Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich has yet to officially hit any phone other than the Samsung Galaxy Nexus, but since the source code dropped a while back everyone and their brother has been working on getting on their phone. The Samsung Vibrant is no exception, and there happens to be quite a nice little ROM named "Passion" being developed by neobuddy89 that's getting some very nice reviews -- including this one by Android Central member Slackerjack. Of course it's not perfect yet, but it's on a very nice path. Check out Jack's review after the break.
So, being a Vibrant owner is a mixed bag. On one hand, you have very capable phone with a terrific development community that’s constantly pushing the envelope in terms of new OS versions and updates, and you also have a phone that needs that development community to help bolster support for a device that’s plagued with a couple of problems – namely: somewhat terrible battery life and a completely terrible GPS. But let’s not get too down on the phone that’s nearly un-brick-able, that while unable to divine where on earth it is… can help you watch a movie on a perfectly lit screen while you’re wandering about the wrong side of town looking anxiously for that Starbucks! At least we still have Wifi calling!
But enough of the bad, let’s touch back on the good. To be honest, I don’t know what exact reason one could assign to the dedication of the Vibrant development community: it could be that the Galaxy S was a great seller, that the Galaxy S line was “root-friendly” and notoriously hard to brick….but it’s probably a combination of reasons that’s cumulated into one of the best, easiest entry level “mess-around” phone’s out there, with great development support and a terrific community built around it. I was skeptical over the last month or so that we’d see an Android 4 port, even with the great support – let’s face it, there are newer devices out there – certainly more capable ones, so imagine my elation when the fantabulous folks at XDA delivered a shiny new Source Code port hot on the heels of release.
So let’s have a look at what we have here: Well my gosh it’s an Android 4.0.1 Build named “Passion V5 – Passion or Obsession, a beta working version of ICS for the Vibrant by Neobuddy89
Let’s face it, if you’re reading this article – you’ve done research on Android 4.0 – you’ve watched the videos, read the documentation, drooled over the GUI and scrounged for new Live Wallpapers and probably used themeing to get as close as you could to possible to the real deal…well….cheat no longer my friends – this is the real deal. Rather than bore you with all the gory details of what’s included – I can talk a little bit about what’s not included:
- Soft Keys for Back, Home and Task: Yes – it’s not there, why? Because the Vibrant already has a row of capacitive buttons, so you why on earth would you need soft keys? It’s a little jarring at first (having come from a Galaxy Nexus) but the removal of the soft keys at the bottom of the screen frees up more real-estate – so I’m all about it.
- NFC, FFC capable applications – Nope, the Vibrant doesn’t have a FFC or NFC chip – so the big things (like beaming) are noticeably absent. Yes for those reading between the lines – this also means no facial unlock – though I did see something about the potential for support (for you crazies that went out and installed a FFC on your Vibrant)
- GPS support – Okay, you’re a Vibrant owner, you probably turn this off for current-gen ROM’s as it’s hit or miss anyway – so yeah, GPS and location service don’t really work here. Thought it important to bring it up given some of you live or die based on this working. Hope to see a fix for this soon – but it’s a Vibrant GPS – I’m not holding my breath
- Flash – It’s not out for the Android 4.0 official build, so it’s not available here either – I’d expect a working version by the end of the month.
- Video Recording – Doesn’t work….cry me a river! Sure it’ll get fixed, but I’m willing to wait
So what is included?
- All the pretty things! Smooth animations, CRT on/off, the new font, and animation transitions from landscape to portrait (which I didn’t even realize would be as welcome a change as it is until after I go back and use a device without it. Other notable additions that fit into the “isn’t that pretty” category include the new combined contact concept and associated dialer
- Improved task management: Yes, you get the cool Honeycomb style task manager with the neat-o addition of the “slide to remove from memory” that you’ve seen in all the initial videos and documentation
- Widgets, toolbars and scroll-able windows Oh my: If you’re a user of Honeycomb, it’s like a homecoming on your phone – Like that Gmail widget that opens up into whole screen! Yep – put that sucker on the desktop! Dig that “flippy” YouTube and market window – put that bad boy on there too!
- New unlock screen with “Straight to Camera” option: A little slow (I’m blaming this on the old Vibrant camera software – but yes, you can go straight from lock screen to camera by swiping the lock left!
- New Live Walls and craptastic Still -Wallpaper option: That cool bubbles live wallpaper – yep, it’s here. There’s also a new black hole and bubbles wallpaper worth a look. But you do have to pay the price for this with the Honeycomb, crop only option for assigning still wallpaper from the gallery. For those of you not in the know, Honeycomb comes with an annoying little “feature” that forces you to crop any image you choose to use as a still-wallpaper. It’s done in such a way that makes it nearly possible to get the result you want given the limited cropping option (which compensates for vertical and horizontal orientation) – but at least those of us with tablets aren’t the only ones…and now the mass of phone owners can help us vocalize this travesty and hopefully get it changed!
- Data management: Yep, all of those cool statistical things you saw in the videos is all there…go have fun with it…nerds!
Other thoughts and commentary:
- Phone performance and Sound Quality: Needs a little work, based on KB5 I expected the phone to sound a little clearer that it does, but that’s the breaks. I realize that could be potentially fixed by flashing a new modem but I’m too lazy. Worst issue I’ve experienced is having to mute/un-mute the phone when receiving (but never making) a call
- Battery Life: Pretty good actually – I’ve been running about 17 hours between charges (after conditioning of course) for a little over 5 days and no real issues to report!
- Bluetooth: This may be an anomaly, but I’m having the darndest time getting my car’s system to sync – it’s not the software but I can’t reliably get the menu to pop so I can enter a pin and the options through setting is missing. If you’re a Bluetooth die hard – this may keep you from messing around with it – but I’m sure it’s an easy fix and probably on the developers list!
So there you have it, it’s Ice Cream Sandwich on your Vibrant, is it perfect? No – but it is a really good indications of things to come and a good preview of what can expect from the development community going forward. It’s hard to imagine the Vibrant continuing to get as much support as it still does, if this is any indication – the little Galaxy S that could… might be with us a little longer than expected!