Android 4.0. It has a nice ring to it, with the major release numbering and all that. It even has a delicious dessert to accompany it as it makes its way onto the market. What’s even more delicious and appetizing are the new features that I saw today at the Google/Samsung event.
Initially I was hesitant about the Honeycomb UI which is the basis of the Ice Cream Sandwich UI, but in this release it seems to all come together. It looks like the Android team designed something, and then actually applied it to all aspects of the operating system rather than just some parts like in previous releases.
This fluidity across all aspects of ICS is a major feature that seems like it was overlooked by some at today’s event. When you go into the Gallery, you are greeted by large magazine-style images; go into Contacts and large images greet you again. Receive a call? Oh look there’s a large image of your mate right there. Photos complement text well in this sense, and I believe Google has done it right.
Not only do the images do well, but I really like this approach to a squared interface. It doesn’t rely on just text like Metro, but a seemingly ideal combination of text media and image media. There are colors where colors look great, there are squares where squares fit and there are images to complement the lot. Needless to say, I really like it.
I also get the feeling when looking at Ice Cream Sandwich, and then back at iOS or previous Android, that this OS is futuristic. As you would expect, it reminds me of TRON and all those sci-fi movies involving copious amounts of neon lighting in squared arrays. Aspects of the UI are in 3D and other aspects are not; it just seems somewhat surreal.
Of course, as most things that are concept-like and futuristic, it will never fully see the light of day, only small glimpses for those privileged enough. Going on past Android rollouts, it will be a slow, cumbersome process that takes an absolutely eternity to complete; and by eternity I mean it, because some devices will never even see ICS. It’s a real shame too, because of just how nice the OS seems to be right now.
Not only will it take forever, but carriers will insist on bundling their crapfest UIs on top of the interface. I like stock Android, and this release in particular, so I am dreading the day I have to look at a Motoblur Ice Cream Sandwich, or a Touchwiz version, or Sense. Previously UIs like Sense were visually ahead of the stock Android counterparts, but I simply cannot see any manufacturer creating a fluid UI on top of ICS that looks better than what we have right here.
How long will it take for my Galaxy S to see Ice Cream Sandwich? Too long... too long...
Also, Google left me with questions at their ICS event. Is the UI really fluid on the Galaxy Nexus’ hardware? I’ve heard reports that it’s not, and that would be a real shame. Where did the menu button go? I don’t see an onscreen button counterpart, so that will surely cause massive incompatibility. What happened to Android 4.0 for tablets? There was simply no mention or even indication it would happen.
I like ICS as it stands right now, in fact I think it could take my visual preference away from Windows Phone, but I just hate the fact I won’t get to see or use it for some time. Google, I implore you, please learn from Microsoft: stop the skins and do a proper rollout like Mango. Then many more people can enjoy your hard work and efforts making the next impressive Android OS.
Images courtesy of Google and Samsung