Monday, December 26, 2011

My Ice Cream Sandwich is Quickly Melting

You know you're a tech/gadget geek when you decide to perform a major OS upgrade while on vacation...and in Sin City of all places.  But that's exactly what I did while I was in Vegas week before last.  I caught wind of the fact that the latest version of Android, 4.0 (aka "Ice Cream Sandwich") was slowly being released over-the-air for the Nexus S.  Of course, being my impatient self I couldn't wait for that and instead found a download link off of Google's servers and manually upgraded myself.  In typical Android fashion the upgrade process was very straightforward and in less than an hour I was up and running with the latest and greatest from Google.  So how's my Ice Cream Sandwich experience been since then?

Well, let me start out by saying that if you are current Nexus S owner and have not yet upgraded....please don't!  Google pulled the plug on the upgrade shortly after it was released due to a number of issues that were reported by early adopters.  In some cases the upgrade never completed and essentially bricked the phone, in other cases certain functions stopped working post upgrade (e.g. WiFi), and in a lot of cases, myself included, battery consumption has simply been atrocious since the upgrade.  Right now I'm lucky to get half a day of normal use out of my battery before it dies.  Some people say that turning off WiFi or disabling the Google+ app helps, but I've done both and it doesn't seem to matter.  I'm crossing my fingers that Google does something about this soon, and it's been such a royal pain in the ass that I'm even thinking of switching to Verizon and buying a Galaxy Nexus just so that I don't have to deal with it anymore.  And in addition to the power issue there are a couple of other major annoyances with ICS. Text rendering in Gmail and the browser seem to take forever sometimes, and some of my apps just appear to be more sluggish in general.

But despite all these issues there are some really nice enhancements with ICS.  The Gmail app is a lot more refined and intuitive, and some of the more commonly used functions (e.g. labels, mark as unread) have dedicated icons now instead of your having to pull up the options menu.  The notifications pulldown has also been enhanced to allow you to remove individual notifications by swiping them to the left.  This new swiping gesture has been applied to a number of other places within ICS as well.  Within Gmail you can swipe to go to the next/previous message, and within the "running apps" list you can kill specific apps by swiping them away - very nice.  There's also a really cool new feature which allows you to send one of five preconfigured (and customizable) text messages to a caller during an incoming call when you can't pick up the phone.   Ice Cream sandwich also seems to have addressed a couple of major issues that I often encountered with the Gingerbread OS.  Sometimes when I press on the "home" button it would take at least 15 seconds for the icons to appear, and even worse, sometimes the home screen itself would become totally unresponsive and I would have to power cycle the device to fix it.  Fortunately ICS addressed both of these issues.

Please Google, fix the damn battery issue and allow me to enjoy my Ice Cream Sandwich.