make you more productive. The new OS is expected for widespreadrelease early in 2012. Here are notable changes that will make you wanta new Android phone, or hope that yours can upgrade.

1. Data Usage Monitoring
With unlimited data plans, you didn’t need to be concerned about howdata-intensive your apps were. There was no worrying about syncing via Wi-Fi instead of while on theroad. With unlimited data now a rarity, however, knowing your datausage is important. ICS not only includes an app for viewing datausage, but for estimating if you’ll exceed your limit. It even allowsyou to set up alerts to let you know when you’re approaching yourlimit, and lets you cap usage so you don’t incur additional charges.

2. Camera
If your work involves capturing images, ICS adds a big improvement.Where current versions of Android generally require you tounlock the phone and then open an app to take pictures, ICS will letyou activate the camera from the lock screen. It will also include“zero shutter lag”, allowing you to capture multiple shots quickly, andmore easily capture what you are seeing, instead of pressing a button,waiting a second or two, and missing what you hoped to capture.

3. Bookmark Sync
Chances are you do most of your Web browsing on a desktop or laptopcomputer. You never know when you’ll want to access what you’vebookmarked. Bookmark syncing between your computer’s Chrome browser and ICS allows youto have access to all your bookmarks no matter where you are, bringingyour on-the-road experience one step closer to your office capabilities.

4. Keyboard
Using the on-screen keyboard to take notes or fill informs can be challenging, especially on phones with small andmedium-size screens. ICS brings big improvements to the stock keyboard,making it more accurate in capturing your taps, as well as offeringimproved auto-correction for when it doesn’t get it quite right.

5. Speech to Text
Speech to text conversion is not new to Android, but improvements inICS make it much easier and more powerful. Instead of you speaking andthen waiting for the translation, text is now convertedwhile you speak, and pauses won’t automatically end your input. Thismakes speech input in virtually any app, especially dictation typeapps, far more appealing and useful.

6. Voicemail
Getting voicemail on the road is quite common, and ICS addsimprovements to make dealing with them better. There’s the capabilityto speed up the playback of your voicemail, allowing you to make itthrough a long message more quickly. You’ll also see voicemails listedin your call log. An application programming interface (API) has beenadded that will allow developers to have voicemails transcribed, so acarrier could potentially enable its voicemail system to include thisvisual voicemailfeature, much like Google Voice users have had for some time.

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