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IceCream Sandwich Review

 

At Digital Phone Company we believe the best way to give feedback on handsets and technology is by gathering it from long term users of it rather than just using it for a few days.  Our next review is of Googles latest version of their Android Operating System, IceCream Sandwich 4.0.  This review has been written by one of our own staff....

Cupcake, Donut, Eclair, Frozen-Yoghurt and Gingerbread. Sounds like most people’s New Year’s Resolutions ruined in one sugary binge.

Tech fans among you may have noticed that these are previous iterations of the Google developed Android operating system. Those of you paying particularly close attention may have noticed the ascending alphabetical order of the five Android software versions, which also have version numbers as well as sweet names, ranging from 1.5 (Cupcake) up to 2.3 (Gingerbread).

Although Android has been a huge success; overtaking iPhone and BlackBerry, much has been documented of its “fragmentation”, with it being open-source, manufacturers can use any version they wish and also customise the OS to change its appearance, differentiating their Android product from others (one of the main reasons for its immense popularity). Couple this with varying levels of Android-running hardware, and software developers of games and apps are left having to code their releases to cope with anything from entry-level handsets right up to the processing powerhouses like the Galaxy Nexus. It is this fragmentation that has left Android suffering from slow updates, and a lack of high-quality applications.

This is where Ice Cream Sandwich comes in; Android version 4.0 promises to alleviate these issues by being coded for a plethora of screen sizes and hardware. Hang on!! Where is version 3.0 I hear you cry? Why the jump from 2.3 to 4.0? Well version 3.0 (Honeycomb) was specifically for tablets and not available on mobile phones. The new iteration of Android which runs on tablets and phones, sandwiches the best features of Gingerbread and Honeycomb, and is called, wait for it, Ice Cream Sandwich.

So what features does Ice Cream Sandwich bring to the table? For anyone using an AOSP (Android Open Source Project) version of Android it brings huge differences, AOSP basically means a pure, vanilla version of Android. As most phones use a customised version of Android, such as MotoBlur from Motorola, Sense from HTC or TouchWiz by Samsung then the changes will be more subtle.  Ice Cream Sandwich
(ICS) brings some great features though, which manufacturers will incorporate into their customised skins. Features such as:

Swipe-to-dismiss, this can be used within the built in task manager, notification bar and browser, if you want to close a program, browser window or remove a notification just swipe your finger from left to right and it disappears, leaving only the important things that you want.

The task manager itself no longer brings up a list of icons when you hold down the Home key; you get a scrollable list containing each app with a preview pane showing you exactly how you left the app, just tap the screenshot to open that app. Lots easier.

A much-improved keyboard. The touch-screen keyboard now automatically inserts spaces between words if you miss the space bar. It also uses the Bigram suggestion model to intelligently predict the word you are trying to type by reading the previous words in the sentence! There is even a spell checking function that underlines words that you’ve spelt wrong!

The home screen has received the biggest overhaul, you now have access to scrollable, resizable widgets (much like HTC Sense) and folders that can be created by simply dragging and dropping apps on top of each other (much like iPhone).

 

However the biggest difference is very difficult to put your finger on (pun intended), the whole experience is now much more fluid and intuitive. Interacting with a handset running ICS is  more natural thanks to smaller changes; animations have been improved and options that you use more often are close to hand when needed, such as the Settings button next to the date when you drag the notification bar down.

However, it is not all Rosie (sic) for Ice Cream Sandwich, the “new” features have already been implemented in various third party apps available on the Android Market, and I can’t see very many manufacturers using it in its pure form. What Google have done is improved the software immensely when comparing it to previous “vanilla” versions of Android, however, it only has a few standout features when compared
to skinned versions from HTC and Samsung.

There is talk that Google will restrict access to the Market for handsets that do not run ICS in its pure form, and there is also a website from Google dedicated to developers, informing them of ways to design their app so it visually fits with the rest of the operating system. 

It seems that being open-source has enabled Android to grow incredibly quickly, but it’s also the reason it receives most of its criticism. Overall, I love ICS on my HTC Desire HD, its clean, crisp and very intuitive, with some fantastic new features!

Richard Goreham

Digital Phone Company


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