Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Android 4.0: A disappointment

I feel bad about making this post, I really do. Android 4.0 or Ice Cream Sandwich (ICS for short for the rest of the blog) has been a major letdown for me.

First off, let me preface this with the good. There are a lot of great things I do like about ICS. First of all, hardware acceleration. This has what fans of Android have been clamoring for since the beginning. The buttery smooth action of the iPhone is very desirable and most thought this would be it. Sadly, an Android developer has said that it won't happen because of the way Android is made. However, it does create a very good amount of smooth transitions between windows on the main UI. Other programs can take advantage of this and I've seen some so far like ADW Ex Launcher which is as smooth as the iPhone.

A few other good things. Syncing with Chrome bookmarks, a redesigned and faster browser with very smooth zooming, syncing pictures to your gmail account, some much needed UI polish, a few tricks pulled from third party ROMs like swipe to remove notifications.

However, there are some major issues. First, the stock launcher. While the Eclair/Froyo/Gingerbread launcher was very smooth with its opening transition animation and 3D rolodex drawer, the stock launcher on ICS is choppy, counter intuitive, and buggy. The opening animation for the drawer often takes at least a second to even register compared to 2.1-2.3 where it was always instant. The removal of the widgets selection when holding down on the screen to integrating it into the launcher is confusing to say the least and very slow. Having to flick through many different widgets depending on what you have installed to find the one you want as opposed to just a list is a major turn-off. Thankfully, the original method still exists in third party launchers. I also have experienced many crashes of the launcher itself.

The UI, while refined, is really all over the place. Every part of ICS looks like it belongs somewhere else. The calendar has one look while the browser another. The UI only look vaguely uniform and it can really be a distraction for those used to Froyo or Gingerbread stock.

I also seem to encounter a bug where the gallery won't read my SD card (or partition when talking about the Nexus S). It takes a bit of fiddling around with the gallery's data and the camera to get my files to show up. Definitely a deal breaker as I use custom wallpapers.

Lately, it's been shown that the build has a bug, specifically for the Nexus S, but likely for all phones, that prevents the phone from sleeping. This was the dreaded bug that basically ruined Android in the earlier versions (pre 2.0). My Behold II had this problem and I could lose battery after mere hours. I'm certainly not going to upgrade unless Google gets this fixed.

I'm not giving my seal of approval on ICS. While Eclair/Froyo/Gingerbread maintained the good components of the previous generation and added to it, ICS seems to be a step back for Android. This is one of those rare instances where a skinned version of Android is going to be better than stock.