It’s been more than ten hours since last night’s Google event – which brought Android 4.0: Ice Cream Sandwich and its first device: The Samsung Galaxy Nexus. Since then, many journalists across the web have expressed their first impressions and thoughts on the two major releases. I’ve gathered some of these impressions below for your reading pleasure. You’ll find that there are some who absolutely love the new OS; while others still see no major change or still see an un-polished OS.
On a side note, if you missed watching last night’s event, it’s available on YouTube here.
Tell us what you think about the new OS and device in the comments and enjoy the read!
As to overall performance, we saw a good deal of stutter in the Galaxy Nexus before us. Taps were not always recognized and there were occasional delays in performing an instruction, though in Google’s defense, it was a phone fully loaded with running tasks and the software is being continually improved and optimized (i.e. it’s not yet fully baked). That having been said, it unfortunately remains the case that Android isn’t as swift and responsive as iOS or Windows Phone (or even MeeGo Harmattan on the N9). Or at least it wasn’t on the demo phone we got a look at. The subtle, pervasive lag that has characterized the Android UI since it[s] inception is still there, which is not a heartening thing to hear when you’re talking about a super-powered dual-core device like the Galaxy Nexus.
Overall, we’re thrilled with how the first ICS handset has turned out. It’s understated, sleek, beautiful and packs a display that’s destined to drop jaws.
The 1.2GHz dual-core processor was startlingly fast. It actually felt a wee bit quicker than our Galaxy S II, and given that Ice Cream Sandwich and the Galaxy Nexus were apparently built for one another, we’re assuming there’s some deeply ingrained optimizations to thank. Swiping from pane to pane was faster than its ever been on Android, and the new Roboto font actually is super eye-pleasing. The touch response of the capacitive buttons — much like those on the original Nexus One — take a bit of getting used to, and we had to mash ‘em just a touch harder than we anticipated to elicit a response.
We have to admit, what we’ve seen is an evolution, not a revolution. That’s fine, except Android can be an inconsistent beast and as we’ve said before, the customisation is great up to a point. When the stock experience is so readily ditched with 3rd-party launcher apps, something has to be a little, well, wrong.
There’s no mistaking that the Galaxy Nexus has all the ingredients it needs to be a terrific phone. There’s also no mistaking that its hands-down best feature, and the one that’s surest to wrest sales away from the Motorola Droid Razr, is the presence of Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich.
Without Ice Cream Sandwich, the design and specs are all very good and nice, but do little to astound. After all, we’ve essentially seen this phone before in the guise of the Nexus S.
Ice Cream Sandwich is pretty. It’s polished. It’s animated, and shiny, and jam-friggin’-packed with gradients and alpha translucencies.
What it’s not — at least not yet — is flawless. There was a crash here and there, and a tense moment or two when a slider just… wouldn’t.. work. Google was quick to note that the build I was seeing was a relatively old one — but even if it weren’t, they still have weeks to stomp out the lingering bugs for the initial release, and months before anyone really expects Ice Cream Sandwich to trickle out onto a wide array of devices. They’ll fix it up right.
Google really has reinvented the wheel here with Ice Cream Sandwich. Everything is extremely polished, simple, user friendly and just gorgeous. From the new application launcher tray, widget selector, People app with HD tiles of all the important people in your phone and more. They’ve really stepped it up a notch and iOS5 should be afraid, very afraid. As far as size is concerned, with no dedicated capacitive buttons the larger screen fills that space and doesn’t make the device actually larger. What we have is an average sized smartphone that will feel very similar in size and nothing out of the ordinary, yet have that brilliant 4.65″ display.
While this is still Android and something we completely understand. Everything is newer, prettier, re-sizable and HD. Everything is HD from pictures of friends and contacts, tiles and more, nothing looks average and the entire device is as crisp and clear as possible. Google is moving away from the long-press to do things on a touchscreen and will make as many things as possible be done via swipe gestures instead. While many things will remain the same, plenty has changed.
In the hand, the Galaxy Nexus feels solid and slick. Gone is the fingerprint-magnet, cheap-feeling plastic of the Galaxy S, replaced by soft-touch plastics and metal. The Contour Design curve is subtle, as before, but more obvious thanks to the bigger screen; whether it actually has an impact on usability remains to be seen, but it’s definitely straightforward to slide a thumb down the display while using it one-handed. Considering this is one of the biggest panels on an Android device – or, in fact, a smartphone – today, it surprisingly doesn’t feel oversized, either. You can slot it into a front trouser pocket with no problems.