Android Ice Cream Sandwich Review

So today I had a play with a Samsung Galaxy Nexus.

Ice Cream Sandwich

Better styling, better organised and with new features, ICS (Ice Cream Sandwich) promised a lot. For me having used the iPhone 4S, what I wanted to see from ICS was that 60 frames per second fluidity. I wanted the animation to be as fluid as water being poured gently out of a cup. While it is definitely a huge improvement over what’s gone before it’s not that silky smooth motion that makes you smile.

The browser is absolutely superb. Again, while not silky smooth, it’s still smooth (without silky), very good and pretty fluid for moving around and for pinch to zoom. What has always given Android a huge boost browser wise is the ability to reflow the text to fit screen width with a quick double tap and it’s here too. Having played with all platforms I would say that an Android device with a large screen (this was 4.65″) easily gives the best browsing experience on a mobile phone. Options to view the desktop version of a site (if you’re routed to a mobile version) and to save offline pages just go even further to make this browsing experience superb.

The keyboard is superb and definitely an improvement over the gingerbread one, though I can’t help but think the larger screen width was giving that edge in keyboard usability.

The voice recognition for my fairly middle of the road English accent was OK. Don’t try using it seriously and it’s vaguely impressive. Try to use it to send a message when you need to and you might find yourself very frustrated. The instant recognition that is supposed to work from streaming the recorded sound to Google’s servers which then send back streaming words was very laggy at times. Lovely idea, doesn’t work as a practical day to day tool.

Video Recording with Gingerbread on my Nexus One with stock android had the most appalling sound quality. I was quite astonished and disappointed that Google hadn’t remedied this with Gingerbread, but thankfully I can confirm that 1080p video n the Galaxy Nexus with stock ICS had very good quality audio.

In conclusion ICS is a breath of fresh air with it’s core functionality refined and improved, it’s a very welcome upgrade. I’d of liked to have seen iPhone style animation fluidity, but we can’t have everything I suppose.

Galaxy Nexus (The Hardware)

After seeing this in person and talking to the store staff I can say that this definitely doesn’t have a Micro SD card slot. I bought a 32Gb Micro SD card for my Nexus One so I can listen to my music in my car (via my bluetooth headunit). It’s a big backwards step not to have Micro SD support.

A 5 Megapixel Camera is not bad, but it seems a bit regressive from the Galaxy S2’s 8 Megapixel camera, but I was assured that you could take 1080p Video with it.

So with the negatives covered the phone itself was a very interesting design. As much screen as your hand can comfortably manage. This is a comfortable phone for people with normal sized hands, but had they made it just a little bigger it wouldn’t have been. For someone like myself who loves to use the browser and sat nav and things that need a screen, this is just perfect. As always the Super AMOLED tech is just stunning. It’s colour gamut is so good that some people have stated that it makes some colours look too bold, I would say that this is like saying that your car goes too fast, or that your boss pays you too much money. If it’s a problem turn the brightness down. Displays this good really need a better colour system than 8bits per channel and conventional image rendering.

Part of me did wish the phone was shaped a little more stylishly, it’s not that it’s uggly, far from it, I just feel it lacks that appearance that makes a phone really genuinely pretty, like the V3 Razor had and the iPhone 4S holds today.

On-screen buttons works for me, it’s a great idea.

Conclusion

I’m erring away from upgrading to this phone, but I’m looking forward to ICS. For me the lack of a Micro SD card slot and the lower camera cause me to not have quite enough motivation to upgrade for now, especially since now the Galaxy Nexus is out, the latest ICS handsets will be on their way. For those who need a new phone right now though I’d strongly recommend it.