The mobile world got its first close look at Google’s new version of Android, Ice Cream Sandwich, as well as its first vehicle, the Samsung Galaxy Nexus, over the last few days. Now that the reviews are coming out, did Google (NSDQ: GOOG) and Samsung’s attempt to raise the bar succeed?
It doesn’t seem that too many reviewers were willing to put Android 4.0 and the Galaxy Nexus ahead of iOS 5 and the iPhone 4S, with most still giving Apple (NSDQ: AAPL) the nod as having the simpler and easier to use product. Still, there was little doubt that Google has dramatically improved the look and feel of the Android user experience with the new software, which could help attract the types of applications that tend to be designed with the iPhone in mind.
Now that Android has such a commanding lead in the smartphone operating system market, the focus turns to whether or not Google and its partners can create the types of higher-end experiences that have carriers willing to pay dearly in order to carry the iPhone. One thing that could help would be if Android partners can move their current customers swiftly to Android 4.0, which definitely appears to be more of a priority within Android than in the past.
That’s because the new software is much more elegant than past revisions like Android 2.2 and Android 2.3 (for some reason, Google decided to use Android 3.0 as the name for its tablet-only version of Android). “The new software is probably the biggest alteration to Android smartphones ever,” wrote Joshua Topolsky at The Verge, emphasizing the improvements to basic aspects like icons and fonts.
“ICS is a big leap forward in making Android friendlier to entry-level users while satisfying the pros. Google has struggled to find that balance in the past, with some devices being too simple and others being too geeky,” wrote Kent German and Jessica Dolcourt at CNET.
And Jason Kincaid at TechCrunch spent significant time going over the changes to the navigation system used to take a tour of the new operating system. “Aside from the omitted Search button, which I miss simply because it makes my beloved voice control harder to get to, this new setup feels like a huge step in the right direction. Most people are going to be excited about Ice Cream Sandwich’s more flashy features, but this is a fundamental and important change that is going to make Android easier to use for a lot of people – which is why I’ve spent so many words on it.”