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back to article Ice Cream Sandwich

No new version of the Android mobile operating system has been quite so eagerly awaited as v4.0 or Ice Cream Sandwich as it’s more colourfully known. The reason is not hard to explain: Android has streaked ahead of iOS in the bums-on-seats stakes but there is still the feeling that the user interface lacks the polish and grace …

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Bronze badge

True purpose?

"Nailed on Google search Widget"

Nothing demonstrates Google's revenue stream more clearly. You don't use that widget, Google don't make money.

Not that there's any difference between Google and MS and Apple. Except Apple will take $hundreds of you first and then extract advertising revenue from your data.

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Baffling

Why do they think I want to search from every screen? Especially as it's such a wide widget.

I could actually understand it more (I wouldn't like it more, but I'd udnerstand it more) if they just stuck a rotating advert on every screen.

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Anonymous Coward

"Except Apple will take $hundreds of you first and then extract advertising revenue from your data."

Based on what exactly? I ask because there is absolutely no evidence to support this assertion. We know that Google's business model is based on ad revenue, it the trade off that you make when using their "free" services.

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Anonymous Coward

Apple income stream

and around 25% of your data plan goes directly to Apple's coffers too.

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Anonymous Coward

Difference between Google and Apple

Is that Google runs ads for almost any website you go on the web (even here in El Reg via Doubleclick). You don't really have a choice on most websites.

On the other hand Apple only runs ads on ad-supported iOS apps. If you don't use ad-supported iOS apps, Apple extracts nothing.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Apple income stream

"and around 25% of your data plan goes directly to Apple's coffers too."

Reference for this?

Only time I heard it was back when Apple had exclusive agreements with mobile companies like O2 and AT&T, and even then it wasn't anything like 25%

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Black Helicopters

The difference between Apple, MS & Google

With Apple and MS you are the customer, with Google you are the product.

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Really?

A proportion of my £7 a month for my iPad goes to Apple? Interesting, but not germane to the original point, even if true.

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Coat

Adverts

"Not that there's any difference between Google and MS and Apple. Except Apple will take $hundreds of you first and then extract advertising revenue from your data."

Apple doesn't really make much in adverts (yet). However, they do gouge the heck out of developers, which you then must pay for in (semi)inflated prices. Or you do could do what Apple intended all along and just use their sources (iTunes, iBook, The Daily).

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FAIL

Based on reality (what else is there?)

I guess you haven't heard about Apple's ad network for servings ads in ios:

http://advertising.apple.com/

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Based on reality...

Really? Apple do not use iAd in the same way that Google uses advertising. Apple's business model is profit through hardware; everything else exists to sell hardware. The only place that I see ads is if i run some free apps. Google's business model on the other hand is based on the sale of data. Like someone else has already said, with Google your are a product and not a customer. But way to miss the point.

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So, if I understand you, Apple goes to advertisers and tells them: You see, we don't do any tracking on our users, we have no idea if the ad we serve has any relation to the user tastes, now pay us.

Is that it?

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Anonymous Coward

@fandom

Sweet lord! This isn't hard to understand at all. In fact your assertion goes to show how little you understand about how iAd works! Apple simply do not use the data in the same way that Google do.

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Happy

Of course we need third party customisations

The last comment about third party overlay's etc. is perhaps a bit presumptuous :) . I for one am not keen on the all-black style of ICS4 and like many other people will prefer to choose my own overlays, themes, styles or whatever we're calling them these days. Customisation is what makes Android so much more fun than iOS or WinMo7.5, which restricts you to working within their own layouts.

Many of us want the freedom to style our phones to be more like "us" and Android makes that easy. So we'll always want the ability to change how it looks.

Mark

Editor - ISPreview.co.uk

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OEM customisations

I think the reviewer was talking about manufacturer overlays for Android, like HTC's Sense, Motorola's Blur and Samsung's TouchWiz.

Necessary at first to render early versions of Android more useable and pretty, the article suggests that v4.0 removes the need for them.

I think this is a potentially huge point: up until now, there have been significant differences in appearance and functionality across Android handsets as a result of these customisations. This allowed the OEMs to set themselves apart, and encouraged investment in UI/UX in an attempt to woo customers. On the negative side, it also often resulted in older handsets not getting the latest version of Android: a real disadvantage, when you consider that 2.5 years later an iPhone 3GS is still getting the latest version of iOS (without some key features though).

If stock Android 4.0 is wonderful without OEM skins, then how does HTC persuade you to buy its latest £400-£600 phone over Samsung's? Can the OEMs find a way to continue adding value to 4.0 without compromising the design, function, and annoying customers with too much fluff? If they cannot, then what is their motivation in investing $billions in a non-differentiated, commodity market (c/f/: televisions)?

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@Funkstain RE: "OEM customisations"

Yes, the OEMS do have a potential problem if Alun's take on ICS is widely shared. Apart from competing even harder on the hardware/physical design side might they not start to compete by, for example, bundling a wider range of apps with the phones? If they do (at least partly) go that route, what effect might that have on independent devs building for Android market? That of course depends on how many and what type of apps the *average* Android customer buys during the lifetime of his/her phone. One could image a scenario where the market became at least partly poisoned from the devs point of view if customers became less interested in buying there because "they have what they need already". We might get a situation similar to that we see in the pc/laptop market where the OEMs "add value" by bundling all sorts of hows-your-father just to attract attention.

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Go

How to differentiate

I can think of a few right off the top of my head...

-Marketing based on 'not adding guff'

-Commitment to upgrades

-Hardware features (hdmi, sd cards, waterproof etc...)

-Accessories (For all it's charm, Asus failed here)

-Price

-Pre-installed (optionally removable) apps - scope here for creating accessories that have a specific app for their device that is not available with competitors e.g. a controller for TV, Helipcopter toy etc...

There is lots to compete on as an alternative to stamping "Whizzbang Interface" all over it and bundling "Crappy App Portal to our Paltry Content Zone" rwxr-xr-x app.

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Anonymous Coward

Looks good

I can't wait for CM9, no way I'm waiting for HTC to decide weather my 8 month old phone deserves it. Even then they'll only slap on the seriously outdated looking sense on top.

The CM team should provide that little bit of extra polish it needs as well :)

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Confused graphic design style

I'm sure ICS is a leap forward in features and usability but visually it's an incoherent mess. Most of those screenshots show at least two different styles on each: the buttons at the bottom are one-pixel abstract lines; the app icons are 3D pseudo-realistic; the app folder icons are slightly abstract solid blocks with 2.5D depth; the settings screen has flat block icons ... it's like they've all been designed by different people and no-one has checked for consistency before they shipped.

It may be that only graphic designers would care about the specifics but surely to most people the overall impression is just really messy?

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Silver badge

Agreed.

I like the reduction of visual clutter, but I think they've railed too strongly against Android's previous "junk shop" feel, and so there's a new type of mess here: you just don't know what goes with what, and what you can click.

The Widget catalogue list does not look like a list. The icons aren't visually related to their captions. I'd have zoomed in and cropped the icons to a constant size, but I guess the graphics aren't scalable, or the original assets were done on photoshop (tip: if you're designing icons, you MUST use a vector-based tool ESPECIALLY if the size will "never change").

I'm not altogether sure that this is an improvement in UI: the previous Android was thrown-together, but it was familiar: you did know what you could touch. This makes the same questionable decision that Windows Phone has: active areas aren't well delineated, so that text could be text, or it could be a button or a menu, or a tab, but unlike WP7, it doesn't follow its own logic, so styling is no longer a cue: they seem to be using colour to indicate buttons (dialler) as well as selection (tab views).

The fundamental issue with Android hasn't been addressed: there are still different metaphors used in different screens of the UI. Consistency is important in UI, especially if you go down the minmalist route, but that consistency is still not there. For an example of the kind of refresh that Google *should* have done, have a look at Symbian Belle - its UI will be more familiar to someone coming from Android 2.2 than ICS is.

And that wandering "Back" button should be filed as a bug, pure and simple. There is absolutely no excuse for this in a UI that uses a page stack.

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Not a graphic designer...

but it seems obvious to me that the single line icons at the bottom represent the "physical" buttons at the bottom of other Android phones.

similarly the 2.5 D icons are the quick launch ones that are so popular these days. The top section is your "desktop" area so why not make it 3D-like?

Not so much confused - just representing different functional areas in different ways to show the separation. Surely that's what good graphics design is about?

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Anonymous Coward

Totally agree. Apples obsession with skeuomorphic elements is jarring to say the least. As someone that is predominantly an Apple desktop user, Windows Phone is currently offering the most original UI with a much more interesting paradigm. This however is stuck in some sort of limbo, which IMHO somehow makes it worse! I guess it's themeable, but then that breaks uniformity across the platform; incidentally one of the many reasons for Windows (not the phone, obviously) success. It is a bit a of a hotchpotch of ideas - some of them very good - that aren't coherent, which is a shame as the underling functionality of the OS is brilliant. Google really should sweat on these kind of details, but being the lowest common denominator seems to be sufficient for them at the moment which is sad, because it 's doing a disservice to consumers that use the OS, retailers and manufacturers that sell devices based on it and the OS itself. It deserves better.

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It could be worse

It could look like Mango.

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Agree

I would agree that Android is just not very pretty to look at, and gives the impression many different people designed the look of many different parts without any unifying vision.

Personally the main reason I don't like the look of Android is that it's just all so black. Cheer up Google!

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Boffin

"Personally the main reason I don't like the look of Android is that it's just all so black. Cheer up Google!"

Black 'theme' + an OLED screen = increased battery life, since you only need to power the non-black pixels.

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Stop

@Eponymous Cowherd

Bzzzzzzzzzzzzt - Wrong!

"With the screen now playing host to a row of virtual system buttons – as well as a five-button dock – you need to get used to the complete absence of fascia controls"

Did it completely escape your attention that the pics in the article are *screenshots*?

This *doesn't* mean to say that manufacturers are going to forgo hardware buttons altogether, these new soft-buttons can be removed... the guys over at XDA Developers have already kindly done so for those of us with phones which still have physical buttons as they were just eating up screen real-estate and duplicating functionality that we already had.

Can't wait for a 100%* working Cyanogenmod ICS ROM for my HD2 :)

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@AnotherNetNarcissist

Thank you for introducing "skeuomorph" to my vocabulary.

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Happy

@Kristian Walsh

Thank you for introducing "skeuomorph" to my vocabulary.

(I scanned past the original - it was embedded in a large unattractive paragraph.)

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Anonymous Coward

Hmm.

Android has had folders for ages, Android 1.6 introduced them I believe. So to try and claim it copied them from iOS5 is rather lame.

If you want to save pages offline, use Opera Mobile, it's had this from the outset (and who on earth is using the default browser or dolphin skin anyway? when Opera is 3x quicker, supports hardware accel and is more compliant in ACID3 and HTML5 tests).

I knew I should have stopped reading this tripe when I read this garbage: " Taking inspiration from iOS and WinPho 7"

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folders

Please correct me if I'm wrong, but i think he was refering to being able to organise apps into folders, which i think hasn't been implemented until now.

What i don't understand is why ios is still considered superior in usage terms. That interface is positivly antiquated and dull, with static icons and virtually no information visible at a glance without having to launch an app. If anything iwould place win phone 7.5 at the top of the pile for user experience with ics a close second.

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Boffin

Re: Hmm.

I don't think the author was claiming that the idea of folders was 'copied' from iOS. He was just pointing out that the method for creating folders is now the same as iOS (by dragging one icon onto another). Previously on Android you had to create an empty folder icon first, then drag the apps into it.

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Silver badge
Stop

You have been able to put apps into folders on Android for AGES.

Android 1.5 introduced it.

http://smarterware.org/4424/organize-androids-home-screen-icons-in-folders

This really highlights how little some people actually know about Android... Like the fact that if they don't like the ICS look, it can be changed entirely into something you do like...

Launcher Go with Transparent Theme for example:

https://market.android.com/details?id=com.gau.go.launcherex.theme.gowidget.transparency&hl=en

Or if you prefer, plenty of others

http://lifehacker.com/5836578/the-best-application-launcher-for-android

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and so it does

Just shows how shit google's marketing is if it takes them this long to point out a feature that has existed for a while. Same goes with voice commands and actions. Google implements it and you get a crappy you tube video on an obscure google dev site, then apple implements it a year or so later, adds a few bells and whistles and markets the hell out of it with international TV commercials and suddenly it's the next best thing.

Anyway, rant over - off to organize my apps into folders and drop them onto home page :)

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but it still....

looks shite.

from a design perspective android still has a lot to do in terms of aesthetics.

i like android and think my next phone will be android (currently have an iphone 4 and find it annoyingly locked down and restrictive, itunes is one of the worst bits of s/w ive ever used) but to truly compete with apple on the design side of things android needs a lot of work. it still looks very dated and cluttered in places with lots of 'white space' in other areas. the stacked icons look like they are 'getting jiggy' (as will smith might say)

i think HTC will still need their overlay for some time to come. i quite like their design.

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Anonymous Coward

Do it now!

Best move I made was jumping ship to Android, 3GS to Samsung S2. Bigger screen and smoother displays, more choice of software, faster apps. I know some of that is simply down to better hardware but something as simple as flipping a toggle to set my phone as WiFi hotspot is just one of those little things that feels like a big lungful of fresh, clean air after being locked in by Apple all those months.

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Wonder if...

...CM will port this to Orange San Francisco ? :)

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Yes

TomG (CM dev for Blade) has already started on it...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JDmcdPUVnbc

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Maybe. CM7 is on the San Francisco (Rebranded ZTE Blade), so if the phone is capable they should be able to port it. Best thing you can do is show interest on their forums, maybe throw a little $$$ their way.

It can't hurt!

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I have CM7 on my blade already :)

Although I don't use it at the minute since my Giffgaff SIM currently resides in a 4S.

(The downvotes are gonna kill me now :()

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WTF?

Screens management?

How does it look moving between screens? I assume it has them. I don't want to hear that ICS has also copied Apple and WinPho with one screen. I like breaking my apps into work and home, keeping them uncluttered.

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Eh?

iOS has supported multiple screens for ages: just swipe sideways to move to the next / previous screen. This was certainly possible in iOS v2.

WinPho7.5 uses a very different UI paradigm, so your criticism isn't really applicable.

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Wasn't a criticism but winpho is one screen that goes up and down, no picture as background and the icons or tiles or whatever are quite locked to being large square icons etc.

iOS isn;'t the same experience when I have used it, there is one screen filled with little boxes and another screen filled with little boxes. It doesn't have the "place them where you want and move them how you want and put the picture you want" type feel to it that Android has.

Maybe it does in some menu somewhere but I couldn't find it and have never seen it on an iphone, aybe everyone I know just likes boring screens that look like the android menu?

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Holmes

Question: which CURRENT android phones will get ice cream sandwich and when?

http://www.pcworld.com/article/243008/what_phones_get_googles_ice_cream_sandwich_mobile_os_first.html

If I have to buy a new android phone each time I want an upgrade ...

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All current (2011) Sony [Ericsson] Xperia phones are getting ICS. I'm not a die hard SE fan by any means, but since the farce with the X10, they actually seem to have listened to customers and are now producing (IMHO) some great phones with a decent upgrade path.

My neo had 2.3.3, now has 2.3.4 and will have 4.0 some time in the near(ish) future.

http://blogs.sonyericsson.com/products/2011/11/15/ice-cream-sandwich-for-sony-ericsson-2011-xperia%E2%84%A2-portfolio/

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Samsung Galaxy S2

Samsung have tweeted that the Galaxy S2 will get ICS.

https://twitter.com/#!/samsunguk/status/136838488954912768

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Anonymous Coward

A tweet and a blog post

That's nice, but do you know what would be nicer?

A download link.

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Happy

ICS G1

Not exactly current, but it's available for the G1 if you're a patient user.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ym4A82ft5pw

The S2 download will be available when it's available. Even Apple don't post download links before they release the upgrade ffs!

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Anonymous Coward

"Even Apple don't post download links before they release the upgrade ffs!"

But they generally give a good indication of *when* it's going to be available.

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Gold badge

Third party overlays have never been needed really, but they will still continue since OEMs want to sell their handset and merely producing a good hardware design is not seen as enough.

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