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.

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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.