Editorial

The annoying things about Ice Cream Sandwich

As many of you may know I have been using Ice Cream Sandwich for a few weeks to write both my Android 4.0 review and the review of the Galaxy Nexus. I really do love ICS and everything Google has put into improving the operating system, and the Galaxy Nexus is a fantastic device as well, but there are just some things about ICS that really annoy me.

So for those people yet to try out Android 4.0, thinking about getting a Galaxy Nexus or wanting to install an ICS custom ROM on their existing device, here are the things I hate about Google’s latest operating system.

Getting high resolution contact photos is a pain. On previous versions of Android the images used for contacts were quite small and it didn’t really matter if they were low resolution; however on the Galaxy Nexus it is ideal to have a 700x700 square image of your contact due to the device’s 720p display resolution.

Those lovely big contact photos were not easy to add

You may have seen the stock images for ICS that feature lovely, crisp images, but as it stands this isn’t the case for several reasons. It’s hard to obtain a 700px image of your contact without having to take a new one using your phone, and no app utility I could fine would sync images of this high resolution from my Facebook account. To make matters worse, Google contact sync doesn’t actually support contact photos that are this large, so if you use ICS on another device it will pull low resolution versions of these images to your device, making you work yet again to re-add large images.

Facebook contact sync is also not available on ICS, meaning that the official app will not pull down nice, large images to use, and neither will third-party alternatives such as FriendCaster. Twitter won’t do it either, and as I mentioned neither will Google contact sync, so currently the only way to automate the addition of contact photos is to hope all your friends have a Google+ account with large images as they sync perfectly.

Now you may think that having low-resolution contact images isn’t such a big deal, and in most respects it isn’t as you will see small contact icons throughout apps such as Contacts, Messaging and Gmail. However, there are heaps of areas that use 700x700 images, such as when someone calls you, when you browse your starred contacts or when you view someone’s full or quick profile. It’s annoying to see such a generally beautiful UI diminished by pixelated contact images, and it’s annoying to fix as well.

The lack of a dedicated menu button is annoying. Literally all previous Android smartphones have had a menu button, and to suddenly remove it in favour of in-app menus takes a considerable amount of getting used to. Unlike Windows Phone where the menu button is always in the same location, with Android 4.0 it can be in the top or bottom Action Bar and not in the same position, making it harder than you might like to find.

The change to dedicated "hardware" buttons have their ups and downs

It’s not exactly easy to switch either, as pretty much all third party apps still use the legacy menu button, even on post-ICS major UI overhauls. I know it will take some time for the majority of apps to incorporate an in-app menu, and I do think in the long run it will be the better approach, but for now it feels strange.

Instant speech-to-text is not perfect. It seems like mobile OS developers are really trying to push voice input as “the next big thing” for smartphones, but in reality it’s not that simple. Speech-to-text may be a useful tool and much improved with Android 4.0, but it is still not correct all the time (and less accurate than Siri from what I have tried). If it’s not accurate 99% of the time, it means you have to constantly go through and correct what the speech-to-text engine hasn’t understood; leaving text input slower than what it would be using a normal keyboard.

Speech-to-text worked well, but it didn't work well all the time

Until speech-to-text is faster than text input and doesn’t need constant correction, I will stick to the faster and more accurate keyboard input.

Face unlock is flawed. It’s really just another gimmick that was added to the OS, which is really more a show-off feature than an actual security measure. Android warns you it’s less secure than the pattern or PIN method, and it can be slower to unlock than either of these methods. It also doesn’t work in the dark because it needs to see your face, which may annoy some.

ICS is not fully compatible with all apps. For example scrolling the list of tweets in Twitter is laggy where it isn’t in Gingerbread. Some games inexplicably will not work where they have worked on Gingerbread on the same/similar hardware. Many developers have not (as yet) supported the Galaxy Nexus when I am confident their apps would work without issue. On the previous version of the Facebook app I couldn’t access the menu (now fixed).

So there are some issues to an operating system that I still regard the best Android update of all time. Is it really enough to push people away from getting an Ice Cream Sandwich-powered device? Not really, as you’ll see that most of these annoyances are quite minor, but it does give you a clearer idea of what is wrong with ICS.

Thanks again to MobiCity for providing me with a Galaxy Nexus to test out Android 4.0; all my experiences here were based from using the device they provided.

Report a problem with article
Previous Story

Windows Phone suffers critical SMS attack

Next Story

Nokia: Youths bored with iPhone, frustrated by Android

63 Comments

View more comments

VoX said,
People use Facebook? Grow up a little...Humans.

Unfortunately for you, yes. But stating that everyone who doesn't apply to your world which includes hating Facebook should grow up is pretty closed-minded.

VoX said,
People use Facebook? Grow up a little...Humans.

Of the about 800 million people on Facebook, Im sure you know at least 1-2 of the "little humans" on there....

Whilst I agree on some points with Mr Godlike above....the fact is (and for the record I own a Galaxy Nexus) that a Google experience phone such as this should be a "consolidated effort" between Software Dev & Hardware Manufacturer which is ultimately closer than any other Android based device out there.

That's the whole point. So the argument about the lack of menu button being hardware not ICS doesn't wash.

The lack of a dedicated menu button is annoying. Literally all previous Android smartphones have had a menu button, and to suddenly remove it in favour of in-app menus takes a considerable amount of getting used to.

I'd still say that's preferable to having a menu button with no indication as to if it does something or not...

For example there was one place and one place only in the settings app (in gingerbread), which is essentially a menu the begin with, where the menu button opened a menu and offered more options but there is no indication whatsoever of this (it's in network or wifi settings, the menu button gives you advance wifi settings).

everytime I see "ICS" I read it in my head as "internet connection sharing" because thats what Microsoft use to always use as the acroymn for it..

neufuse said,
everytime I see "ICS" I read it in my head as "internet connection sharing" because thats what Microsoft use to always use as the acroymn for it..
Most people haven't had to say "internet connection sharing" so often that they needed to use an acronym.

menu button for me would be a problem, but like they said in the keynote, Manfacturers can have the menu button or go all screen. This is something many people needs to reliaze is that Google is allowing the use of both on screen controls or have a buttons like we do now. After all its Android. its choice. you have a choice people unlike Apple.

CMG_90 said,
menu button for me would be a problem, but like they said in the keynote, Manfacturers can have the menu button or go all screen. This is something many people needs to reliaze is that Google is allowing the use of both on screen controls or have a buttons like we do now. After all its Android. its choice. you have a choice people unlike Apple and Microsoft.

I never agreed on going completely buttonless. Not with iOS, not with WP, and without a doubt from what it seems not on Android.

I've always hated syncing contact photos with whatever crap they put on their facebook/twitter/google+ profiles anyway.

The whole point of contact photos on the phone is, at least for me, to easily recognize a contact and not having to write down surnames for people with the same name. The random stuff people choose as "avatar" in their social network of choice doesn't always allow that, and then they probably change them every now and then, so you only get a prettified contact list with random images.

Wow, how silly. The Facebook "digging in your contacts" thing can be seen as a security issue. Also, LOTS of devices have lacked hardware Menu buttons. I'd say 90%+ of my device use the past few years have been with on-screen buttons such as "Menu".
And app compatibility? With the glacial pace of development some apps get, how is it Android's fault that old software wasn't updated?

And this is really a "Editorial"?
This is a rant written by someone for the sole reason of bit.... errr... complaining.

> Getting high resolution contact photos is a pain.

Someone please hand him a Android User's Guide where the use of the camera is explained ... or ... where it's explained how to set contact photos from images saved from the web.

> Facebook contact sync is also not available on ICS

Who needs Facebook? That and Twitter was the first thing I killed out of the ROM anyway, simply because I don't need that bloatware; though there are better alternatives out there on the Market than the lousy coded genuine ones.

> The lack of a dedicated menu button is annoying

Hmmm... it would seem that funny thing in the bottom right of the button bar looks like the "menu button". However, it seems to be a matter of taste. I for one like the subtle changes Google introduced to the ICS UI.

> Instant speech-to-text is not perfect

You think Siri is any better in this regard?

> Face unlock is flawed

Oh well... seems someone missed out on the fact that live face recognition comes with a insanely high error rate (at least with non highly professional environments / software solutions). It's a "value added" Gimmick. If you're so concerned use Pin or Pattern lock.

> ICS is not fully compatible with all apps

Hold the presses! Not each and every Developer out there adapted her/his app yet! The end of the world is neigh!


Sorry, but this "Editorial" is just unqualified ranting - I don't see how this is even news or worthy being posted on Neowin's frontpage. The writer would better fit Gizmodo, Engadget or Lifehacker with this kind of "Review".

LOL, can't you guys find a more flattering pic of Steve? Man, looks like he is on the receiving end of a prostate exam!

See, this is why Neowin should stick to being Forums and not a news site. This article is terrible. You listed quite a number of things that are obviously going to be fixed in the coming weeks as a part of a whole new OS. I feel your pain for contact pics, and contact sync not supporting large enough images. I suspect that this will be fixed very shortly, and I also suspect that the next Facebook update will allow you to sync high resolution photos in ICS.

ICS is not compatible with all apps. No ****, same thing happens when every OS is updated. All respectable app developers will push an update very soon to fix any issues. Every update to every phone ends up breaking a few apps, and if you want to do any significant updates, it's an unfortunate side effect. You aren't forcing GPU acceleration are you? That's known to break several apps that aren't designed for it yet.

Face unlock isn't flawed, it's a gimmick like you said. It does exactly what it's supposed to do and can be expected to do. Of course it doesn't work in the dark when all it sees is black. Using someone's face to unlock is automatically going to be a somewhat weak form of security unless that person has never taken a single picture in their entire life. It's just something a little fun and "high-tech". Nothing beats a standard pin for security still. Still, flawed? I don't see how.

As for the lack of a menu button and TTS, these could be somewhat valid arguments, but still, a lack of a menu button is a matter of personal opinion. I tend to agree somewhat that even with soft buttons, I'd like to see menu and search, and I wouldn't be surprised to see that hacked into Android once devs start messing with ICS more. iOS doesn't have a menu button though. WP7 doesn't have a menu button. If it's something you "hate" about ICS, where are you going to run to instead? And TTS is honestly very impressive to me, even in previous versions of Android. If it's improved in ICS, then making it even better would be great. It gets what I say right 95% of the time if I'm in a moderately quite environment and speak clearly. Perhaps you have an accent to throw it off, perhaps it's not quite as good as Siri, but it's certainly not bad at all.

osm0sis said,
Give the guy a break. His ICS and Galaxy Nexus reviews are great.

I did kind of come off sounding like a dick, but even someone with the slightest knowledge of technology should be able to come up with something better. It's not the first time. Most of Neowin's news is recycled after it's been posted on other actual news sites, and most of the in house stuff is very very poor. I like Neowin, but the front page news is basically worthless.

I love how people complaign about NEW things the rest of do NOT have access to , and expect us to be sympathetic..

Yeah so bill gates pays 500 million dollars a year in taxes.. AND? that means he makes BILLIONS of dollars a year, I suppose it's "annoying" that he has to pay so much, but I would LOVE to have his money and complain about how much tax "burden" he has.

You have a NEXUS to test with, and you complain that there is NO "menu" button? Give me a damn break, how about give ME the phone let ME test it, I bet I can figure out what YOUR apparent lack of insight or observation missed.. I am SURE it's there someplace or a option to "enable" it, you are just stupid. Maybe YOU need to quit testing phones, since you have NO idea what you are doing or talking about.. or quit bitching about something the rest of can't even IDENTIFY with idiot.

rijp said,
I love how people complaign about NEW things the rest of do NOT have access to , and expect us to be sympathetic..

Yeah so bill gates pays 500 million dollars a year in taxes.. AND? that means he makes BILLIONS of dollars a year, I suppose it's "annoying" that he has to pay so much, but I would LOVE to have his money and complain about how much tax "burden" he has.

You have a NEXUS to test with, and you complain that there is NO "menu" button? Give me a damn break, how about give ME the phone let ME test it, I bet I can figure out what YOUR apparent lack of insight or observation missed.. I am SURE it's there someplace or a option to "enable" it, you are just stupid. Maybe YOU need to quit testing phones, since you have NO idea what you are doing or talking about.. or quit bitching about something the rest of can't even IDENTIFY with idiot.

Pretty sure there's no option to enable a hardware redesign of a phone You be trollin.

ICS app compatibility is coming...cannot expect all APPS to be compatible right away when ICS is not even on many devices. Dumb to expect otherwise.

No dedicated menu button...whatever. Lean to accept change and move on. Or root your phone and apply a diff ROM when available.

Text to speech...I have not seen where this is perfect is any device. Again, a non issue and dumb comment.

Facebook sync...prob just an app update is needed. Facebook has never been good about releasing quick updates. Move on. I for one never use this feature.

High res contact photos will be resolved in time. Again, ICS has not even be out for very long. Give things time.

woah woah woah did anybody else notice the three "..." next to the three android navigation buttons? remind anybody of the "..." on window's phone? yeahh...

Text to speach. I don't know that you can compare this one exactly to Siri. Siri processes all speach in the cloud where this sounds like it's being processed on the phone in real time.
But intresting article. Thanks.

Duckie37 said,
Text to speach. I don't know that you can compare this one exactly to Siri. Siri processes all speach in the cloud where this sounds like it's being processed on the phone in real time.
But intresting article. Thanks.

Actually, I believe Google sends theirs to cloud as well. Don't quote me on that though.

Commenting is disabled on this article.