Android's Ice Cream Sandwich update is tightly integrated with Google+ and Google accounts, which may play a role in helping the young social network grow.
All customers who pick up an Ice Cream Sandwich-enabled phone or upgrade to one in the future will be prompted by the OS to make a Google+ profile and sign up for a Google account, which requires a user's credit card information in order to purchase apps.
Having a Google+ profile allows users to take advantage of new features like the People app in ICS. The app takes users' contacts and links them to their Google+ photos, providing a list of friends and family members and giving quick access to their status updates and posts on the social network.
Because ICS makes signing up for a Google+ profile easy, and being a member of the social network allows Android users to take advantage of new features, it's likely the updated platform will lead to substantial growth for the site. Google+ has grown faster than several of its competitors, even while interest in the site has faded of late.
The primary reason users give for Google+'s lack of appeal has been that their friends are not on the site, so they report having little reason to make frequent visits. However, ICS will likely give millions of users a reason to sign up on the site, leading to more traffic and fueling further growth.
ICS also prompts its users to sign up for a regular Google account in order to register their credit card to make purchases in the Android Market. Past versions of Android did not ask users to make an account until they tried to buy something in the store, making it easy for them to back out of the mobile store and ignore it. Now, new customers will likely be more inclined to sign up for an account during the set up, making all future purchases through the Android devices easier for Google to initiate.
Gaining more user accounts with credit cards will increase Google's revenues and help the company create an ecosystem of products, but ICS still provides the biggest boost to Google+.
Google announced it has activated 200 million Android devices to date. Not all of them will run ICS, but all future devices will likely run the OS and millions more are expected to receive the update, giving the company's social network tremendous reach.