As with Android 3.x, the newer version AKA "Ice Cream Sandwich" will feature USB hosting for connecting USB-based devices like external hard drives and game controllers.
The Sony Ericsson Xperia PLAY won't be the only Android-based hardcore gaming smartphone for long, as Google's latest build of Android, aka "Ice Cream Sandwich," will fully support USB-based gamepads when it begins to roll out in the next few months. The news arrives by way of Android engineer Romain Guy via Twitter who said that "with Android 4.0, you can use USB gamepads and HDMI to turn your Galaxy Nexus into a video games console!"
USB hosting support actually arrived with Android 3.x "Honeycomb," but this will be the feature's first appearance on a smartphone. Tablet owners can actually connect with USB-based devices like an external hard drive, keyboard, mouse or an Xbox 360 controller to use with games and emulators. And until now, smartphone users had to rely on Bluetooth devices (Wiimote) and 3rd-party apps to incorporate any kind of external controller.
Given that Google has created a "one size fits all" OS with Android 4.0, it probably shouldn't come as a surprise that the feature will also be included on smartphones. And with native support, users seemingly carry a miniature PC in their pocket -- or in this case a miniature gaming console -- right out of the box... if the device sports an HDMI-out jack, that is.
Last week Google revealed a huge list of changes and improvements to Android with the upcoming release of Ice Cream Sandwich including native stylus support, resizable widgets, better multitasking, a revamped camera with tools, Android Beam for sharing content across two NFC-enabled devices, Wi-Fi Direct and more.