Take This

Well, now. That was quite the Android 4.0 launch in Hong Kong, eh? Now that the dust has settled ever so slightly on the Ice Cream Sandwich event, let's take a look at what's going to happen in the coming weeks and months. (Hint: It ain't all gonna happen this week.)

New features

If you haven't yet, check out Google's ICS highlights listing. It's a great place to start acclimating yourself. We'll be giving you our own take on them in due time.

The Ice Cream Sandwich SDK

Google's released the Ice Cream Sandwich software development kit. This is what developers use to make apps, and to make sure their existing apps work as well as possible. It's got a new look, which is nice.

And a new SDK also means some fun things. It contains many of the icons and graphic used in the lower level of the OS. So you'll see some icon packs and themes and what not.

It also means you'll start seeing SDK-based ROMs. Now make no mistake -- these are not the same as ROMs built from source, such as CyanogenMod. (In fact, the CM folks have gently reminded everybody that they don't do SDK ROMs -- they do source ROMs.) SDK-based ROMs can be fun to play with, since you get them first, before even official updates. But they're also likely to be pretty buggy. That doesn't mean they can turn into something interesting, and there are a lot of people who work hard on them. But it's just not the same as a ROM built from source.

Think of it like building a car from a mishmash of parts, rather than getting them from the original manufacturer. Doesn't mean the car won't run, and run decent enough. But it's just not the same, and to many, as good.

The Ice Cream Sandwich AOSP code


And this is what we're alluding to above. Once the ICS code drops into the Android Open Source Product repository, the real work begins. Developers and manufacturers -- anyone, actually, since ICS returns Android back to the open-source track -- can grab the code and get to work.

The Samsung Galaxy Nexus

Samsung Galaxy Nexus

This is the first phone that will have Ice Cream Sandwich. It's coming in November (possibly as early as Nov. 10), and we should see the AOSP code drop around that time, too.

We still don't officially know when and where the Galaxy Nexus will be available in the United States. Verizon's pretty much a lock, and we completely expect a GSM version as well. You'd think Sprint would get it, too, given how it went all-in with the Nexus S 4G. But, again, there's nothing official. And also uncertain is whether you'll be buying from a carrier store, or other retailer. (Remember that the Nexus S was a Best Buy exclusive.)

Europe's another matter. It's more a question of when, and for how much. GSM FTW, right?

Apps and Ice Cream Sandwich

Some good news here: While the Galaxy Nexus brings about a new resolution for smartphones, higher resolutions have already existed with tablets, and Google's been prepping app developers to work with these new resolution and layouts for some time now. (Though that doesn't mean they've all listened.) But it's not like Android 4.0 is a radically new framework. Your existing apps should work.

If by chance you do find an app that doesn't work or just looks crappy, let the developer know.

Will my current phone be updated?

And this is the big question. Which phones will receive ICS updates, and how long will it take for them to be updated?

Truth of the matter is as of right now, it's doubtful anyone really knows. HTC gave us the expected "we're looking into it" line. ICS is probably a bigger deal of it than the other manufacturers (with Samsung probably a close second) given the extent to which Sense replaces the default Android user interface and framework. Contacts, for one. The launcher, for another.

Point is, it's going to take a little time to sort out. We've seen Motorola mention the new RAZR will be updated, probably in the first quarter of 2012. But five-month windows don't really mean much to us just yet, especially when the code's not even public.

We know it's hard, but patience will be required.

What about tablets?

We'd fully expect the current crop of Honeycomb tablets to be updated. In fact, Google should be doing its damnedest to make sure they are. And with the exception of the HTC Jetstream (which in all likelihood hasn't sold all that many anyway because of its ridiculous price tag). As for when? Well, see above. But we'd figure the tablets might be updated sooner than phones, thanks to fewer customizations.

Motorola Xoom That said: We were a little surprised to not see more of a tablet presence at the ICS launch event. Sure, you can fire up an emulator with ICS and tablet dimensions, but that doesn't really do much at this point. But the fact that no new tablet hardware was unveiled is a good sign.

That said: What about the older crop of tablets? The original Galaxy Tab, and the newer (but Gingerbread-based and heavily skinned) HTC Flyer? We're not going to hold our breath for these guys. The Galaxy Tab, despite selling pretty well (particularly overseas), just doesn't have the muscle of the newer Tegra 2 devices. The Flyer, last we heard, was still waiting on a Honeycomb update, which never really convinced it was going to get in the first place.

Hurry up and wait

So that's where we're at, less than a day out from the Ice Cream Sandwich announcement. We've got the SDK, which is great. We need some source code. We need the Galaxy Nexus. And then we can all start stewing (if you somehow haven't already) over whether the phone you just bought is already obsolete. (Hint: It's not, even if it never gets ICS.)

Exciting times, indeed.


Reader comments

Ice Cream Sandwich: What happens next


The Galaxy Nexus is great but Google really only got their feet wet with ICS. This was supposed to integrate tv, tablets, and phones and we really only got a preview of the phone... and even then, not a ton of info. Nothing on GoogleTV or tablets, new apps using high end graphics, no carriers, no prices, launch dates, tablet geared apps, and much more. Google was to bring apps to the tv 10 months ago. I only hope they are scheduling a separate event next month with new Google tv devices and a new Nexus tablet to bring the rest of ICS together.

This was a phone launch that's why. Not sure why people expected more from this. Talking about anything else would take away from the reason the event was being held. Don't think Samsung would be happy to have Google talk about their other stuff and not the phone; common sense people.

I really hate how people freak out about SDK ports. They're buggy, slow, and aren't ready to be used as a daily driver. People like to freak out about the new OS revision release, but you really need to stop and wait for source ROMs to become available.

If the CM team won't make SDK ROMs, its a pretty good indication that they're not a good user experience and really aren't worth your time.

I was kinda expecting to see a passing mention of google tv as well. Seems like they've all but given up on that platform as of late.

So going from old OS to ICS on old hardware, I'm guessing they'll just disable the software buttons from showing up on the screen if the hardware has buttons on them already. Would be kind of funny to have 7 buttons on our phones though.

I hope so, would make no sense to have two sets.

There are a LOT of devices capable of ICS, and Google can't have failed to think of that wrinkle.

The real problem for Google is that by rolling out ICS so close to the holidays, they've given early adopters (and Android's best advocates) a reason to NOT upgrade.

If you want an Ice Cream Sandwich in your stocking, it appears at this point you will have ONE phone to choose from, on ONE carrier.

AT&T customers? Out of luck. T-Mo? Sprint? Wait til next year. Want a physical keyboard? Keep waiting. Tablets? You can hope that $300 OG Xoom on Black Friday will get ICS, but unless Motoroogle promises an update, that's a crapshoot.

Even if device makers start listing which devices will get ICS upgrades eventually, you'll be counting on them (and worse, on the carriers) to make good on their promises. I certainly wouldn't buy any device based on the promise of an upgrade sometime down the road.

Every Christmas, my friends ask me what phone they should get. I usually send out a long list of choices on each carrier. This year, it's going to be short advice: If you're on Verizon and don't care about a physical keyboard, get the Galaxy Nexus. Otherwise, wait until next spring.

We don't even know the carriers yet. What if VzW only has it for a month early? That could put it on other carriers in early december. Also the physical keyboard thing is kind of mute. That hasn't stopped the iPhone from selling like crazy and I seriously doubt it will dent the sales of the Nexus.

I think it's too early to make generalizations about what will or won't be available on Black Friday, just from yesterday's announcement. I mean, The Galaxys Nexus S will be the *first* phone released with ICS this year, but nothing says that it will be the *only* phone with it released this year.

And even if it is, nothing says that only Verizon will have it. I mean, if the rumors are true that a GSM version has also been made, that won't do the Verizon folks much good, so it must be for someone else. Verizon is just the launch partner, for *this* phone.

ONE phone? Maybe. ONE carrier? Unlikely.

What you say makes a lot of sense, but historically Google has given the launch carrier at least a quarter of exclusivity on each new Nexus.

So the advice still stands, unless you want to give up GSM features and swap carriers to the nickle-and-dime-you-to-death Verizon, you get to hurry up and wait, just like Phil says in his closing paragraph.

Lots, if not most of us are tied to a carrier for a while.

I'll grant you that it's probably a mistake to /count on/ a GSM version making its way to the US market before Christmas, but considering that a T-Mobile 4G/AT&T 3G-ready Galaxy Nexus has already sailed through the FCC, there's good reason to hope.

Giving VZW a short head start exclusive could be smart business if VZW paid Samsung and/or Google for that exclusivity. However, with the holiday season coming up, the stupidest thing Samsung and Google could do is to wait until after the holidays to make the Nexus available on the other US carriers.

I want to know if and when the Atrix is going to get updated. It has the specs to pull it off and I will be pissed if it does not do it.

It would really turn me off to Android to have that done. Atrix would still be with in 18 months (heck only less than 9 months old when ICS is going to be released. It should get ICS update at the very least and really should get the one after it as well.

I can only imagine that all dual core phones would get ice cream sandwhich. I'd be very surprised if they did not. I can imagine some single core will get them. I'm just extremely curious to how they do the whole button thing. And HTC sense? Its gonna be a full remodel with all is this new stuff with ICS. This is the first time in a while that Android has gotten a full Makeover in terms of UI and everything else. It'll be interesting to see how phone manufacturers go about porting ICS to their custom UI's

Agreed and IMO now it's even more of a shame to hide stock ICS. Before a lot of Android was meh and the skins helped to some but now ICS is slick and nicer to look at. Sense and Motoblur and the others are going to seemingly have to change or else they won't be recognizable as ICS over GB.

I for one can't wait to own a Nexus as I will FINALLY get prompt updates and everything will work better overall. Plus after using CM7 for so long I've grown to LOVE stock Android.

The JuJubes will be arriving on googles campus soon! Its tiring keeping up with all the phones and OS....

ICS should NOT have been announced with a phone announcement IMHO.

Announce the OS- and the strategy- talk about how it will work cross platform (TV, Tablets, Phones) release the code- after code release you can have a phone announcement shortly after such as Nexus and any other device announcement. Doing it the way they did last night almost provides more questions than answers.

Really bummed they don't address the TERRIBLE use of memory on all android devices. Tablets use the entire internal storage, phones are limited to small partitions for apps, Internal storage vs. SD card and which apps are moveable - is a TERRIBLE MESS- and one I really hoped would be addressed in ICS.

Even with the Nexus and it's 16/32 GB no SD config- will the ENTIRE available memory be open to Application storage?

How about backup data? Why must we be rooted to save application data? And how come there is no GOOGLE OS level option to at least CLONE your phone (apps/data/settings)- so if you loose/break it and replace with the same model device you can be up and running in minutes? Would also be great to be able to PORT data and apps from one phone to another - sure there's some sense vs. touchwiz vs. blur exclusive data issues- but that should not affect calendars, contacts etc- and yet these phones seriously sync differently w/ Google- ICS should have put a stop to this level of OEM customization.

To not fix these issues on the OS end will continue to have that F word come up over and again... Fragmentation.

Love the direction of ICS- but it's priorities are limited and missing the bigger picture IMHO.

I read an article that there is a way to save app settings to the cloud without root, app designers haven't utilized it yet which is unfortunate.

I don't think this is really a fragmentation issue, but I agree that those are all issues which should be addressed. angryGTS is correct: Google has a mechanism apps can use to sync user data, but from what (little) I understand it's fairly limited, and I only know of a couple apps that actually use it.

I'm a little nervous about the update of the Nexus S.

I think it's outrageous that Google didn't confirm the update for the Nexus S on the stage at the event. I'm concerned and a little angry. Didn't they just watched the Apple keynote a few weeks before?

I promise if I don't get Ice Cream Sandwich on my Nexus S within 2 weeks after the Galaxy Nexus launches, I'm done with Android.
I'm a huge fan, I even publishing an Android podcast with a friend, but this is the mark. I'm sick of hunting forever for a simple update. I know carrier, manufacturer etc. But that's why I bought an Nexus S. And it's offending, that this device is not mentioned for an update on stage, so people need to fear that they might not receive it, ever.