Ice Cream Sandwich: bit of a farce?

Ice Cream Sandwich: bit of a farce?If you’ve been following the Android distribution charts over the past few months, you’ll know that the answer to the question posed in the headline is – any way you look at it – an emphatic “YES!”

Android’s “fragmentation” problems have been well documented, but Ice Cream Sandwich (Android 4.0) has really taken things to the next level.

It took the previous version - Gingerbread (Android 2.3) - nearly an entire year to reach 50% distribution, having made its debut on the Samsung-developed Google Nexus S in December 2010.

Ice Cream Sandwich, seven-and-a-bit months after arriving on the Samsung Galaxy Nexus, recently reached the 10% landmark. Unless distribution shoots up exponentially (arguably possible as new devices are released), it looks like ICS will struggle to match even Gingerbread.

Of course, to make matters worse, amusingly coinciding with the 10% announcement was the launch of the Asus Nexus 7, a budget tablet that marks the debut of – wait for it – Jelly Bean (Android 4.1). Oh dear.

Crazier still is the fact that some new smartphones are still being released with Gingerbread – two versions behind Android’s latest and greatest.

So what’s the problem? Well, Ice Cream Sandwich was a fairly significant release, hence the jump in numbering. Also, it’s ambitiously aimed at both smartphones and tablets. Previously, tablets had their own slice of Android in the form of Honeycomb (Android 3.0).

Manufacturers, while incredibly slow, have been fairly open about battling away with the Ice Cream Sandwich update.

Ice Cream Sandwich: bit of a farce?Motorola, for example, has Android Software Upgrade News, with devices listed at Evaluation & Planning, Development, Testing, or Available. However, Team Christy recently warned that Ice Cream Sandwich would only be made available if it “improves” device performance.

HTC, meanwhile, has its Android 4.0 Update FAQ. It recently disappointed users of the HTC ChaCha, Salsa, Wildfire S and Explorer with the news that “devices with 512MB ROM or less will not be upgraded to Android 4.0”.

Similarly, HTC’s tablets will remain firmly on Honeycomb.

And worst of all (tongue firmly in cheek) is the suggestion from Canadian network Telus that the HTC Desire HD won’t get Ice Cream Sandwich. Sonofa…

Sony initially wowed Xperia users with the promise that its entire 2011 range – the Xperia Arc and Arc S, Xperia Ray, Xperia Play, Xperia Neo and Neo V, Xperia mini, Xperia mini pro, Xperia Pro, Xperia Active and Sony Ericsson Live with Walkman (phew) – would all get Ice Cream Sandwich.

However, more recently, Sony warned that Ice Cream Sandwich “may impact performance in some user scenarios”, and ultimately the manufacturer decided not to push out the update over the air (OTA).

Which kinda brings me to my next point: only a small percentage of users are even aware of updates like Ice Cream Sandwich. I recently asked a friend with a Samsung Galaxy S II if he’d updated to Ice Cream Sandwich, and his response was: “Yeah, I think there was some sort of firmware update recently. I dunno.”

Also, does it really matter if consumers are stuck on Gingerbread, aware or not? It’s not like there are tons of apps that demand Ice Cream Sandwich or Jelly Bean as a prerequisite. Developers would be shooting themselves in the foot.

I’m suddenly aware that I’ve pretty much dismissed this entire feature in a single paragraph. Ice Cream Sandwich a bit of a farce? Absolutely. Does it really matter? Nah, not so much.

Read more about: Samsung Galaxy NexusSamsung Google Nexus SAndroid

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7 comments

SpeedyG  Jul. 18, 2012 at 13:05

' Ice Cream Sandwich (Android 4.1) ' Lol Lewis, did ICS update itself from 4.0 during your article? :p

lcurdie / MOD  Jul. 18, 2012 at 13:11

I noticed that as soon as I hit Publish. Bonus points for noticing in the tiny 60-second period that it took to amend ;)

matt101101 / MOD  Jul. 18, 2012 at 13:16

The thing is, anyone who cares will make sure they're running the latest version of Android, and anyone who doesn't care...well...doesn't care, so the whole argument becomes irrelevant.

There is that odd group of people, who do care, but can't be bothered to learn how to install a custom ROM onto their device. Choosing to stay uneducated in such matters (and complaining about your device running an older version of Android), when the information is freely and easily available, is just ridiculous. Anyone who decides to forgo education for the excuse to have a rant about something, doesn't deserve to have whatever point they're making listened to, anyway.

Personally, I have 4.0.4, and as soon as a stable Jelly Bean ROM becomes available for the i9100, I'll be running 4.1.1. The incompetence, laziness or lack of care shown by millions of other Android users, doesn't bother me in the slightest. Android fragmentation is only a problem, if you let it become a problem by affecting you personally.

SpeedyG  Jul. 18, 2012 at 13:19

Unto the article, 4.1 is been introduced in Googles tablet and some Nexus phones with little to no info on manufacturers getting into smartphones, so ICS has a little more time yet. But you do get the impression the ICS generation will be skipped for Jelly Bean as Google have decided to stop sitting back and take a more pro-active approach in the market to combat Tablet's Android malaise and smartphone fragmentation.

barrybarryk  Jul. 18, 2012 at 13:22

If people aren't even aware of the update then it's safe to say they don't need it.

It’s not like there are tons of apps that demand Ice Cream Sandwich or Jelly Bean as a prerequisite. This is exactly why fragmentation isn't much of a problem on Android.

OEMs won't roll out updates because it costs money, they never have, and why bother when they can get away with not doing it. There are custom prepracked ROMs for many phones and pretty much all tablets if you really want to update and it's ridiculously simple to do.

But for most consumers it'll take another round of physical handset upgrades when their contract is up to get an upgrade, it's exactly the same as pretty much every other Mobile OS apart from iOS

RealMatch  Jul. 18, 2012 at 14:26

OEMs won't roll out updates because it costs money, they never have, and why bother when they can get away with not doing it.
It's not just the OEMs, some networks like to block updates as well.

The ICS update for many of the 2011 Sony Xperia phones has now been out for a month or two except if you got your phone from O2 which is STILL blocking Sony from releasing them despite the fact that the hardware is absolutely identical.

Exactly why O2 are doing this they aren't saying so I can only guess that they don't want people upgrading their phones even when it's possible and insist you buy a new phone instead.

krogothnx  Jul. 18, 2012 at 17:20

Here's my take on it:

Android major upgrades are important, but only if you don't have the latest version. As in, if you were on eclair (2.1), gingerbread (2.3) would be a worthwhile upgrade, but froyo (2.2) isn't.

If you're on gingerbread, an update to ICS isn't going to seem like much - particularly if you're running a proprietary UI like Sense or TouchWiz. If you skip a version and upgrade, enough time has passed and development happened that it'll be a significant upgrade.

That said, having received the jelly bean update, I don't think its much of an upgrade at all. More 4.0.5 that. 4.1.

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