Android 4 Ice Cream Sandwich on a Tablet

When we first reviewed the ASUS Transformer Prime late last year, the promise of an upgrade to Android 4 Ice Cream Sandwich was just that – a promise. When the Prime finally arrived, there was a fair bit of anticipation but also apprehension that the upgrade would come down the pipeline anytime soon.

However, the new Android 4 Ice Cream Sandwich upgrade, was deployed very quickly and this was probably in no small part due to some issues the Prime was reportedly having, by many users, when in Wi-Fi mode.

And it looks like it was a big coup by Asus – The Motorola Xoom, which announced OS upgrades for its Wi-Fi version of its tablet, was pipped at the line by Asus in getting the Android 4.0 upgrade into the hands of its Prime owners. As such, it’s worth taking a look at some of the new features to be seen on the Prime that are specific to the new Android 4 Ice Cream Sandwich update.

Android 4 Ice Cream Sandwich Homepage Screen Shot on the ASUS Transformer Prime

The new Android 4.0 brings more usability and ease of use to an ever-improving tablet OS.

Firstly, tablets running Android 4.0 have taken a leaf from Apple’s book and placed a shortcut to the camera straight on the lock screen. Swipe right to unlock, swipe left to enter the camera. We’ll be posting some samples of both video and image capture off the 8MP back camera in the next couple of days so you can see the quality of the camera – and it is pretty decent, with 1080p video recording.

It looks like the 3G vs Wi-fi debate has Google’s attention, as Android 4.0 now comes with a Data Usage screen in the setting area, where you can track how much bandwidth has been consumed by week, and by which applications. This feature is a great way to monitor your mobile internet usage, especially if you are using 3G tethering.

Android 4 Ice Cream Sandwich Data Usage Screen Shot on the ASUS Transformer Prime

Keep track of your new Android tablet's data use by week detailing each app's contribution to the overall bandwidth usage.

Speaking of data usage, the Browser has had some changes to it as well. One of the most welcome changes is the ability to request the desktop version of the site you are in if it has automatically taken you to the m.website.com, because it was recognising Android as a mobile browser.

However, with the screen size and flash support, many sites are worth visiting in their rich desktop version. A new touch gesture based browser is also available to trial in the labs area of the browser, keep a look out for a video covering this in more detail to be uploaded soon or better yet subscribe to our YouTube channel at Ritchie’s Room TV.

Android 4 Ice Cream Sandwich Lab Browser Screen Shot on an ASUS Transformer Prime

Comprehensive browser options including desktop website version request. A mobile site just looks wrong on a 10 inch screen.

Widgets used to be treated very differently to Apps, in that they would be found in a fairly convoluted way via the home screen and there was no way to see more than a few widgets at a time. Now, the widgets live in the same place as the apps for easy management, with the new Android 4.0 recognising the different formats and placing them in separate categories.

Android 4 Ice Cream Sandwich Widgets Screen Shot on the ASUS Transformer Prime

Apps and Widgets, living together in perfect harmony as part of the new Android OS.

As with the last OS update, the App store icon is placed for easy access on the top right hand corner in the apps screen, and widgets are easily size-adjusted to suit your homepage layout. The native contacts app has been renamed and upgraded to “People”, with more social networking integration. This seems a little Windows Phone-ish but is a good upgrade so you can see dynamic feed updates on your friends.

App management has always been a bit of a bug bear for Android. There are a lot of tools on the market that help with task killing, but a native app manager would always be preferable. Now, with the Android 4 Ice Cream Sandwich iteration, it’s finally here.

All you need to do to shut down an app is press the recent apps icon on the bottom left hand corner, and swipe an app to the right. That will shut the application down and take it off the recent apps list.

This is way easier than any previous method and beats Apples iOS in terms of simplicity – no extended presses or physical buttons, just home page, recent apps and swipe. You’ll see an example of that in the video below.

If you’ve been using Honeycomb, then you will find the new Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich full of practical improvements. It’s not so much a departure as a welcome progression, and shows Android setting itself up as a serious contender in the Tablet OS wars that will explode later this year.

I’m sure there will be further tweaks before then, and we’ll report on them as well. In the meantime, here’s the video that shows some of those new Android 4 Ice Cream Sandwich features I mentioned above.

 

Do you think you’ll use some of these new features and which ones interest you most? We’d love to hear your thoughts below.