There’s no doubt about it, Ice Cream Sandwich is the best looking Android OS yet. Not that Honeycomb or Gingerbread had particularly ugly interfaces but Android 4.0 exudes future cool in a way that Google’s smartphone OS simply hasn’t done in the past. From the lock page to its email and calendar apps, everything is aesthetically pleasing and easily stands up to the tough competition from iOS 5 and Windows Phone.
What’s more with its expanse of new features, Ice Cream Sandwich feels like the kind of OS you’d be happy to run your twenty-furst century existence through. When introducing the latest Android update this morning, Matias Duarte, Director of Android operating system User Experience, stated that in the past Android hasn’t been an OS people could “love”. When judging ICS on a first impressions basis, this certainly seems to have changed. The proof of this particular pudding-based treat however, will be in the eating.
Getting on with Ice Cream Sandwich on a day-to-day basis is what counts in the long run and even at its big ‘coming out event’, not every feature was working to perfection. The panorama function produced a noticeable seam in its final result and the Face Unlock feature lost a lot of its wow factor through a sheer refusal to work. These are the sort of selling points which will need to work consistently to reward consumers for climbing aboard the Android bandwagon, so it was a shame to see them fall at the first hurdle.
Elsewhere, Android 4.0 went a long way to achieving its self-appointed goals of enchanting users, simplifying their lives and making them awesome. In Ice Cream Sandwich’s case, ‘awesome’ isn’t a garish pout but a quiet confidence that everything you’re doing is bound to go to plan. Fitting in with this worldview, widgets are easier to create and folders can now accomodate not only apps but contacts too, giving you a list of quick speed dial numbers when you need it.
Offline Gmail access and pinch-to-zoom Calendar functionality also means you’ll always be on top of your daily schedule without suffering the tedious search for a decent Wi-Fi or 3G connection. Finally, the new swipe gesture and buttonless controls should make for a more immersive and intuitive experience on Android, erasing the kinks of old.
Naturally, your Ice Cream Sandwich experience will vary depending on the Android handset you own. With fragmentation the biggest enemy of Google’s smartphone and tablet OS, ICS needs to be the platform that pulls all those loose strands together. From this morning’s grand unveiling, it seems to be doing the easy bits effortless and struggling with its final showy flourish. Hopefully, everything comes together in time for the proper launch of ICS in November.