With the Galaxy Nexus and Ice Cream Sandwich launches drawing nearer, we're staring to learn about more software and hardware features, including the Galaxy Nexus' mysterious barometer. Dan Morrill, an Android engineer at Google, took to Google Plus and let the world know that the barometer is there to help with GPS lock-on. One of the three dimensions used in GPS lock-on is altitude, so the barometer is able to couple with existing aGPS features to speed up the lock-on process. The Galaxy Nexus isn't even the first device to have this sensor — Motorola's Xoom tablet also includes a barometer. While Morrill also notes that the barometer can be used to determine atmospheric pressure, he doesn't believe it is weather grade.
Another new feature can benefit all eventual users of Ice Cream Sandwich, not just Galaxy Nexus owners: Ice Cream Sandwich supports USB gamepads. While those who root their devices already have similar functionality, this brings broader USB compatibility to unrooted Android phones. This doesn't come a a big surprise, since USB host mode has been supported since Android 3.1. It should soon be easy to take a Galaxy Nexus with HDMI output and use it as a game console, which may help Android gain more prominence as a gaming platform.