It's here! As of 3am UK time, Google's latest OS dropped and became an official part of the Android arsenal.
We've had weeks of rumours and leaks and many of them have been spot on. There are so many new elements being introduced in the Gingerbread-Honeycomb lovechild, but here's our pick of the best.
Obviously, the first phone to run ICS will be the Samsung Galaxy Nexus (nee Google Nexus Prime.) This makes complete sense since it is about to become the flagship Nexus handset and, therefore, needs to have a major, distinctive selling point.
But don't despair if you're running older handsets. For example, its big brother, the Nexus S (which is now the ripe old age of one - congratulations!) will be getting it too at some point soon. And that's official - straight from the mouth of Director of Android operating system User Experience, Matias Duarte, who confirmed the news to Engadget. Other Gingerbread devices should hopefully follow.
Lots of new goodies here. Cosmetically, the Roboto font is new and apparently, easier on the eye. There are also various updates to transitions and animations to add a bit more sleekness.
Notifications is updated with icons next to your alert (e.g. a contact photo of who your missed call is from) and they can be removed one at a time rather than forcing you to only 'clear all.' And you can view all of this without having to unlock your phone from ICS onwards.
Folder support was already present but creating and editing was a bit of a drag. This has all been updated with more flexibility to bring it in line with iOS' offering (without the 12 app per folder limit Apple users have to endure).
The bottom of your screen houses a new 'favourites' tray which will hold four apps or folders of your choice, widgets can be resized at leisure and you can even preview them in a special section of the app drawer first rather than having to make room for them and then deleting them if they don't meet your expectations.
Already a strong point in Gingerbread, here Honeycomb has taken over and we get an all new multitasking UI for phones. There is a new 'recent apps' button at the foot of your screen. Tap that and you can get a stack of thumbnails showing what's open rather than just icons. It looks great.
Lock Screen and Security:
One of our favourite new features is the way you unlock your screen now. Obviously, you can do it the old fashioned way but ICS has facial recognition. You simply hold the phone up to your face and the front facing camera either recognises you and unlocks or tells an impostor to go away.
We're dying to see how it copes with what we look like first thing in the morning and if it can see through the bed hair and morning breath. Also, how will it cope in the dark?
Not only that, you can access the camera direct from the lock screen in the same way you now can on iOS 5. Unfortunately, you can only access the camera which seems a bit of a wasted opportunity when you look at how HTC Sense 3.0 lets you access one of four apps directly from the same place in Gingerbread.
People and Messages:
Goodbye to 'Contacts' and hello to 'People.' Like Windows Phone 7, Google has redesigned and renamed the phonebook and this is a radical departure from what we've seen before.
Social networking is ingrained into the 'People' section (we nod approvingly towards HTC's influence here) and you get status updates as par for the course. You can even add to a Google+ circle from here. A contact's photo also takes up a big space at the top which adds to the beauty of this app.
When it comes to messaging, we were told we had an improved keyboard. Physically, it looks almost the same as the Gingerbread one but Google assures us that both error correction and word suggestions are much better on ICS than before.
If you don't like it, you can always try out the speech-to-text function which now lets you talk for longer before it goes off to match up your words with its own. It'll be interesting to see how this all works and with Siri now bringing this technology very much to the forefront in the consumers' eyes, we are preparing for the Google vs Apple fan wars to hot up. "My virtual friend is better than yours" kind of thing.
We've never been huge fans of the Gmail app but we're pleased to see it has been completely redesigned. Folder supper is much improved and you get a new widget too.
ICS should land on the Galaxy Nexus next month but when we'll see it on other premium Gingerbread handsets like the Galaxy S2 and HTC Sensation is anybody's guess. We just hope it arrives before Christmas. After all, we have been good this year.