Ice Cream Sandwich
Just how tasty is Android 4.0?
Review No new version of the Android mobile operating system has been quite so eagerly awaited as v4.0 or Ice Cream Sandwich as it’s more colourfully known. The reason is not hard to explain: Android has streaked ahead of iOS in the bums-on-seats stakes but there is still the feeling that the user interface lacks the polish and grace of Apple’s mobile platform.
Homescreen and Honeycomb-style blue border show when moving icons
ICS is also charged with unifying Android’s look and feel across both phones and tablets and those devices likes the Samsung Galaxy Note that are a little bit of each. You could say that ICS is what v3.0 Honeycomb would have been had Google not rushed it out to try to compete with Apple’s iPad.
Let’s start with the looks. You’d have to be blind not to see that in terms of design, with its Honeycomb-like theme, ICS is a quantum leap forward over previous incarnations of Android. Taking inspiration from iOS and WinPho 7, the UI is now replete with visually pleasing animations that give the impression that the UI is alive to your touch. This new look is most obvious when adding or removing home screen items.
Folder contents and resizeable widgets
This process is now accompanied by the appearance of blue border lines and icon corner markers, just as it is in Honeycomb. Sadly you can no longer add things with a simple long-press on the screen but only from the app tray which now also scrolls into a widget catalogue.
Once you’ve found and placed your widgets ICS now lets you re-size them, a major step forward and the Honeycomb feature I welcome the most. With the screen now playing host to a row of virtual system buttons – as well as a five-button dock – you need to get used to the complete absence of fascia controls, be they touch sensitive or physical.
Settings and networking
Aesthetically, this will make for much cleaner handset designs with a higher screen-to-phone size ratio but it makes me wonder how ICS will look on existing handsets that already have fascia buttons. The traditional Android search/menu/home/back buttons have been replaced with a Honeycomb-style offering of back, home and running apps. The search bar is now a fixed widget present on all your home screens.
Next page: Background info
Confused graphic design style
I'm sure ICS is a leap forward in features and usability but visually it's an incoherent mess. Most of those screenshots show at least two different styles on each: the buttons at the bottom are one-pixel abstract lines; the app icons are 3D pseudo-realistic; the app folder icons are slightly abstract solid blocks with 2.5D depth; the settings screen has flat block icons ... it's like they've all been designed by different people and no-one has checked for consistency before they shipped.
It may be that only graphic designers would care about the specifics but surely to most people the overall impression is just really messy?
Why do they think I want to search from every screen? Especially as it's such a wide widget.
I could actually understand it more (I wouldn't like it more, but I'd udnerstand it more) if they just stuck a rotating advert on every screen.
"Nailed on Google search Widget"
Nothing demonstrates Google's revenue stream more clearly. You don't use that widget, Google don't make money.
Not that there's any difference between Google and MS and Apple. Except Apple will take $hundreds of you first and then extract advertising revenue from your data.
"Personally the main reason I don't like the look of Android is that it's just all so black. Cheer up Google!"
Black 'theme' + an OLED screen = increased battery life, since you only need to power the non-black pixels.
The difference between Apple, MS & Google
With Apple and MS you are the customer, with Google you are the product.