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Google, Samsung unveil Ice Cream Sandwich-powered Galaxy Nexus (cnet.com)
86 points by AhtiK on Oct 19, 2011 | hide | past | web | favorite | 130 comments

From the review at This Is My Next:

"The subtle, pervasive lag that has characterized the Android UI since its inception is still there."

You have got to be kidding me. How is it that Android still doesn't map a user's finger movements with nearly 1:1 accuracy on the screen? Pinch, zoom and flick response times on the iPhone have been superior to Android for years, even with significantly less powerful hardware (compare a 3GS response speed to a Nexus S and it's painfully different).

Imagine if your mouse cursor couldn't keep up with your hand movements, or if letters didn't appear on the screen until a moment after you pressed your keyboard. That's what using Android is like for me, someone who has owned an iPhone since 2007. When I use my friends' Android phones, any of them, especially in the browser, it boggles my mind how laggy everything is. When will this actually be addressed?

>Imagine if your mouse cursor couldn't keep up with your hand movements, or if

>letters didn't appear on the screen until a moment after you pressed your keyboard.

<eyes-closed> <imagining/> </eyes-closed>

Even in my imagination, Android installed base is still growing at nearly 2X of that of the iPhone. Apparently, most people don't care for whatever you're saying they should care about. I have experienced the lag you mention, but I have a big, lovely screen on my Galaxy S [which is one of the reasons I upgraded from my iPhone 3GS], so I'm okay with it. My wife (a realtor) has never mentioned lag as an issue.

I don't mean to be rude, but we hear so often that Android fanboys use the silliest things as justifications for the shortcomings of Android [and they do!]. At the same time, Apple fanboys trumpet the silliest of things as justifications for the superiority of iOS [witness the many apologies/rationalizations after the 4S announcement]. You're trumpeting a silly thing.

It’s not a silly thing if I truly care about it. Lag drives me crazy. I hardly ever need more than a few minutes before I want to throw an Android device at the wall.

This reason is personal. Others don’t care about it. That’s certainly true. But I do. Why am I not allowed to bring this up? Why is that silly?

I just used a Samsung Galaxy S II... didn't notice any lag. But then again, my phone is an iPhone 3G.

That’s good to hear! I test any Android device I can get my fingers on but I have not yet had an opportunity to test the Galaxy S II. (The stores I was in never had a charged one.)

> Even in my imagination, Android installed base is still growing at nearly 2X of that of the iPhone. Apparently, most people don't care for whatever you're saying they should care about

I remember seeing a chart awhile ago which showed that while Android's market share is getting larger than the iPhone's, it isn't actually taking away any share from the iPhone but instead from RIM, Windows phones, and feature phones. (just did some googling and found the link):


What I think this means is that the people aren't moving away from their iPhones, but instead people who don't have a smart phone to begin with are more likely to pick an Android phone instead of an iPhone.

Maybe it's due to things like finger lag, or how great the camera / video is, or maybe for completely non-technological reasons , i.e. cost, or even as simple as which phones are available on their carriers, which I honestly think it could be it as I have heard that where I live (Australia) the iPhone has one of the largest market shares in the world (4.5 million iPhones with a population of 22 million), and I think is one of the only places which place no restrictions on which carriers can stock the iPhone.

In all fairness, it is early days yet and I think once the smart phone market has reached saturation we might start to see a different story play out between the competing OSes.

Non-geeks don't call it lag. They call it "I wish I had an iPhone but the salesman at Verizon talked me into this thing because the commission is so much higher." Just because you don't know the industry term doesn't mean the problem doesn't bother you.

Install base is an interesting thing.

Android is the new Feature Phone, in some ways. Just because someone buys a cheap Android clone doesn't mean they embrace the features in the way that nearly every iPhone user does.

Google need to work exceptionally hard, else I figure even Microsoft will catch up.

Android is very inconsistent.

Did you notice how you just no true Scotsman'd smartphone market share?

thats all the apple fanboys have, instead of this thread talking about all the amazing new features and improvements, its a bunch of hivemind people trying to convince themselves that Android isn't awesome. I'm sorry but I must of been oblivious the lag as well as the other Android users. Most people want cheap phones and/or cheap plans, a very high quality os, that make calls, send text, surf web, and maybe do some apps. A lack of an animation or a non existent lag or even a higher resolution icon , makes no difference to most people.

> "A lack of an animation or a non existent lag or even a higher resolution icon , makes no difference to most people."

Isn't Apple proof enough that simply hitting the bullet points is not enough? Or Sony (with the PlayStation, which got thoroughly trounced by a machine bearing inferior specs across the board)?

People love polish, they love attention to detail, they love absolute frictionless products. Apple has priced themselves out of the low end (the 3GS' performance is a joke compared to the Android phones at that price point), so Android is largely dominating that segment.

But make no mistake about it - Apple owns the high-end smartphone market because their product has all of those things you just blithely dismissed.

Most people want a cheap car that gets good mileage. The lack of heated seats, automatic wipers, and a V8 under the hood makes no difference to most people. But yet, we know that the dynamics of the automotive market can't be hand-waved away so easily - why do it to the smartphone/consumer electronics market?

Using the word "fanboy" to describe someone who disagrees with you isn't a serious argument. Embrace the cognitive dissonance: I like my new iPhone 4s, and I'm excited about the new Android release!

If you don't think the lag is a problem, fine, great. I personally think it's unacceptable. It's one of the reasons my daily use phone is iOS and not Android.

Why are we talking about this instead of the other new features? Because for a long, long time, Ice Cream Sandwich was touted as the solution to these performance problems.

I personally find Android unpleasant to use because of it. Worse, I think it makes my software look shitty, which makes me look shitty, which makes me tell people to demo my apps on iOS rather than Android.

sorry for the fanboy, but their are plenty of shortcomings in iOS, and because of the apple reverance on these forums, there was nothing but praise in the discussion of iOS5 but with ICS theres nothing but complaints even though there were some really awesome announcements. Just written because people can't have intelligible conversation about the disagreement in os's. If you don't like android, thats fine but in the article about android's new features and releases and the thread is filled with complaints from people that probably never used Android for longer than a demo period, not really relevant. Like take this lag issue. That was one writers opinion on what could be considered a demo unit. Now the comment underneath links to articles saying how fast it is and responsive. Its a non issue, but its something that most people want to shout about here in these threads. Another issue is fragmentation, the apple community loves to shout about that but from the sales most people don't care. As a former iphone owner, i know of Apple's shortcomings because I used it for a period of 2 years. I doubt any of these people's complaints none of them used a modern Android for that same time.

the sad thing is there's more intelligent conversation about Androids new features in the techcrunch article than here. Its sad once theres a hivemind mentality in a community.

Android is growing fast because its on every crappy free/buy one get one smartphones that are basically used as a glorified feature phone, NOT because its good.

Many iPhones are used as feature phones too. Their owners want to show off, but use it just for calling and maybe texting.

How can you prove this statement?

I did a whole post about how Google needs to head over to Pixar and borrow the seminal book "The Illusion of Life" by Ollie Johnston and Frank Thomas. Learn some animation (http://www.blackrimglasses.com/2009/11/29/the-illusion-of-sm...)

Two years ago! You'd think they'd get animation, finger mapping, etc down by now, considering the arms race in Android seems to be around screen size and processor power. I appreciate what Google is doing and I did like my Android phones (I don't have any right now however), but the animation thing and finger mapping bugged me.

Matias Duarte seems pretty passionate about moving Android forward at least: http://thisismynext.com/2011/10/18/exclusive-matias-duarte-i...

Agreed, he seems like he is driving for simplification and focus, which is never a bad thing.

Of course, that is one data point. Gizmodo says "certainly responsive" (http://gizmodo.com/5851133/samsung-galaxy-nexus-the-greatest...). Engadget says "startlingly fast" and "faster than its ever been" (http://www.engadget.com/2011/10/18/samsung-galaxy-nexus-hand...).

Personally I just think it is clear that Android has gone well beyond the limits of caring (not perception) for the vast majority of users. There will always be nits for picking, but acting like this really needs to be addressed (especially considering how subjective this performance perception can be) is silly.

I've the feeling that Android doesn't employ the GPU for the OS, I hoped that this will change with 4.0

Android 4.0, Icecream Sandwich, does have a hardware accelerated UI. Honeycomb has been the only other version to have this.

Bad news then, Honeycomb devices also lag very noticeably. :(

Fast and responsive on this hardware, sure. But what about the other less powerful, free, bogo Android phones out there? Will your carrier-crippled Android phone be able to even upgrade to ICS?

They just added Hardware Acceleration: http://developer.android.com/sdk/android-4.0-highlights.html so I imagine it's going to take a bit of time for apps to catch up.

The "regular people" I know who own an Android phone bought it because it was cheaper, and in fact have a sub $150 thing (unlocked, retail).

They also are regularly out of pre-paid credit.

As a developer I couldn't care less about that kind of user, and I suspect few developers make a living on a fragmented and inconsistent platform like Android.

This in turn means less quality and variety of apps, which detracts even more from the experience.

If you have no money and no taste, sure lagginess, a terrible UI and advertising laden apps can be acceptable.

> How is it that Android still doesn't map a user's finger movements with nearly 1:1 accuracy on the screen?

I don't have this problem at all (Samsung Galaxy S2)

I find the lagginess of the stock browser infuriating on my Nexus S. On graphics-heavy pages it can become almost unusable. Pages with mainly text are generally fine. But here's the thing, Opera Mobile on the same phone and on the same laggy pages is smooth as silk. It has remained snappy and responsive no matter how hard I've tried to make it choke.

Kudos to Opera. I would like to ask: has anyone else observed this? If not, could you give it a whirl and see how it compares?

Only downside is that it takes a while to load and seems to lose its state when switching away. Still, it's a much better experience than the stock WebKit browser.

So the question on my mind is, how does Opera do it? Is the WebKit browser simply failing to use GPU acceleration? Why? Clearly Android as a platform can do responsive, non-laggy UX because it's right there in Opera. And yet the WebKit browser lets us, and the many apps that exploit it, down.

Is it purely that GPU support hasn't been baked in yet because of lack of handset support? Or is it something more fundamentally problematic in Android?

One final tangential observation: OS X suffered from similar poor performance when it was first released. I clearly remember the tech press scoffing and ridiculing it in comparison to Windows XP and OS9. But it matured, helped by ever improving hardware, and grew into a great OS known for its style and snap. Is Google treading a similar path?

I'm not sure why you're being downvoted; your point is valid. I can not accept owning an Android phone until this is fixed.

I agree. I bought a Samsung Omnia 7 with Windows Phone 7 over android (and I am a free software kind of guy) because I found the Android experience lacking. I just found every Android device to miss the nice snappy response iOS and WP7 gives.

WP7 needs more spotlight. It's a really nice OS, both in UI and in UX. I really hope MS keeps focusing on it!

What MS lacks is the complete package. The OS is great, it's incredibly snappy and responsive - much moreso than Android, and the only player that can give iOS a run for its performance money.

But so far all the hardware we've seen out of MS's camp has been me-too almost-clones of existing Android devices. None of the hardware have contained any features or industry design that would really make it desireable.

MSFT desperately needs a piece of hardware to act as WP7's flagship - something with the build quality and design quality of the iPhone 4. A real piece of art people can hold in their hands - IMO this would be the ticket to MS having a fighting chance in the smartphone wars.

They also desperately need to stop marketing in-house. Microsoft blows at marketing, and everything they do in-house falls flat on its face, and so far everyone they hire from the outside seems to suck equally as much (if not worse. Seinfeld?). Microsoft desperately needs to get its marketing act together.

What it needs is the phone. It's own iPhone, Galaxy S or Droid. Here's hoping Nokia will do it right at last.

Google doesn't think this is an issue.

And that is exactly the problem.

Judging by sales, an awful lot of people seem to agree with their assessment.

Many of those Android "sales" are free phones (with contract).

"Free phones (with contract)" is a bit like saying the house you bought was one fifth the list price (with a mortgage).

Perhaps we should only count phones that are sold for the full, unsubsidized price, to avoid giving an unreasonable edge to phones that sell for $200 with contract.

Let's not forget the relatively high return rate[1] on Android devices.

1. http://androidcommunity.com/android-return-rate-30-40-on-som...

Does that information come from the same source that informed TechCrunch of the leak of information about U2 listeners?

The article in question is http://techcrunch.com/2011/07/26/androids-dirty-secret-shipp..., and the claim in question is "many return rates are approaching 40% said a person familiar with handset sales for multiple manufacturers." And that's exactly the amount of detail provided. Forgive me if I'm not bowled over.

    > Imagine if your mouse cursor couldn't keep up with
    > your hand movements
That's why I gave up on using X11 and Linux back in 2001.

Ah, before accelerated UI. I can pan, move, and resize windows at 60FPS these days (with vsync on, of course).

.... what?

Linux has (had?) this annoying little "feature" of minimal input lag. Unnoticable at first, becomes a deal breaker after a while (especially if you work on Windows machine in the meantime).

Same story: Firefox, or even Chrome - when compared to Opera. Opera has it's weak points, but it's interface interaction is amazingly snappy. Actually, it's quite amazing how big difference these tiny things can make.

So much for the flame war you predicted, everyone just agrees.

I think it comes down to the fact that most of the Android users don't care about the responsiveness. Maybe there exists this mentality at Google that since Android is expanding pretty well, why bother spend extra resources into GUI acceleration or design? And to an extent, that makes perfect sense. Most Android users don't care enough about responsiveness to pay more (sometimes less) for iPhone or don't even know smartphones could be—and should be—"smooth" since all they have used are Android phones.

We are simply spoiled by the Apple's way of doing things: fixing things that aren't broken for the betterment of UX. Take the smoother folder opening animations in iOS 5, for example. Apple didn't have to fix it but Apple did it anyways because both Apple and its users care about things like that. Unfortunately, some people just don't.

The “let’s cut corners because most people won’t notice or care” mentality you mentioned is where sub-par software comes from. Good software shouldn’t be a luxury that one can be “spoiled” by — it should be the standard.

The big problem with this argument is that there isn't a software creator out there that doesn't cut corners, not the least because there isn't one agreed-upon master list of what constitutes a corner.

Poor responsiveness for a touch screen interface on such a late generation device is an embarassment especially when you look at the features that have garnered focus.

So I understand "poor responsiveness" in 2011 is on your list of corners. What else is? What was on that list in 2009?

Do you know what wasn't on my list of corners for 2011? Unlocking my phone with my face.

"Poor responsiveness"? Yes, that's on my list. 2011, and 2009 back when my 3GS made every Android phone on the market look like it was running through treacle.

The gap has narrowed, but it's still embarrassing that so much computing power has been thrown at this, but still it feels like Android just can't keep up with my finger movements. Coming from iOS, this is a really big UX issue. List and scroll views on iOS feel like they're glued to your fingers. On android they don't, and it makes the whole UI feel 'slippery' - like you don't have a decent grip on UI objects.

I like baseball. I get that a lot of people don't, and that's fine, but I do. And growing up where I did, there weren't a whole lot of options for watching baseball; there wasn't a local major-league team, and the ones geographically closest weren't on our list of cable networks. WGN was on our cable, though, so I grew up watching -- and eventually loving -- the Chicago Cubs.

Boston fans used to complain about their streak of 80+ years without a World Series win, but of course that's all over now. The Cubs, meanwhile, have passed the century mark: since they didn't even make the playoffs this year, the streak stands at 103 years, with the last win in 1908.

Thirty years into my personal fandom, I've grown accustomed to shrugging and saying "there's always next year" because, well, there is. Of course, "next year" never really happens; even when they get so close there's always something, like Game 6 of the 2003 NLDS when the wheels just completely came off in the space of about an inning.

But then, "next year" probably isn't going to materialize soon anyway. The Cubs have spent too many years in a row now chasing over-the-hill ex-stars, giving them huge contracts and then living with the results. The farm system's a mess and there's no cohesiveness to the team or the organization, and won't be for a good long while.

Which is why a lot of people probably think it's crazy to keep betting on "next year", when what's really needed is a massive overhaul and then four or five years of rebuilding effort. They probably think it's crazy, too, to just pretend there aren't systemic problems in the organization, to talk about how this year's problems were different from last year's problems, to act as if bringing in a couple big-name hired guns and slapping some lipstick on the pig will lead to winning it all, and soon.

But I've been watching the Cubs for three decades now, and I'm a devout member of the Church of Next Year. I'm a fan, and I'll always be a fan, and even if there isn't a championship in the cards I can be proud of the fact that at least Wrigley Field will always be packed, which is something you can't say for a lot of teams that actually win (heck, Tampa Bay fans didn't even turn out to watch their team mount an epic September comeback and make the playoffs on the very last day of the season). And, of course, a stadium full of seats is probably worth a lot more to the owners than a championship, right?

I don't like baseball. It boggles my mind how boring it is. Imagine if the players in a "sport" you're watching spent most of the game standing around. (Ha! Real sportsmen run at least 54.3% of the time.) It's a personal opinion but by golly, I'll state it and tweet about it!

How about:

No crashing No virus/malware/spyware Less Crappy apps Better user interface Better battery life

This is a pretty poor list. What is "less" crappy apps? What is "better" in user interface and battery life? Can you quantify or even qualify these?

this is a very elitist way of thinking of things. Some people just aren't able to afford the luxury of a "good software" as you put it. So does that mean they shouldn't have access to a solid operating system and access to mobile web. In many parts of the world where they buy their phones outright, does smoother animations really justify the extra cost for access to email and web. Get real.

What extra cost?

Android is free to license, and the OEMs are benefactors of an incredibly wealthy company that seems to have no qualms about throwing gajillions of dollars into R&D to make a best-in-class mobile OS.

Android not being "good software" cannot be in any way spun as a win for the proletariat - because there is no opportunity cost. The cost to engineer the OS is in no way passed on to the consumer, and so far only the hardware is (with some marginal amount of software integration).

In other words, Google is pouring hundreds of millions to develop Android. The average phone consumer (in any part of the world) is not paying for its development (customers of other Google products are), so the argument that somehow these "cut corners" has resulted in a more affordable product is a complete non-sequitor.

how ever you want to justify your opinion is good for you, but the fact is look at the cheapest phones offered to countries like africa and china, and they are Android phones. This allows people with probably no other way to access the internet to be able to have the same luxuries through there phone. However you want to try demonize it is fine, regardless Android/Google offers high quality services at the same cost to everyone.

Demonize it? Wow man, you really do live up to your username.

> "This allows people with probably no other way to access the internet to be able to have the same luxuries through there phone."

And that is an excuse for poor engineering... how? Your point is that, if Google didn't "cut these corners", this free product may very well not exist, and thus unable to provide these benefits to the developing world at low cost.

Which is, again, a non-sequitor, since there is no evidence whatsoever that Google treats Android like an exercise in budget engineering for the developing world. They are banking practically the whole company on it, and throwing top talent at Android, with a seemingly bottomless budget.

Suffice it to say, if Google spent some more time optimizing and improving UI responsiveness, the developing world will not suffer, and in fact will get a better product for the same price they're currently paying: $0.

This is the same stupid argument that people used with Nokia years ago, before (surprise!) Android came in and ate their lunch. Those budget candy bar phones sure did bring mobile telephony to the masses, and any attempt at critiquing the phones' hardware or software was rebuked with claims of "well if it was better it wouldn't be affordable you elitist".

And of course, then Google came in with Android and now we have touchscreen smartphones in the developing world. And people continue to jump on criticism of Android with the same lame-duck excuse.

what corners are cut, software development is about prioritization and scheduling, a balance of features vs support. This release tries does a very good job of both. You're not going to make everyone happy, at the same time not all problems are easily solved. What you call cutting corners could just be, they haven't figured out a great way to solve the problem. Android supports just about all possible hardware configurations from low end to high end. iOS supports pretty much 1 hardware configuration that they define (realistically Apple cuts out features out of older phones). Like Nokia if google doesn't address big things, then some one will pick up the slack, so be it. As the parent comment was pointing out, people are willing to pay for the luxury of animations, or polish. For most people just getting calls, text, email and mobile web, at affordable prices is all we really want. Without actually knowing what Google's budget or legal/development/marketing etc costs are, I think theres really no way to assume how they prioritize things. One less animation, or a smoother scroll no one is suffering and for google to offer all that they do at basically free of cost is amazing.

The responsiveness of Android has been a thorn in its side since day one - personally I'm going to withhold judgment until I can play with one in person. ICS is supposed to bring to bear a large amount of hardware acceleration for the UI that will make 99% of these UI lag issues disappear entirely.

If it doesn't, that'd be supremely disappointing, since it's truly one of the things that has been plaguing Android since it first launched.

> "Android supports just about all possible hardware configurations from low end to high end."

All the more reason the UI stack needs to be optimized from end to end. Apple can pretty much just assume you have a 800MHz dual-core under the hood, Google cannot. It's taken some serious firepower to get Android's UI to be suitably responsive (we're talking dual-core, 1+ GHz beasts)... what hope does the developing world have trying to run that kind of software on little 400MHz ARM chips?

We know from the development of OSX (or iOS, depending on where you want to look) that even a minimal amount of hardware acceleration from low-end GPUs can do wonders for overall UI performance. A reasonably low-end GPU will lay waste to a large number of problems that even mid-high-end CPUs are poorly equipped to solve.

If anything, if Google wants to make a difference in the developing world this needs to be a top priority - after all, this is the market that is least able to brute force their way past performance problems with raw hardware.

> "As the parent comment was pointing out, people are willing to pay for the luxury of animations, or polish. For most people just getting calls, text, email and mobile web, at affordable prices is all we really want."

I think it's short-sighted to call responsive, rich UI a "luxury". Before Android phones hit the developing world, the status quo was candy bar phones. I'm sure there were enough people back then proclaiming they couldn't imagine needing anything more - it places calls and gets texts, what else could someone reasonably wish for?

But then Android brought smartphones to these parts of the world and the goalpost moved. Now expecting mobile web and email on your phone is entirely reasonable, thanks to what used to be the sole territory of luxury devices. Software is something that has literally no marginal cost - once produced, it can be shipped on ten million phones for negligible cost, and in this sense is pretty much the cheapest way you can improve your products. IMO saying that good UI is exclusively the territory of luxury devices is doing a great disservice to the developing world.

Google ought to be doing better, considering the sheer force they have thrown behind Android, and if these long-awaited hardware acceleration features fail to significantly tame the UI performance beast, it is in every way appropriate to call them to task on it.

As someone running a 600MHZ phone running cm7 (coming from an iphone 3GS), I never noticed any lag, in fact it runs better than 3GS and iOS. The dreadful UI you continuously bring up, has never been an issue and never got in the way of doing what I need to do. In fact there are things about Android's UI that are superior to iOS IMO. Most of what you call good UI is probably subjective. I'd rather have google focus on bigger issues than, a marginal improvement in scrolling. What android phone did you use and for how long ?

  We are simply spoiled by the Apple's way of doing things: 
  fixing things that aren't broken for the betterment of UX.
Absolutely. Notifications UI before iOS 5 is only one example that comes to mind.

Single reason I got a Playbook over a Galaxy Tab. Lag disturbs me greatly, I have an Android phone and I can't bring myself to use it because of that. Regularly I check in stores to see if they finally made it acceptable and so far they haven't.

It really makes me wonder.

This reminds me of Amiga vs Windows. Many years after Amiga's demise, the bloody mouse cursor still lagged in Windows very noticeably. I guess not many people had done much work in Amiga's workbench so it wasn't a big deal for almost nobody. But it wasn't until Pentium III times that it stopped disturbing me on a daily basis.

afaik, it's android's lack of GPU acceleration for the UI

I didn't hear it during the stream, but ICS is purported to have this (just like Honeycomb already does, AFAIK).

Thank you. All 2D surfaces can/are accelearated I would bet money that the lag is in legacy apps. For some reason, new apps have to opt-in to hardware acceleration. I can't see any lag at all in all of the hands on videos I'm seeing.

By opt in, they have to bump their targetSdkVersion, so it's not a big deal. Source: http://developer.android.com

Yes, it seems that although hardware acceleration was possible prior to Android 3, it wasn't as easy as it is now. It also requires a degree of care to be taken by the dev to do well.

Given that it hasn't been available in phones until now (that is, in ICS), it’s understandable why we've seen laggy UI.

Source: http://android-developers.blogspot.com/2011/03/android-30-ha...

9 releases in 3 years -- anyone else think that's too much? I'm a mobile developer and just keeping up with Google/Apple updates is a huge task. It's almost come to a point where they ignore serviceability of products and just keep churning out new ones, expecting the eco system to keep up. And given Google's 'excellent' QA, my code is full of runtime-conditional checking to enable/disable features based on the user's version. Since users are slow to upgrade (carriers slow to push updates), the test matrix just keeps growing and keeps getting more complex.

Each SDK introduces new permissions, so now your app doesn't auto-update anymore. Which means you have a bunch of different versions of your app floating around, without converging. (I can write a whole essay about how their permissions stuff is broken - see iOS' model for a non-broken alternative).

There is a reason Honeycomb adoption is abysmal - developers haven't gotten around to customizing their apps for it, which in turn results in lower sales of Honeycomb devices. And keeping up this pace isn't going to make it easier.

Am I just being unreasonable here, or do others feel some of this pain too?

I thought Honeycomb was a tablet-only release. It will necessarily have a lower market share than universal/phone Android releases.

Sure, but API concepts introduced in Honeycomb are (hopefully) being propagated through v4.0 and beyond. So apps have to catch up when they move to v4.0. There was a big push to get apps to build UIs which work on phone and tablets, which not many developers adopted because of immense number of bugs in their Compat Libraries. v4.0 is just going to make it worse -- my users are still running 2.2/2.3, so I can't abandon them. And I refuse to maintain multiple code branches.

If you know the details and spend a few minutes thinking about what's involved in making stuff 'just work', you'll realize how painful it is. Google's solution is to let devs release multiple APKs per platform - that is it's own maintenance nightmare (bugs/servicing, testing, dev environments, etc).

I thought Google's solution was to move past that and have ICS run on everything, degrading higher-end functionality gracefully within the OS if it finds itself running on less capable hardware.

This isn't about hardware, it's about software. Confused?

Yes. 4.0 is meant to run on all Android devices, so why would you be abandoning your users if you start developing for it?

For the record, I read "There is a reason Honeycomb adoption is abysmal" as relating to users' adoption of Honeycomb (which seems necessarily linked to adoption of tablets, IMHO much more so than to the amount and quality of third party software available) rather than Android application developers' adoption of Honeycomb APIs (which I'm now thinking might have been your intended meaning, and which obviates my entire post).

What problems have you have with backward/forward compatibility with Android releases?

Have you tried using the Android Compatibility Library? It has several bugs, well documented with repro steps, that aren't even triaged. So now there's tons of Github forks, each with custom fixes. And when Google releases an update, all hell breaks loose.

As an exercise, try converting a mildly complex app from using Activities to using Fragments. I guarantee you that you will need to sacrifice some functionality (for instance, try using ViewPager with ListFragments, and implement keyboard filtering). Now, hack stuff till you're only sort-of broken. Then, try to make it work from v1.6 to v3.0. Then, test it all in the ass-slow emulator (because you're unlikely to have devices running all those versions). It'll drive you insane, I promise.

I am not a gadget guy. Having lived in Silicon Valley for 15 years, I've always had the laptop that was state of the art two years ago. Mobile phones never mattered. But I gotta say that what Google is doing with Android is positively exciting (sure, there are issues, but they're pushing the boundary forward so quickly that the issues fall away in the rear view mirror). I had an iPhone 3GS and now have a Galaxy I phone, and I'm dying to upgrade to the Galaxy Nexus.

Oh crap. I may be a fan boy. And I may be a gadget guy... Stupid technology and its awesomeness.... <insert Homer Simpson drool sound>

I can't believe how much stuff they managed to change and add in this version. It's like Android starting over and being made for the year 2011 and beyond.

I'm also really excited about that camera. Instant photo capturing, and the video recording looked incredible. Hopefully it works as well as advertised, too, when launched.

It looks like Google has really improved the overall look and feel of the UI. It feels equal parts, Android, iPhone, and Metro.


Does the fact they're moving from hardware buttons -> software buttons mean that current handsets are left out of the upgrade process? If so - I think it's a huge mistake. They didn't seem to cover it in the meeting... hopefully current Android owners won't be completely left out of the upgrade...

Doubt it. There's no reason why hardware buttons that do the exact same thing as onscreen ones wouldn't work.

They don't match though. Search = (search?), Menu = App Switcher?

I'm sure it won't block upgrades, but it's definitely at least a little bit awkward. I'm also wondering what apps will look like with the menu button--is there a 4th added onscreen? Then how does the hardware/software button mapping work?

The search button was optional before ICS, and will likely continue to be.

The menu button will likely be handled similarly to Honeycomb (it will appear for legacy apps, and disappear for modern apps).

As far as I know, manufacturers are still allowed to include hardware buttons for now, thus old phones can still be upgraded. I expect they will phase this out eventually though, thanks to the flexibility that purely soft buttons can offer. The honeycomb buttons really do work better than the ones on previous phones (fewer inadvertant taps, easier to tap when wanted, etc).

Holding Home is how you launch the App Switcher on pre-Honeycomb devices. I can't see them repurposing the Menu button like that.

I'd be surprised to see current phones upgraded to ICS at all, anyway, and manufacturers who choose to use hardware buttons will likely choose the 3-button Honeycomb/ICS layout.

The search button would just send the search intent, so it depends on the app. The menu button I'm not sure about.

I'm especially excited by how much they're stealing from WebOS. The app switching and the flicking out of notifications look neato.

Matias Duarte, the Director of Android User Experience (staring with Honeycomb), was Palm's VP Human Interface and User Experience for webOS.

For a second there I read that as a smartphone powered by icecream between two slices of bread.

I was roughly halfway towards either peltier elements or Stirling engines, when I realized hat Ice Cream Sandwich is probably one of those silly names that people feel they have to give to their software.

Really? It's a dessert name, just like the other Android releases. http://www.google.com/search?q=ice+cream+sandwich&tbm=is...

This is like those HN comments that ask who rms is.

Just between you and me, I'm not a native English speaker, had never even heard of a dessert called Ice Cream Sandwich and only belatedly realized it was a piece of software.

If they'd simply call it Android version x.xx there would be no problem at all.

The only other arena where I recall come across such silly names is when people name their horses.

Who RMS is is important enough for me to remember, I couldn't care less what each android release is named because (1) I don't have an android phone and (2) I don't develop for Android.

Saying that it is just a dessert name and that I'm supposed to realize that is the same as telling you that you should have known that Grießbrei is a dessert too (and that one at least roughly translates). There is no equivalent to Ice Cream Sandwich in any other language that I'm aware of.

I've got to say, I've had high hope for ICS, both as a user and developer but this OS looks extremely disappointing.

From a user perspective, the interface is super cluttered. Its like Windows, just a screen full of icons and battery-eating widgets.


Check the video out on the link. Watch how long it takes him just to find the camera for the demonstration--at first he doesnt even know which way to go. Its just too much for a phone if you ask me. Even with its oversized screen the Nexus looked crowded. Its not a tablet--less is more.

Furthermore, as a developer I dont like this descision to keep apps running even when you side-swipe them out of the 'active-app' list. Google reps claim that Android can handle resources well enough that we never need to worry about completely closing any app but if you ask me that sounds suspect. If resources are that plentiful and the OS is still completely open-source then its only a matter of time until this is exploited and the phone starts to lag. And if something does go wrong in an app I apparently can't kill it? I just see a number of problems down the road.

Very disappointed.

I'd argue that an interface is only as cluttered as a user allows it to be. Plenty of people I know own iPhones with similarly cluttered home screens. You point out how the guy in the video takes a while to find the camera but I've had that exact problem looking for it on friends' iPhones, and that's knowing exactly what the icon looks like. Any interface can be made cluttered given a bad enough user.

I'm not a developer, just a 4th year CS student who doesn't even own an Android handset yet, but I do agree about how apps being kept running even when side-swiped away is kind of troublesome. It would be nice of we were offered some sort of option as to whether we'd like to permanently close it - but that distinction and its effects are probably lost to a majority of handset users, and is probably Google's justification.

You're right, any sloppy user can make a mess of the iPhone interface. But as a mobile platform, the OS shouldnt promote sloppiness and with all its tabs and panels and pages in addition to all the physical buttons already present.

The VM that Android runs on, as is pointed out in another comment, is designed to kill off processes if it needs resources. Either way, its never been a selling point of Android for me, personally.

I am under the impression that iOS works the same way in that it closes off apps it doesn't need. The only difference is that it enforces a stronger save state feature. Is this not correct?

> If resources are that plentiful and the OS is still completely open-source then its only a matter of time until this is exploited and the phone starts to lag.

It's really not a function of plentiful resources. It's that the contract only allows applications to keep running, it doesn't guarantee it. So if resources are a bit low, Android has the right to kill -9 any background process.

In Android 2.2+ this actually works really well, in my experience.

I do agree with your other points, though. Matias Duarte is good at making it pretty, but his designs tend to be quite cluttered and complicated, IMO. I wish they would focus on simplifying and making the interface more welcoming.

I've still found that running multiple applications starts to cause touch-events to go unnoticed, swiping to jump around, etc. But to your credit my experience may be a fault of the device rather than the OS itself. I know dalvik is a good resource manager and all, i just tend on the side of caution i guess. Some peoples' apps try to manipulate the OS in strange ways.

Too cluttered? If you can't find the camera icon on a screen with a clock and 6 icons (4 of which are in a row), how the heck are you going to find the camera icon in a grid of 12 icons that all have the exact same shape?

I find iOS's homescreen extremely cluttered and VERY frustrating to use.

I suppose my point was that iOS keeps things reasonably simply--they have a swipe-down notifications window now, you can scan back and forth through home-screen panels and you can access your apps list.

ICS now has the home-screen x666 panels, your apps list, a seperate tab for widgets and another mess of panels, the new people window, your list of recent apps, a home button, a back button, twelve-hundred other buttons (all of which can be reassigned by any running application), blah blah blah.

I know I'm obviously exaggerating, my point is the OS shouldnt promote the kind of clutter that I'm seeing in what should be a clean-cut OS-release demo.

Funnily enough, the camera app was right there on the first home screen. He literally swiped right past it. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W6QbAX_E3-k&feature=playe...

You can also access the camera from the lock screen. I'm not sure that's a good example of how the interface is difficult to navigate, actually, rather than of how easy it is to fumble a demonstration.

To be fair, human memory and attention span is much smaller than that of the system so I imagine the curation is more useful mentally than technically? Same reason that once in a while, I purge my 20 or so odd open browser/ide tabs.

4.6" seems a little big. But the face unlock feature seems really cool. I hoped that the nexus would come with a quad core chip, but current config doesn't look all that bad.

As a nexus one user, I am worried that the stock ICS may not support the phone's hardware. The whole buttons things is a mess. Love Android!

Be interesting to see how quickly ICS is adapted by the public at large. I mean it'll be interesting to see how quickly Android 2.2 and 2.3 devices are upgraded to Android 4.0.

Just my opinion, but most phones won't have the horsepower to run ICS and the carriers are always loathe to spend manpower porting a new release to a old phone when what they really want is for you to buy a new phone an re-up for another 2 years.

Upgrades are why I really appreciate the developer community, doing hard work that vendors drag their feet with.

Yay for LED.

But I am curious if Android still decides for me that I cannot take a picture if my battery is less than 10%. I sure hope not... I prefer making the decision myself.

Is it my imagination or did the consistency they talked about involve the same swiping action doing completely different things throughout the OS & apps?

The swiping action is a metaphor for moving things, and it seemed consistent and intuitive.

You flick items away in some cases, you pull screens to rotate/pan them. This is already implemented in some mods and is totally natural.

Perhaps. I'd have to try it out.

My confusion stems from the contacts app. They swipe to get another 'page' of the UI like switching between home-screens. If it was consistent with the GMail app swiping on the individual contact should bring up more information about the item not switch to another page?

I'm also concerned about this. It seems the main function of horizontal swiping is switching screens. So why do they also use it for removing items? Then you can't remove items in an app that has multiple screens.

It's really too bad carriers wont allow majority of Android users to upgrade to ICS.

The top result when I google 'gingerbread' is the android SDK.

This headline is funny, and a little stupid. I wish more stuff was just version numbers and not codenames. /endgripe

It's a lot easier to find meaningful search results for version names than numbers.

4.6" screen? Do they not understand user experience at all? The arms race on screen sizes is getting ridiculous. It's like having a paperback book in your pocket. Why can't they increase pixel density but keep it in a dimension good for one handed operation with normal sized thumbs?

How hard is it to not buy the phone? There are other phones out there, including the iPhone that have smaller screens.

I have a Droid X, and while at first it felt a bit big, I've totally fallen in love with having a ton of screen real estate. I have relatively small hands, and I rarely have issues.

Also, I think the stuff about Apple having found the One True Size because it fits your hand for one handed action is bullshit, since one of the main novel interactions -- pinch-to-zoom -- requires two hands.

It's a simple matter of preference. I think it's fantastic that I have a range of sizes to choose from. I wish everyone would let me decide for myself.

Who isn't letting you decide? But as an app developer the screen war makes for pain. The UX gets different (if not more difficult) as you increase screen size. A good app UX has to account for modes of operation.

Please feel absolutely free to not develop for Android. As a user, I'll pick having a choice of form factor over not causing some developer pain. (And for the record, I'm pretty happy with my choice of 252 dpi 3.7" - but happier still that I had the choice.)

Not disagreeing with virtues associated with compactness and pixel density, but to quote Tim Bray: "When I switch from the NG to my Nexus S, I think “This is pleasingly compact.” Then when I switch back to the NG I think “My eyes are happy.” Because the upside, of course, is that you have a great big honkin’ huge ginormous beautiful screen!" via http://www.tbray.org/ongoing/When/201x/2011/10/18/ICS-and-Ga...

It's the same size as the screen on the Nexus S, but the buttons are now just a part of the screen, so the diagonal is bigger.

That doesn't address the question. The nexus S was and is a bear to use. Your thumb can't cover the width of the screen and the usable arc in one finger operation doesn't give you 100% coverage.

It's a matter of personal preference. Also depends on how big your hand is. I am, for instance, not satisfied with my 4 inch screen and selling my Nexus S to buy a 4.3 inch android.

Speak for yourself. My S' screen is no match for my mighty bear claw.

The Nexus S has a 4" screen. The Galaxy Nexus is 4.65".

Yeah, it's physically bigger. Nexus S is 124 x 63 x 10.8 mm, Galaxy Nexus is 135.5 x 68 x 8.9 mm. (Both probably with an asterisk on thickness, but...)

Because Samsung can't get high enough pixel density with AMOLED. They want more resolution, so they are forced to just keep making the screens bigger, use Pentile subpixel layouts, or, in this case, both.

You're wrong.

This screen has an HD resolution screen with ~316 ppi. So they made a bigger and higher pixel density screen. With AMOLED.

You're going to feel awfully silly when this thing gets reviewed and it's Pentile. If it was RGB, Samsung would have said so by now. It was the whole reason they put the "+" in their last screen iteration. Notice how this one has no "+"? Every AMOLED screen is Pentile unless you hear the magic word: RGB.

"Samsung can't get high enough pixel density with AMOLED" was what I was arguing with. The pixel density is very high. They weren't "forced to just keep making the screens bigger" as you claimed.

The pixel density is high, but the subpixel density is less impressive.

Sorry, I would have been more clear if I said "subpixel density".

Here we go:


But thanks anyway for the downvote. ;)

They aren't using a pentile layout anymore - it resulted in fuzziness while rendering line art.

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