The much-anticipated Galaxy Nexus is just a short month away and with it the equally (if not more so) anticipated Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich operating system. What exactly will Ice Cream Sandwich bring us? A plethora of features, some old, some new, some borrowed, and some more new. Sorry, I didn’t find “blue” applicable in any way.

The New

Sounds for the Visually Impaired – An excellent new feature for blind users. As you move your fingers across the screen, different sounds will play.

Realtime Spell Check – Just as many Internet browsers now highlight spelling errors as you type, Ice Cream Sandwich will do the same. I better not get a misspelled text ever again.

Quick Response Texts – I don’t know how many people are going to make use of this feature, but it will definitely come in handy for me. When people call you and you don’t have time to talk (or you really just don’t want to), instead of ignoring their call or sending them straight to voicemail, you can now shoot off a pre-canned message telling them you’re busy. I can tell you right now that certain people in my contacts are going to get a lot of these messages.

Faster Voice-to-Text – While Android has always supported voice-to-text, it will now transcribe in real time. Instead of dictating a chunk of dialogue and then waiting to see how badly it got screwed up, text will appear on the screen as you speak. That’s right, it’ll screw up right in front of your eyes!

Photo and Video Editing – There are plenty of apps on the market that can edit video and photos, but with Ice Cream Sandwich, editing functionality is built right in.

Improved Camera – There are a few really cool updates to the camera. There’s a new panorama mode that will allow you to snap pictures together to create one large panoramic picture. There will be support for stop-motion photography, which I’m dying to check out. And finally, when shooting pictures, you’ll be able to tap on the screen to focus on something.

Data Usage Viewing – With more and more carriers dropping unlimited plans, it’s more important than ever to monitor your data usage. Ice Cream Sandwich will make it easy to see what apps are using data and when. You can also look at an apps history, to find out what used up all your data or killed your battery life.

Face Unlock – I am definitely iffy on this one. The lock screen will supposedly be able to read your face and unlock your phone for you. If this works, I’ll love it. But I’m more than a little scared that it won’t work and will result in you being locked out of your phone.

Android Beam – Near Field Communication is awesome. If you have two phones running Ice Cream Sandwich, you can tap the back of the two phones together and share webpages, games, etc.

The Old

By “old,” I’m referring to the fact that these features have existed on Android tablets for some time. For smartphone users, it’s all new.

Better Copy and Paste – Exactly what it says. It will now be easier to highlight text for copying and modifying.

Recent Apps – A new navigation button will bring up a list of your recently used apps for easy access.

Enhanced Email – The Gmail app has gotten an overhaul and will now show more emails and support subfolders and other features.

Resizable Widgets – As someone who likes to incessantly tinker with things, the more customization, the better. Now you can resize widgets to your shrinking and expanding pleasure.

Unlock Screen – If you don’t trust your phone to recognize your face, you can opt for a circle-dragging system instead. You can also access the camera and notification tray from the unlock screen.

Better Notifications – The notification bar will now have more uses, allowing you to pause and fast forward music. App developers will also have more control over how their apps use notifications.

Better Web Browsing – The new Android web browser will now support tabs, saved pages for offline reading, and sharing bookmarks with your PC. You’ll also be able to view desktop versions of mobile websites.

On-Screen Nav Buttons – All of the navigations buttons will now be located on the screen as opposed to underneath it. The three nav controls are now Back, Home, and Recent Apps. The Search and Menu buttons will appear if an app requires them.

New App Drawer – The app drawer now scrolls horizontally instead of vertically and has a tab for scrolling through widgets.

The Borrowed

Home Tray – An iOS feature, the home tray will contain your favorite app shortcuts and be visible throughout all homescreens.

Keyboard – The new keyboard looks very similar to the Windows Phone keyboard, but I’ve heard great things about the WP7 keyboard, so I’m not complaining.

Gestures – Whenever I think of phone gestures, I think of Jerry Seinfield’s bit about not being able to dramatically hang up an iPhone. These new gestures seem to come from WP7 and webOS.

Homescreen Folders – While no stranger to Android homebrew, Google is finally making this an official feature. Just stack apps on top of one another to combine into a folder.

Visual Voicemail – I hate voicemail. I hate having to call it, having to put in my PIN, and having to listen to my mom drone on about how she hasn’t talked to me in a while when in reality I talk to her every other day. Integrated visual voicemail will ease this pain with its ability to fast forward and rewind messages.

Solid Colors – A very minor update, Android 4.0 utilized a lot of solid colors in its visuals. This is only worth mentioning as it seems to be lifted from WP7.

People App – The contacts page has now become the “People” page. Browse through your friends profiles and see all of their recent social network updates. This is very similar to a feature in WP7, but with more social networks integrated.

Sounds Like a Tasty Treat!

That’s a lot of features. For once I’ll be able to upgrade my phone and not immediately regret it. We’ve gotten to a point now where people will upgrade their six-month-old phone to get the newer version with rounded edges, so it’s immensely satisfying to be able to upgrade to such a vastly improved experience.

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