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THOUGHT: Android 4.0 / Ice Cream Sandwich - available but not yet ready for Prime-Time?
Posted by Arne Hess - on Monday, 05.12.11 - 16:03:53 CET under 09 - Thoughts - Viewed 12192x
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Ok, Android 4.0/Ice Cream Sandwich is now - with the commercial launch of the Samsung Galaxy Nexus - available and one of the major goals for Google was to reunify the Android platform. Since the launch of Android 3.0 / Honeycomb, Google had two Android platforms - one for smartphones (Android 2.3.x aka Gingerbread) and one for tablets (Android 3.x aka Honeycomb). However, Google said before that it was working to reunify both streams again into a single platform and Android 4.0 was the result. As the name/number implies, Ice Cream Sandwich is far more than just a Honeycomb update for smartphones but a new and enhanced Android version. However, it seems it's not yet ready for prime time.

With Android 4.0, Google continued to use the menu changes it introduced with Android 3.0 before. Therefore, Android 4.0 smartphones (and upcoming tablets) don't feature a hardware- (or soft-) menu key anymore but this button was replaced with an app-switcher which allows to easily switch between recently opened and used apps. App menus and settings are now opened from the app-menu within the respective application. And here starts the trouble. It looks like app developers have to add or enable this settings-menu to their apps and it seems Facebook hasn't done it in the yet. Basically, there's no menu option available which means users can't configure their Facebook app after it was installed:

The Facebook client with the missing menu compared to the Twitter client with the menu (highlighted in the lower right corner)

Furthermore, Facebook is constantly crashing, a behavior I haven't noticed that often on other Android smartphones in the past.

Also I was quite surprised today when I tried to update Google+ today. As Google and Samsung announced at the Galaxy Nexus launch last month, the device comes with Google+ preinstalled. So far so good but since Google+ is a service in development, Google is constantly releasing updates through the Android Market. However, the Galaxy Nexus denied to install the update after it was successfully downloaded with the information that the "package file was not signed correctly". That's quite a surprising message that even Google is unable to digital sign its applications correctly:

Android 4.0 denied to update Google+ while it installed Google Goggles fine

I was even told that this happens with all Google applications, however I can't confirm this since Google Goggles and Google Translate installed fine on the test Galaxy Nexus.

Last but not least the yet missing Adobe Flash support. Sure, the future might be HTML5 (only) but we have to face it that the web today is also Adobe Flash and will be Flash for a very long time. While Adobe has announced, that it won't continue on Flash Mobile, it was also confirmed that the Galaxy Nexus (and hopefully other Android 4.0 devices) will receive an Adobe Flash update end of this year.

Nevertheless, with the currently missing Flash support, the Android 4.0 web browser - which is by far the best Android browser ever - is only half-backed and Google and/or Adobe is better releasing Adobe Flash sooner than later.

Final Conclusion

Android 4.0 is yet for away from being feature complete or user friendly, especially because Android left the geek-status some time ago and wants to be the number one competitor of Apple's iOS. However, unlike iOS which works - more less stable and always seems to be feature complete, Android 4.0 is yet not offering a friendly user experience. How comes that a major application like Facebook is not Android 4.0 compatible, how comes that Google apps are being unable to be updated or installed and how comes that a web company like Google isn't providing a 110 % web user experience? Frankly, that's lame and I had higher expectations in Ice Cream Sandwich. Being a tech-savvy, I can live with the current limitations or having workaround by hand which help to live with it but keeping in mind that Android is a mass-market product now and the Galaxy Nexus isn't one of the cheaper Android phones, it really makes me wonder what Google had in mind when it released the Galaxy Nexus commercially.

Cheers ~ Arne

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Posted by jc on 05.12.11 - 16:32:47

I am confused... How is it the fault of ICS that facebook devs have not updated their code? How is it ICS fault that adobe has decided to abandon flash but still agrees to support ics in the next 2 weeks... I think your agravation is with software devs not staying on top of things and not ICS. Although I will give you the point that google should have its house in order with its OWN apps... Every time we have  sea change of an OS (remember 64 bit win 7 and the loss of old printers and early release software that just does not work right?). The problem is with the dev world not keeping up or looking forward as change inevitably happens...

Posted by Arne Hess on 05.12.11 - 16:44:09

In terms of Facebook, I would expect *from Google*, that they are offering a solution which keeps the menu item alive! They introduced the menu key and took it away with Honeycomb and now again with ICS. However, with Honeycomb, there was a working menu soft-key which isn't available at ICS anymore. No question, I agree that developers have to keep their apps up-to-date but if I, as the owner of a platform, make massive changes in basic functionality, I have to have solutions available to keep apps working. Frankly, I'm disappointed that a major app like Facebook is that bad supported in ICS when it was supported well in Honeycomb; keeping in mind that both platforms share the new navigation philosophy.
In terms of Flash I think that Google is "powerful" enough to convince Adobe before the launch of the Galaxy Nexus to adopt Flash for ICS.

Posted by steve on 05.12.11 - 18:19:13

how does android 4.0 being ready for primetime have to do with facebooks app at all. you do understand they are two separate companies right? also heres a news flash for you ICS is already running on other android 4.0 hasnt even been released in the united states yet which is probably why facebook hasnt redone there app...this article is poorly written and researched what kind of author begins a sentence with And anyway? this guy/gal needs to take an english 101 college class or something oh yeah and take a technology course while your at it so you know what your talking about next time.

Posted by Arne Hess on 05.12.11 - 18:55:46

Interesting, would love to learn more from you on which other phones Android 4.0 was already released - except home-brewed ports? I'm not aware of another one at the moment but maybe you can share with us your knowledge!? But anyway, who cares if Android 4.0 was released in the U.S. or not? It was publicly and officially launched with the Galaxy Nexus and therefore it's available! And (starting with and again ;-) it has a serious concept-bug which Honeycomb hadn't had. It's hiding the Facebook settings menu which - btw - isn't the only app which lacks the settings menu if running on Android 4.0 but the most important one for end-users! That's a serious bug which - IMHO - doesn't make it ready for prime-time!
Regarding the rest of your rant, I'm leaving you alone! :-)

Posted by Marshall on 05.12.11 - 19:43:27

Odd that you compare this to iOS which does not have (and never will have) Flash support - yet it counts against Android but not against iOS. Flash is essentially dead. There's over 15 million iOS devices which don't and won't support it. This is just another nail in that coffin.

Posted by Arne Hess on 05.12.11 - 20:11:30

Maybe odd but not really! If you follow me on Twitter, you know that I've blamed Apple for its decision countless times! But it's not getting better if you repeat it but I still think Apple is wrong – for the time being. As wrong as Microsoft and Google are. Microsoft for following Apple and not bringing Flash to Windows Phone 7 and Google for not having Flash available the moment the Galaxy Nexus hit the stores.
Doesn't matter what we all think about Flash, the web is still full of it and will be an important part for the next years. It limits the user experience by not having it available at the moment and so far, I liked the Android browser user experience pretty much - especially on Android 3.x and 4.x!

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