Social Icons


Thursday, October 27, 2011

Hands on: Ice Cream Sandwich review

Ice Cream Sandwich, or Android 4.0, is the next release from Google to help it keep its position at the sharp end of the smartphone market.
Designed to bring its phone and tablet operating systems together, ICS features a huge amount of new code from Google to create new features, easier methods of use and more.
Let's dive in and see what the software is all about in our hands on: Ice Cream Sandwich Android 4.0 review.
Google has done a lot more with the home screen than ever before, offering up more interactive widgets (plus the ability to resize them as well) with over 30 offered up from launch, with a glut more to come.
Google has said that it wants the main theme of ICS to be customisation, allowing users to be as in-depth or minimalist as they like. To that end, the physical buttons are now gone, employing a Honeycomb-like set of soft buttons at the bottom of the screen.

The menu system has also been given an overhaul as well, with tabs now offering access to both apps and widgets, making it easier to add in the latter options without needing to mess about with long pressing on the home screen.

Folders are also now even easier to create, be it for games, contacts or apps that contain the letter 'z'. Simple drag an icon on top of another and the folder is simply created, with another tap allowing you to rename it. The first three icons of its contents are displayed as a marker too, making it easier to see what's what.

Oh, and you can finally take screenshots too (if you've seen any of our reviews, you'll appreciate how much of a relief this is). Simply hold the down volume key and the power button for a couple of seconds and you'll get a handy animation to let you know what's on screen has been saved to the gallery.
Android has always been built on a system of being able to flit from one app to another with ease, and that's now even simpler in Ice Cream Sandwich.

There's a new UI that's used throughout the OS, with a list of tiles showing which apps are open and their most recent content to help you recognise what's going on. If you want to 'kill' an app, simply swipe it to the side and it will be terminated.

This seems eerily reminiscent of the Cards system employed by the soon-to-be defunct webOS from Palm, so we hope we're not going to see yet another patent war started up by Google.
On the Galaxy Nexus the process was much faster than with the similar UI employed on the Honeycomb OS, with apps opening and shutting at high speed.
Notifications have been improved once again by Google, with the addition of the sort of widgets we've only seen on customised UIs now present.
For instance, music can now be controlled from anywhere on the phone with a drag down of the notifications bar, plus contacts will now have their picture added should they send you a text or if you've missed a call from them.

Like the multi-tasking UI, you can also flick any notification to the right to easily get rid of it, making it easier to clean up your list of alerts.

The bar is also now available from the lock screen as well, should you simply be unable to wait to get into your phone to see who may have texted you or shuffle a track.
The contacts app for Ice Cream Sandwich has undergone a big visual change compared to older versions of the OS.
Like before, you can have multiple social networks linked into one person, making it simple to keep up to date with their actions and movements on the go.

And now if you swipe left or right to go to the new favourites view, you'll get high-res picture versions of your buddies - and if they're connected into Google+, you'll get even more rich information, like if the phone number changes online, it will sync up with your contacts too.

You can also view all their updates in one place, in a standardised version of the likes of TimeScape or FriendStream, making it easier to keep up to date with specific people on the go.
Google promised to keep updating the keyboard on its new versions of Android, and once again it's come up with a new version of the software - and it's pretty good.
There's not a whole heap of visual changes, bar the predictive suggestions: these have been dropped to just three per word, making it easier to select the word you're after.

Smaller, more subtle vibrations have also been added to each keypress to make it easier to register inputs... we tested this out and it doesn't seem that different to normal haptic feedback, to be honest.
The accuracy is excellent too on the new keyboard, with even fudge-fingered attempts at writing yielding almost perfect accuracy. Speech to text is also enhanced, with real time feedback - no longer do you have to wait until you've finished speaking to see what the phone thinks you said, with the cloud-based prediction delivering results as you speak.
It worked well over Wi-Fi, but we'll be interested to note how well it works when it comes to 3G network speeds, as Google hinted it had integrated this functionality thanks to the proliferation of 4G signal in the US.
This is one of the 'fun' features Google has popped in to the new OS, making it easy to unlock the phone using facial recognition.
Google says it's the fastest way to unlock the screen, and it is pretty nifty, with our demo showing the OS is pretty astute at recognising which face is which without accidentally letting a doppelganger open your phone.

Google admits a really large, high res photo of the person could feasibly unlock your phone, but it says it has put huge amounts of time into making sure this is really difficult to achieve.
In fairness, it's meant to be a fun feature - if you're that bothered about safety, put a PIN lock on and leave it at that, as we like this idea a lot.
Google has overhauled the browser again with Ice Cream Sandwich, bringing with it some nifty new features.
One bugbear we've always had has been erased, with the ability to switch between mobile and desktop versions of sites through an option in the menu, which is handy when you want to watch videos and the like.

Chrome will automatically sync bookmarks with the phone as well, if you're logged in on both devices at once, making it easier to take your favourites with you on the go.
And another huge feature we wish more phones would employ: offline reading. Should you want to wander underground but still want to check out the best of the web, an option in the menu will allow you to save articles to read later.
Other features, like the ability to see your top most visited pages being more prevalent, are also included - we're looking forward to giving the browser a full shakedown in our full Ice Cream Sandwich review.
The camera is arguably the biggest upgrade on Ice Cream Sandwich, coming with a number of features to help the handsets using it take on the might of the iPhone 4S.

Although obviously hardware dependent, the promise of super quick snaps seems to be true, with Apple-like speeds of photography possible with the Samsung Galaxy Nexus.
Other boosts include a very fast facial recognition system, making it easy to focus on friends, plus a tap to focus meter meaning you can choose where the phone's sensor should be looking.
Sharing the photos is easier too, as through the preview pane users can simply tap to share the pic through any relevant app installed on the phone - with an open API for devs to plug into easily, according to Google.
Panorama mode has been widely discussed already, but it's very easy to use - simply enable the option in the settings and swirl the phone around. We've used this on a number of devices before, but with instructions like 'moving too fast' it makes it much easier to capture a wide view.

Photo editing is on board too, but we didn't really get a chance to spend a long time with this feature... although the idea of tarting up faces on camera using 'Face Glow' is something we've laughed at before on LG handsets... let's see if Google can do any better.
Oh, and one more fancy feature: when recording video, you can tap on the shot to take a picture in full resolution, which won't make a noise but instantly saves to your gallery. Nifty.
Google's Ice Cream Sandwich is a real step forward for an operating system, both on tablets and phones.
We're really impressed with the way the search giant has thought about making the interaction that much slicker - one of the criticisms of previous iterations of the OS has been the complexity of use, but now more things are where you actually expect them to be.
We're impressed with the boosts to areas like the camera and people tab, things users regularly interact with - although we wonder how many people will actually bother to link up all their friends to get the maximum use from the app.

View the original article here


Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.