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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 14070x
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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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