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Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich Review

Posted: , by Ray S.

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Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich Review
Progress in the industry is often made one step at a time. Little by little. Very rarely do we see a company make significant move forward, bringing radical changes, with only a single product. Take for example, RIM, which has been very consistent with updating its BlackBerry OS, adding a new feature here and there, changing the appearance of a few icons, implementing a new browser... but when you look at the whole picture, BlackBerry is still the same, old and tired OS we've been treated to so many times. And one would think that given RIM's disadvantageous position, it'll be quick to innovate its mobile platform more seriously. Obviously, this isn't as simple as it sounds.

South of the border though, Google has recently shown how the big boys should play. With Android's market share constantly expanding, and no real competition save for the iPhone, which is very stable, but doesn't grow as fast, one would think that Google doesn't have too many reasons to worry about its influence on the mobile sector, so why should it rush to innovate? Well, think again, as the Mountain View company recently undertook a complete redesign of its platform. A bit risky, you say? Probably quite a few analysts have quoted the “if it ain't broke, don't fix it” saying, but you know what? In our opinion, Ice Cream Sandwich is probably the best thing that has ever happened to Android.

In our Samsung Galaxy Nexus Review, we praised the phone for being extremely capable and pleasant to use. However, we wouldn't have given the Nexus such a high rating, if it wasn't for Android 4.0 ICS. This new software managed to get us really excited, and now we're simply looking forward to having ICS on more and more handsets. However, until these start popping up on the shelves (hopefully sooner rather than later), we wanted to take our time to sit down and write a few words to describe our feelings about the new mobile OS by Google.


The looks

So, what is it that's making ICS such a big deal? Not that it's all about the looks, but we must admit that the appearance of a product, no matter if it's a phone, tablet, app, or even an OS, is very, very important. The crude stock interface of all Android releases, up to 2.3, was among the main issues of the platform, and with ICS, Google has fixed just that. Actually, the company took Android 3 Honeycomb, which was used on a number of tablets, and used it to build ICS on top of it, meaning that there isn't a single trace of Gingerbread. That's a good thing no matter how you look at it, as we are now treated to some of the best visuals one can find in a mobile platform. Not only have all the graphical elements been redrawn, the OS is also full of other little eye-candies like fancy 3D transitions and effects. As a whole, ICS retains the predominantly futuristic appearance of Honeycomb, but refines it even further to make it seem a bit more approachable even to not that tech-savvy users.

Android 4.0 ICS has a predominantly futuristic appearance
Android 4.0 ICS has a predominantly futuristic appearance
Android 4.0 ICS has a predominantly futuristic appearance
Android 4.0 ICS has a predominantly futuristic appearance

Android 4.0 ICS has a predominantly futuristic appearance


Probably the best thing about all this is that even with all of this eye-candy, everything runs buttery smooth, at least on a high-end phone like the Galaxy Nexus. Well, you can observe an occasional slowdown here or there, but as a whole, Android 4.0 leaves an impression of being a very fluid and fast platform.


Streamlining the experience

If ICS was only better on the outside, and the same on the inside, it wouldn't have had so much of an impact on the Android ecosystem. However, Google has made sure to enhance its innards as well, so we're happy to report that your overall experience with the OS will not only look better, but will also be more streamlined as well. What we mean here is that there have been made dramatic changes with regards to how you operate with it. One of the most important alterations in this respect is the omission of the context menu key, which was previously used to display additional options for the app or screen that you've currently opened. All of there options are now part of each app's interface itself, which means that you'll no longer have to look at two different places to find options and settings for an app (the interface of the app and the context menu), but just one – what you see on the screen. This, our friends, is what we call streamlining the user experience, and we're very happy to see Google making the right moves in this direction.

In addition to basic navigation within Android 4.0, core applications have also received a facelift. For example, the People app now comes with a completely new UI, designed to bring the most important content at the forefront, without being cluttered with all kinds of buttons and options. Other programs, like the Calendar, have been enhanced to offer new functionality and better navigation by utilizing gestures. This indeed makes using ICS somewhat more intuitive than using Gingerbread.

The People app
Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich Review
The Calendar
Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich Review

The People app

 

The Calendar

 

Well, the new approach found with ICS might be a more simplistic one, compared to previous versions of the OS, but that doesn't mean you aren't able to customize it the way you see fit. After all, that's where the beauty of Android is, and we just can't see Andy Rubin and company risk losing all of this for the sake of the unknown. Quite the opposite, all of the more advanced options are present, but are now neatly organized within dedicated menus. Speaking of options, it's worth noting that the Settings have also been improved. They are now better organized, allowing you to find your way around more easily, although they aren't perfect yet, due to some small details. For example, getting into the list of available Wi-Fi networks isn't very intuitive. But of course, such issues are easy to fix, and we hope that Google will address them with future versions of the platform.


Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich Review
Multitasking

Being able to have multiple applications running at the same time, or multitasking, has been among Android's main advantages over iOS for a long time. However, its hold-the-home-button-for-a-couple-of-seconds-to-show-running-apps method wasn't exactly what we'd call quick and predisposing, and thankfully, it has now been replaced with a simple dedicated key. Oh, how much easier this is, and how much more we used it. Upon pressing the multitasking key, it brings up a scrollable list of your running apps (complete with a thumbnail), just like in Honeycomb. As you know, many kinds of “advanced” functionality have been supported by various mobile operating systems before, like multitasking and copy and paste, but their implementations haven't always been adequate for use on the smaller screen of a phone. Eventually, devs had to think of ways to implement those said functionalities that would make them easier to use, and the advancements that Google has made with regards to multitasking in ICS fall exactly into this category.


App support

In order to multitask, however, you'll need many apps! So how's the situation with support for apps designed for previous versions of the OS (because, obviously, there aren't many apps written for ICS right now)? It's fine, but not great. Most apps, especially simpler ones, will have no trouble running on an ICS device, but there are some more advanced products, like 3D games, which are not really supported by the platform. For example, we tried Asphalt 5 and it ran, but its interface was offset from the screen and the touch controls didn't work, so the game was virtually unplayable. However, we believe major app developers will be quick to update their games and applications to add Ice Cream Sandwich support.


Manufacturer UIs

Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich Review
Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich Review
So, we have this beautiful new interface, but what about those custom user interfaces that pretty much all manufacturers of Android phones tend to use? Will they continue to exist? Our guess is that phone and tablet manufacturers will continue to use their interface overlays in order to bring differentiation for their products. What we hope is that they'll at least spend some time beautifying and streamlining their proprietary software as well, since it won't be well received if they just get the pretty stock ICS and cover it with their same-old graphics. HTC's Sense looks good, but it could use a small refresher. Samsung's TouchWiz, on the other hand, needs to be both simplified and beautified, as it's still having that iPhone for kids look. All of these reformations might be more of a wishful thinking, but we do hope that at least some of these will happen. After all, who want a phone with a custom UI that looks worse than the stock one?


Conclusion

All in all, things are looking pretty good for Android right now. It has undergone a major redesign, positioning it much better in terms of approachability. The system now looks beautiful, complete and advanced, with only minor kinks to get worked out.

From its humble beginnings until today, Android has walked a long and bumpy path, but has eventually become a robust platform, suitable not only for geeks, but regular consumers as well. With the Ice Cream Sandwich update, Android phones and tablets are closer to being mass market products than ever before. And probably for the first time ever, this won't be due to a lower price, but to the quality of the platform itself. We are very happy and excited about this, and are looking forward to meeting more ICS devices along the way. Surely those will be appearing on the horizon very soon, but you know what? We can't wait!

Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich Video Review:



61 Comments
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posted on 06 Dec 2011, 07:25 20

1. HTCiscool (Posts: 449; Member since: 16 Jul 2011)


It really is completely AMAZING

Best name of any Android addition thus far
Most complete android addition thus far
Best looking android addition thus far

Well done Google!

P.S. Yes I did read it!

posted on 06 Dec 2011, 08:11 4

9. karanstyle (Posts: 188; Member since: 26 Jun 2011)


addition or edition?? OMG you android fans!! LMAO!!

posted on 06 Dec 2011, 08:31 4

15. kshell1 (Posts: 1143; Member since: 05 Oct 2011)


i think he may have been employing addition as the next version or something like that. maybe not sure but maybe.

posted on 06 Dec 2011, 08:31 11

16. Dmann (Posts: 165; Member since: 17 Oct 2011)


I´m a civil engineering student.and english is not even my first language. But I write/speak better than many north americans.

And I love Android.

What´s your point?

I can even use commas, something an Apple fan I know (I believe you all know who I'm talking about) can´t do.

There was even one who wrote "Makes since". Maybe as an android hater he couldn´t say/write Sense.

posted on 06 Dec 2011, 10:15 3

27. terabyteRouser (Posts: 419; Member since: 18 Oct 2011)


Who cares?

posted on 06 Dec 2011, 09:06 5

23. XiphiasGladius (Posts: 801; Member since: 21 Aug 2011)


What a Jerk, as if he's perfect. . .

posted on 07 Dec 2011, 01:19 3

42. roscuthiii (Posts: 1801; Member since: 18 Jul 2010)


Addition or edition easily work in either instance here if you think about it. Troll harder next time.

posted on 10 Dec 2011, 18:29 2

55. ILikeBubbles (Posts: 302; Member since: 17 Jan 2011)


I'm pretty sure that Addition or Edition would both make sense. when i think of an "addition" its something that's been added or upgrade. an "edition" makes me think of a "special edition limited-time only" sort of item. im pretty sure they both would have worked in this situation but personally i prefered Addition. ESPECIALLY since every version's icon is "added" to the front of building 504 (404?) i think the grammar is proper. :) nice try though. ^^

posted on 06 Dec 2011, 08:45 10

20. HTCiscool (Posts: 449; Member since: 16 Jul 2011)


Ok calm down for the spelling mistakes, I'm sorry no need to flay me alive

posted on 06 Dec 2011, 08:54 4

22. Ray.S (Posts: 257; Member since: 19 Jul 2011)


I do appreciate it! :)

posted on 06 Dec 2011, 18:42 2

36. wakingup (Posts: 51; Member since: 13 Aug 2011)


Its a great OS update and this was a good review. But there were so many things which wer left out of this article. Face unlock? Wheres that. That is one of the less known highlight features of ICS.

posted on 10 Dec 2011, 18:30 2

56. ILikeBubbles (Posts: 302; Member since: 17 Jan 2011)


less known? hmm thats the only think i really knew about before this article lol :) i guess they may not have mentioned it was because it was too good and worked off of a picture of the person and not just the face... so secure? yes... but bulletproof.. i don't think so.

posted on 21 Dec 2011, 16:24

61. Larry_ThaGr81 (Posts: 294; Member since: 26 May 2011)


Maybe they're still adding the finishing touches because of the potential security issues that are posed by people simply taking a picture of the individual's face and showing it to the front facing camera.

posted on 06 Dec 2011, 07:31 18

2. bobfreking55 (Posts: 866; Member since: 15 Jul 2011)


I like it when they say Android is Maturing as an OS. Well done indeed since it looks very original and distinctive from iOS, Symbian, Bada, WP7 and other OSs.
Imagine what Jellybean to Zebracake will do.
iOS 22 vs Zebra Cake. :) lol

posted on 06 Dec 2011, 07:34 8

3. kshell1 (Posts: 1143; Member since: 05 Oct 2011)


i love zebra cakes O.o and i love android. omg the perfect combo

posted on 26 Dec 2011, 21:34

63. ILikeBubbles (Posts: 302; Member since: 17 Jan 2011)


yum. :p

posted on 06 Dec 2011, 07:44 4

4. ZEUS.the.thunder.god (unregistered)


amazing. good jobe done google. a nice read.

posted on 06 Dec 2011, 08:03 7

5. arcq12 (Posts: 733; Member since: 13 Oct 2011)


cant wait for xda to finish baking ICS for my baby..

posted on 06 Dec 2011, 08:13 4

10. iamcc (Posts: 1319; Member since: 07 Oct 2011)


Yeah i'm current running a custom ROM on my GT10.1 with a ICS theme just to remind me it's coming ;)

posted on 06 Dec 2011, 08:36 5

17. Dmann (Posts: 165; Member since: 17 Oct 2011)


I´m holding myself not to do that so I can have a bigger Wow factor. When it comes it~s gonna be a huge difference!

It's like not watching movie trailers so the movie is not spoiled.

posted on 06 Dec 2011, 08:23 4

12. harsh_732006 (Posts: 65; Member since: 15 Aug 2011)


u have ported ics to ur real baby?..lol jk

posted on 06 Dec 2011, 08:44 5

19. arcq12 (Posts: 733; Member since: 13 Oct 2011)


hey clown its very funny..

posted on 06 Dec 2011, 12:25 3

31. harsh_732006 (Posts: 65; Member since: 15 Aug 2011)


so try to make a lil more sense next time,.

posted on 06 Dec 2011, 15:23 2

33. networkdood (Posts: 6267; Member since: 31 Mar 2010)


ICS working great on my captivate :-)

posted on 06 Dec 2011, 08:04 3

6. SlimSoulja86 (Posts: 642; Member since: 03 Nov 2011)


"Samsung's TouchWiz, on the other hand, needs to be both simplified and beautified, as it's still having that iPhone for kids look", I don't think that was neccessary [that sound subjective than objective] #JustA_Thought

posted on 06 Dec 2011, 08:24 6

13. remixfa (Posts: 13903; Member since: 19 Dec 2008)


i agree. the personal attack on touchwiz was unessisary. Personally, I like the color coated look of TW, its meant to show off the high saturation of super amoled screens.. and on that, it works quite well. I also prefer it over something like Sense as it takes far less system resources and is much easier to get rid of, if you so desire.

posted on 06 Dec 2011, 09:28 6

25. alegarrido (Posts: 6; Member since: 05 Dec 2011)


TouchWizKhalifa

posted on 06 Dec 2011, 13:56 7

32. TerryCrowley (Posts: 184; Member since: 31 Jul 2011)


The irony is that the iOS already looks like it's for kids.

posted on 07 Dec 2011, 10:02

43. TalkingTechy (Posts: 97; Member since: 05 Dec 2011)


Yeah, maybe it could have been worded differently, but it's a decent point he makes. For arguably the first time, ICS brings a very attractive UI from stock. With TouchWiz's current offering, it would be a step backward in styling.

posted on 06 Dec 2011, 08:04 5

7. protozeloz (Posts: 5375; Member since: 16 Sep 2010)


I think ICS looks great, I hope this encourages manufacturers to create app instead of full changes, since most the important stuff is already covered or can be covered from an added app

-Lanucher
-Sync tools
-Social network

all those could make apps instead of having something deeply integrated in the OS making it more simple to update and also more secure.

I think The TW UX might have being going almost the right way. but they need to turn everything into an app, this also helps them update single app issues easier (a la android market)

posted on 06 Dec 2011, 08:11 2

8. plgladio (Posts: 311; Member since: 05 Dec 2011)


Ice Cream Sandwich delicious..

posted on 06 Dec 2011, 08:19 2

11. baldilocks (Posts: 507; Member since: 14 Dec 2008)


Google. Please let us remove the Google Search bar and use that space for widgets. Why fix something that wasn't broken??

posted on 06 Dec 2011, 10:56

30. ojdidit84 (Posts: 302; Member since: 16 Jul 2011)


Hopefully the Google search bar is still a widget like its always been.

posted on 06 Dec 2011, 15:26 3

34. networkdood (Posts: 6267; Member since: 31 Mar 2010)


You can remove the Google search bar :
Hit the Menu key while on the homescreen, and navigate to Manage Apps > All > Google Search.
From within the App info screen that follows, select Disable.

posted on 06 Dec 2011, 08:31 5

14. mozes316 (Posts: 142; Member since: 30 Sep 2011)


"Samsung's TouchWiz, on the other hand, needs to be both simplified and beautified, as it's still having that iPhone for kids look." lol Love it!

posted on 06 Dec 2011, 08:40 3

18. baldilocks (Posts: 507; Member since: 14 Dec 2008)


At least Touchwiz lets us put all of the apps in the app tray into folders. Having to scroll or swipe through lists is tedious. I can't wait for Touchwiz overlay of ICS.

posted on 06 Dec 2011, 08:47 11

21. bloodline (Posts: 691; Member since: 01 Dec 2011)


I have had the galaxy nexus for nearly a week now and I can tell you ICS is awsome.

It just looks futuristic, I compared it to my iphone and it just looks so much better and feels so much better. You can just see the quality and diversity google have added and it really does look, feel and is a quality OS.

I give credit to google they done a great job and im looking forward to all the future innovative updates google will bring to ics.

Keep up the good work google

Im curious to see what win8 will bring and Im sure google are to

posted on 06 Dec 2011, 09:27 2

24. alegarrido (Posts: 6; Member since: 05 Dec 2011)


Cat's and Dog's are irrellevant to this review

posted on 06 Dec 2011, 10:16 2

28. terabyteRouser (Posts: 419; Member since: 18 Oct 2011)


I think this article would be better titled, "Ice Cream Sandwich Impressions" or something like that. It didn't seem like a comprehensive review.

posted on 06 Dec 2011, 10:51 2

29. Dmann (Posts: 165; Member since: 17 Oct 2011)


Watch out, wee have a down thumber over here!

http://weknowmemes.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/11/watch-out-we-got-a-badass-over-here-meme.png

posted on 06 Dec 2011, 21:37 1

39. Cwebb (Posts: 501; Member since: 05 Oct 2011)


Taco's ghost? Or is it just Miz

posted on 06 Dec 2011, 17:11

35. KingKurogiii (Posts: 5593; Member since: 23 Oct 2011)


i love how the same people that are getting worked up over a little personal comment about TW have been bagging on Motorola's interfaces for the past year even though there's really a lot to like about it. i like TW4 a lot and i also like Motorola's UI. when it comes to aesthetic taste i believe we should all be as 100% personal and picky as possible but as far as sucking up CPU neither Motorolas nor Samsungs do that now but i think we can all agree that Sense needs to lighten up...a lot. the reasons i don't want to get a Galaxy Nexus is i don't like it's Build Quality and i want to see what Motorola does with ICS because i bet it's going to be pretty slick.

posted on 06 Dec 2011, 20:55 3

37. remixfa (Posts: 13903; Member since: 19 Dec 2008)


KK, i hope they do nothing to ICS and take the opportunity to differentiate themselves by releasing mostly stock handsets and the constant promise of "near nexus speed" updates. Concidering how much we all bitch about everyone's pokey update speeds, that would get them a lot of positive attention. Keep doing the thin kevlar + SA+ screens, a long with that, and its a sure winner. :)

posted on 07 Dec 2011, 00:01

40. KingKurogiii (Posts: 5593; Member since: 23 Oct 2011)


i hope they do like what they've done with the XOOM 2 variants and only tweak little things like icons, widgets, the task bar, little things like that. that shouldn't keep up updates real long

posted on 07 Dec 2011, 10:09 2

44. TalkingTechy (Posts: 97; Member since: 05 Dec 2011)


Agreed remixfa.

#Corrections
DROID RAZR doesn't have SAMOLED '+', its display is SAMOLED "Advanced."

posted on 06 Dec 2011, 21:31 1

38. sdorinphonearena (Posts: 2; Member since: 06 Dec 2011)


What kind of twit writes this about Android? "From its humble beginnings until today, Android has walked a long and bumpy path, but has eventually become a robust platform, suitable not only for geeks, but regular consumers as well."

It's been a short, smooth road - thanks to rapid adoption by carries and subsequently 'regular consumers', hence now no. 2 in smartphone market share.

Completely f*cking ridiculous.

posted on 07 Dec 2011, 00:04

41. KingKurogiii (Posts: 5593; Member since: 23 Oct 2011)


if you're confused by the seemingly contradicting points one refers to the Platforms stability as a Platform and the other is referring to the growth and the adoption of the Platform.

posted on 07 Dec 2011, 10:50

45. kpfirefighter (Posts: 160; Member since: 20 Sep 2011)


There are some things that I don't really like about the new ICS!
The pinch to zoom on a web page is really nice to have when trying to read the fine print so you don't get f**ked all the time!
Then this numb nuts was saying that some apps are having trouble with the new software! I hope they get this s**t figured out!

posted on 07 Dec 2011, 20:32

46. mnave5 (Posts: 1; Member since: 07 Dec 2011)


i dont even understand it

posted on 08 Dec 2011, 02:59

47. jackhammeR (Posts: 1548; Member since: 17 Oct 2011)


Come on...android is finally resources effecient?
"everything runs buttery smooth, at least on a high-end phone like the Galaxy Nexus"
So android runs PRETTY smooth on high end but not always on lower models (and I mean 1ghz phones...not wildfire).
At last, android is smooth and fluid! Almost like IOS.
But why so late, why it needs so much powerful hardware? Why even wallpapers can cause lags?
I have a feeling that guys from google have never worked hard enough in optimalization department and resources management.
They don't have to. Manufacturers intruducing new dual/quad/xxx core chipsets almost everyday so they just don't have to.

posted on 08 Dec 2011, 03:03

48. jackhammeR (Posts: 1548; Member since: 17 Oct 2011)


I just don't understand why android needs so much power to work properly.
Have you ever considered it?
Dual core! 1 gig of ram! additional GPU! The only thing lacks is some cooling system:]
On paper those phones are more powerful than many computers, laptops, etc.
And they still have problems with some lags and choopines.
I just don't get it.

posted on 09 Dec 2011, 06:08

49. BlazinEmperor (Posts: 35; Member since: 24 Nov 2011)


NO SMARTPHONE IS AS POWERFUL AS A COMPUTER! NOT EVEN A PENTIUM 3 PC! YOU GUYS KNOW LITTLE ABOUT PROCESSORS & R.A.Ms,... THERE'S MUCH MORE TO A CPU THAN IT'S CLOCK SPEED...

posted on 09 Dec 2011, 13:27

51. jackhammeR (Posts: 1548; Member since: 17 Oct 2011)


I wrote: "on paper". Read more careful.
My point was to compare pure numbers.

posted on 22 Dec 2011, 01:43

62. OSFantasma (Posts: 119; Member since: 27 Sep 2011)


Agreed.. specially when you factor in the different technologies that go in to the works, e.g. x86, 64 BIT, ARM CORTEX, RAM ETC...

posted on 09 Dec 2011, 06:13

50. BlazinEmperor (Posts: 35; Member since: 24 Nov 2011)


I Prefer Symbian Belle's UI to this default skin for ICS... This looks too basic, I hope OEMs will be allowed to put a customed skin on it.... Android LAGS pretty much on low & mid-range phones, but it goes quite unnoticed on High-End phones unless you're a power user, that's when u'll truly notice it.... But a few seconds of lag won't hurt anyone, so forget about it....

posted on 09 Dec 2011, 13:28

52. jackhammeR (Posts: 1548; Member since: 17 Oct 2011)


Yeah, won't hurt anyone but you see. hwen SYmbian has lags is the worst system on the planet. But when android has, it's normal.

posted on 09 Dec 2011, 20:04 2

53. henrickrw (Posts: 404; Member since: 16 Sep 2011)


You clearly said that if it wasnt for ICS you wouldn't have given the nexus such a high rating. Based on this my petition is to review the international Exynos version of the gs2 with this OS when it's available. You should give it a 10.

posted on 10 Dec 2011, 18:13

54. BskidlyoJo (Posts: 1; Member since: 10 Dec 2011)


But will it have screenshot capabilities?

posted on 11 Dec 2011, 11:08 2

57. louay_joumaa (Posts: 18; Member since: 09 Dec 2011)


well done google..but ill stick with my gs2 4 now ;) hoping they gonna fix those widgets in the new touchwiz UI :)

posted on 12 Dec 2011, 20:21

58. KarlE (Posts: 5; Member since: 28 Jan 2011)


iOS 22 vs Zebra Cake.....lol

the dell streak 5 dev crew is working on ics for the streak.....cant wait

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