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.

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