Upgrading to Ice Cream Sandwich

I’m about six months behind the rest of the world when it comes to phone software, but I finally upgraded my Nexus S  to Ice Cream Sandwich. Unfortunately the process was not as smooth as I would have liked: even though I have an unlocked stock phone from Google I still couldn’t get the OTA upgrade and had to find and manually download it. However, the upgrade basically destroyed my phone. Everything was slow and laggy, apps crashed all the time and battery life was down to a few hours. After a few days of trying to troubleshoot I gave up and did a “factory reset”. The reset removed all apps and reset to just the base OS (the upgraded ICS version in this case). Luckily this seemed to fix everything. Now that I’ve re-installed the apps that I did regularly use my phone is better than ever.

I really the look and feel of ICS. It’s close enough to Gingerbread that I don’t feel lost but it’s different enough to feel like I’m using something new. I like the blue and black theme much better than the previous orange (though I wish there was a selection of color themes). The more 2D feel of the interface (at least for the native Android apps) is really nice too. It’s different enough from iOS but not as different as Metro (or whatever it’s supposed to be called now). Some apps like the music player, the  contacts app and Gmail have had significant redesigns and are a quite a bit nicer to use. I don’t know what changes they have made to the keyboard but it seems much more natural to type on and more accurate. However the caps lock feature seems to be gone which is a bit annoying at times. Most third party apps seem to be unchanged by the design changes. The whole phone seems much snappier and faster. Battery life during actual use seems about the same, though it does seem longer on standby ( I haven’t made any scientific measurements).

I’ve been pretty happy with the Android platform and this phone in particular since I got it. It was not quite as polished as iOS but it wasn’t significantly deficient either. With the ICS update I feel like Android has made small but steady improvements to the whole experience. Since I mostly use the stock Android apps and popular ones like Facebook and Twitter I haven’t explored the ecosystem much. That being said, I have no complaints about the apps and services I do use. I use my phone basically as a quick lookup and occasional texting and calling device — I much prefer a proper computer when it comes to doing work. For those purposes the phone is great. With the improved keyboard I’ve been using it for quick emails and IM as well. If I was in the habit of keeping a shorter blog I think I could use the phone to write for that as well.

I don’t plan on switching phones any time soon and I’m glad to say that it looks like I won’t be forced to. The Nexus S is a solid device (not perfect, but solid). I wish it had a better camera and I’d be happy to pay for an OmniFocus app (even if it was just read only) but apart from that I’m happy with it. The ICS update made it better than it was and there doesn’t seem to have been any unnecessary superfluous changes. I hope the Jelly Bean update (when it comes) will keep going in the right direction.

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2 thoughts on “Upgrading to Ice Cream Sandwich

  1. I’ve been eating the Ice Cream Sandwich for months now and I wouldn’t go back for a second. I’m using an unofficial Cyanogenmod9 for Kindle Fire and it’s pretty great. I’ve got Jelly Bean on my todo list for soonish and am looking forward to it fixing the smoothness issues that I see in ICS. I also always enjoy the new hotness that upgrades bring. There is always some new feature that I enjoy and shortly decide I couldn’t live without. I haven’t really messed with the stock keyboard much – I’ve been using swiftkey and even though it screws me sometimes on autocorrect, usually it saves me a bunch of effort/accuracy. I also keep hacker’s keyboard on there in case I need to use the terminal. Nothing like being able to ssh to your server from your mobile device in case something really goes wrong or you’re away from civilized computers. Though I did find Mobaxterm to put on my keychain flash drive which is amazing. I looked for a mobile cygwin here and there but this never came across my radar until I was looking for Windows X servers. It’s pretty dandy. Keep up the good work. I like reading your stuff.

  2. Jelly Bean does improve a lot over ICS, you should try it out – I got it on my Nexus S.
    At least on JB, the caps lock in the keyboard can be activated by tapping the shift key twice.

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