18 10 / 2011
Android 4.0 - Ice Cream Sandwich
To say I was nervous about what we were going to see from Google for Android 4.0 was an understatement. I really felt that the unification of the phone and tablet platforms was going to be the big feature, and perhaps it will turn out to be. Yet, as I watched the presentation of what’s new in ICS, and what the motivations were for the changes, I was very impressed. In my mind, there are three big takeaways from the introduction to ICS:
1. Platform consistency
One of the biggest points of frustration for many Android users is the lack of consistency across the UI and how you access various parts of the OS. You can really see the investment made in ICS to make the experience feel more consistent. It’s a very welcome addition for me, and I suspect most everyone else, and in my mind is the killer feature for the OS. It’s what Android needed more than anything else, and you can see the Android team knew that and put forth a lot of effort to make it so.
2. It brings the innovations of Honeycomb to the phone.
Honeycomb hasn’t gotten a lot of love, and in many ways I can understand why. What does deserve some attention are the various ways Honeycomb innovated on Android 2.x. With ICS, these innovations are felt across the Android platform and will get the much needed exposure. Things like one-button access to multi-tasking from any screen, software buttons instead of physical buttons that are intelligent and can adjust to context, the Action Bar and it’s context-aware nature, much improved widgets that are resizable and more interactive, tabbed browsing, cloud-enabled browser bookmarks across your mobile devices and desktop, and more. For me these are all features I’ve been enjoying since March, but as was pointed out to me on Google+, the vast majority of Android users have never used a Honeycomb device. These additions will change Android for the better.
3. A unified experience for phones, tablets, and more
While this may feel natural, and not so much a feature, I think understating this point would be shortsighted. For consumers, having a consistent experience across our Android devices will be a welcome shift and yield better apps for the platform. For developers, we’ll be able to focus on building towards one platform and one experience. While the screen sizes will vary, the idea of the Action Bar that is so fundamental on the tablet will help us unify our efforts in building great apps for the platform.
Overall, I’m very pleased with what we saw today of ICS, and that’s not even commenting on the Galaxy Nexus (read: drool…). The minor touches like unlocking your device from face recognition, unlocking directly to the camera, pulling down the notification area from the lock screen, having a consistent way to dismiss things (notifications in the notification area, running apps in the multi-task view, open tabs in the browser, etc), and the overall attention to UI and polish (an entirely new typeface across the platform, for example) are all fantastic. Google really just stepped up their game, and I wasn’t expecting that at all.