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What's wrong with ICS and the Galaxy Nexus

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mike freegan
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Default What's wrong with ICS and the Galaxy Nexus

First off; I love Android. I think that Ice Cream Sandwich has led to a greater harmonisation of the Android operating system and adds a bit of polish to something functional. Google's apps are starting to feel like they belong together, rather than giving a sense that they're being produced by different teams who have little contact.

However, I'm no fanboy. I don't buy a product and deny that it has flaws just because a certain company produced it *ahem *. So here it is; one humble man's opinion on what's wrong with Ice cream Sandwich.

1. Blue theme.... really? There's a reason that designers avoid blue-on-black. It offers poor contrast, and looks cheap; much like the Geocities sites of the 90s. The blue taskbar and app icons used in ICS just don't go with... well... anything. It's all well and good being able to customise your home screen, but when anything except a blue background clashes it's all a little redundant.

2. The stock icons themselves are disgusting. We all knew this from the leaked screenshots, which forums were praying were fake. Mostly, they just don't look like they belong to the same set. There's no consistency. Half are blue, half are not. Some are three dimensional, and some are traditional, flat icons. Some are different sizes. They just don't work. They look cheap, childish and don't match the 'magazine' style of the UI overhaul. It's like someone realised at the last minute that they'd forgotten to redesign icons, so just did a Google Image search and used the first of each that they found.

3. Google Plus pages won't open in the Android Browser. This one is just plain embarrassing. Google's flagship device can't view Google's new hub outside of the restrictive app? The browser just panics and shuts down with no option to report it. Did no-one test this?


4. Google Talk isn't in the sharing options. That's right, click on the share icon within an app and it'll show you every way of sharing except Google Talk. Following the above, it seems like Google is boycotting their own services.

5. Speech to text for UK language setting is insane. After a few words, it seemingly switches to using your contacts directory as a dictionary, rather than real words. You end up with a full sentence made entirely of surnames and forenames. I cannot believe that no-one tested this.


6. Removing the search key doesn't just remove the ability to search from some apps; it means that you can no longer assign functions to long press, or use voice command from any app. You have to return to the home screen each time. This is a huge step backwards.


7. Similarly, this has led to a non-removable search box on the home screen. Not only does it take up space, but the white icon doesn't work on a light background. The customisability of Android has just been taken down another notch. Sure, you can use a 3rd party launcher, but with no search button, you need the box there for searches.

8. A minor point, but Android can't seem to decide if going for a futuristic hologram look, or the Windows Phone 7 style magazine layout. It's like Mathias Duarte turned up, and they said “Make our OS beautiful... but it still has to look like ugly old Honeycomb (TRON)." All in, it just feels a bit cheap and confused.


9. The soft keys which Google has opted for in ICS are not well positioned. The home key is far too close to the space bar, which is infuriating when typing.


10. The action bar is horrific to use. It means that the menu and search keys jump around the screen. So you're in the Facebook app and want to see the menu. Where is it? Well it's not where it used to be and there's no action bar. Oh wait, three dots have appeared in the soft-key bar. Ugly and inconsistent, but OK.

Switch to messaging. Where the heck is it? Ah it's in the top right now! The little scamp.

Now you're in Gmail. Where is the menace? I know you're here somewhere... Ah, there! In the action bar in the bottom right. Android Market: back up top! There is just no consistency and it makes everything feel disjointed and unpredictable.

The action bar essentially negates the large screen on the Galaxy Nexus. The row of soft keys, plus the action bar actually leads to a lower proportion of screen space for the app than on previous versions of Android.


11. Cut, Copy & Paste: What the hell were they thinking?! This doesn't just jump around based on app, but depending on which page of an app you're in. And even then, the buttons are different every time.

Take Gmail for example. Copying text from the body of an email: a menu appears in place of the action bar at the bottom. However, in the 'compose' screen this menu appears at the top, but with different icons. Another 'paste' button (but not using the paste icon) also appears above the selected text, but no cut or copy buttons. If you try and make a selection from a link, a long press summons a pop-up dialogue where paste is an option. That is four ways of pasting, just within the Gmail app.

Not to mention, that they've opted for icons with no words. Unless you're accustomed to using old Windows machines, this may as well be code. It's like it's intentionally trying to confuse you.


12. Relationships with app vendors must be non-existent. If I was releasing an update to a platform which relies upon people being able to install apps, I'd make sure that the most common apps work on the new platform before release. This could involve providing phones and assistance to the big names. As it stands, neither Facebook nor Whatsapp (two of the top 5 most downloaded apps) work. Both of these are communications related. I feel cut off from the world. I'm sure this could have been sorted before release. Swype is another big name that doesn't support the screen resolution.

Google launched the Galaxy Nexus weeks ago. Facebook was initially unusable due to the absence of a menu button. The app was updated today to a version akin to the iPhone. However, the drag-to- refresh animations don't work as they should, and the damn thing will alert you of 'new messages' every 30 minutes if you have any unread, regardless of whether or not they are new. Atop this, Facebook will still not sync with official Google devices as Facebook does not properly use Google's contact API. Rather than being stubborn, Google should be helping Facebook, or seconding engineers, as they know full well that the majority of their users will require his service.

I appreciate that a lot of this is out of Google's hands, but this is just a warning to early-adopters – be prepared to lose the services you use most.


13. The browser is still useless with forms. Try entering text in a field. It'll type past the edge of your viewport and you can't scroll to the cursor. The viewport should follow the cursor. You can't zoom in and out because you can't get 'hold' of the web page due to the full-screen text entry field.


14. Horizontal lines everywhere. Did I mention that text fields are now horizontal lines? Text boxes are indistinguishable from divides and text doesn't sit on the lines so you never know where one ends and the other starts.


As I said, all in, it is an improvement. However, there is a heck of a lot of room for improvement. There is still a feeling that things aren't really designed, or connected; just a bit haphazard. I'm just hoping Cyanogen pulls something wonderful. For the standard consumer, the experience aspect is still playing catchup with Windows Phone and iOS.
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cbutters
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I agree with most of what you are saying... nothing makes me angrier than trying to use google search on android's mobile browser, and not being able to add additional words onto the end of my search string because I can't Freaking scroll the text over to enter it in. (I do think this is a webpage issue possible though, because it happens on iphone as well)

I think they should have gotten rid of the flip button (task switcher button) and have that be the settings button, then just have the HOME button be a long press for task switching.... simple, effective, makes sense.. consistent. I guess having settings in the app allows developers to have more control, but I think consistency would be better.
 
Tsoflyyup
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mike freegan View Post
First off; I love Android. I think that Ice Cream Sandwich has led to a greater harmonisation of the Android operating system and adds a bit of polish to something functional. Google's apps are starting to feel like they belong together, rather than giving a sense that they're being produced by different teams who have little contact.

However, I'm no fanboy. I don't buy a product and deny that it has flaws just because a certain company produced it *ahem *. So here it is; one humble man's opinion on what's wrong with Ice cream Sandwich.

1. Blue theme.... really? There's a reason that designers avoid blue-on-black. It offers poor contrast, and looks cheap; much like the Geocities sites of the 90s. The blue taskbar and app icons used in ICS just don't go with... well... anything. It's all well and good being able to customise your home screen, but when anything except a blue background clashes it's all a little redundant.

2. The stock icons themselves are disgusting. We all knew this from the leaked screenshots, which forums were praying were fake. Mostly, they just don't look like they belong to the same set. There's no consistency. Half are blue, half are not. Some are three dimensional, and some are traditional, flat icons. Some are different sizes. They just don't work. They look cheap, childish and don't match the 'magazine' style of the UI overhaul. It's like someone realised at the last minute that they'd forgotten to redesign icons, so just did a Google Image search and used the first of each that they found.

3. Google Plus pages won't open in the Android Browser. This one is just plain embarrassing. Google's flagship device can't view Google's new hub outside of the restrictive app? The browser just panics and shuts down with no option to report it. Did no-one test this?


4. Google Talk isn't in the sharing options. That's right, click on the share icon within an app and it'll show you every way of sharing except Google Talk. Following the above, it seems like Google is boycotting their own services.

5. Speech to text for UK language setting is insane. After a few words, it seemingly switches to using your contacts directory as a dictionary, rather than real words. You end up with a full sentence made entirely of surnames and forenames. I cannot believe that no-one tested this.


6. Removing the search key doesn't just remove the ability to search from some apps; it means that you can no longer assign functions to long press, or use voice command from any app. You have to return to the home screen each time. This is a huge step backwards.


7. Similarly, this has led to a non-removable search box on the home screen. Not only does it take up space, but the white icon doesn't work on a light background. The customisability of Android has just been taken down another notch. Sure, you can use a 3rd party launcher, but with no search button, you need the box there for searches.

8. A minor point, but Android can't seem to decide if going for a futuristic hologram look, or the Windows Phone 7 style magazine layout. It's like Mathias Duarte turned up, and they said “Make our OS beautiful... but it still has to look like ugly old Honeycomb (TRON)." All in, it just feels a bit cheap and confused.


9. The soft keys which Google has opted for in ICS are not well positioned. The home key is far too close to the space bar, which is infuriating when typing.


10. The action bar is horrific to use. It means that the menu and search keys jump around the screen. So you're in the Facebook app and want to see the menu. Where is it? Well it's not where it used to be and there's no action bar. Oh wait, three dots have appeared in the soft-key bar. Ugly and inconsistent, but OK.

Switch to messaging. Where the heck is it? Ah it's in the top right now! The little scamp.

Now you're in Gmail. Where is the menace? I know you're here somewhere... Ah, there! In the action bar in the bottom right. Android Market: back up top! There is just no consistency and it makes everything feel disjointed and unpredictable.

The action bar essentially negates the large screen on the Galaxy Nexus. The row of soft keys, plus the action bar actually leads to a lower proportion of screen space for the app than on previous versions of Android.


11. Cut, Copy & Paste: What the hell were they thinking?! This doesn't just jump around based on app, but depending on which page of an app you're in. And even then, the buttons are different every time.

Take Gmail for example. Copying text from the body of an email: a menu appears in place of the action bar at the bottom. However, in the 'compose' screen this menu appears at the top, but with different icons. Another 'paste' button (but not using the paste icon) also appears above the selected text, but no cut or copy buttons. If you try and make a selection from a link, a long press summons a pop-up dialogue where paste is an option. That is four ways of pasting, just within the Gmail app.

Not to mention, that they've opted for icons with no words. Unless you're accustomed to using old Windows machines, this may as well be code. It's like it's intentionally trying to confuse you.


12. Relationships with app vendors must be non-existent. If I was releasing an update to a platform which relies upon people being able to install apps, I'd make sure that the most common apps work on the new platform before release. This could involve providing phones and assistance to the big names. As it stands, neither Facebook nor Whatsapp (two of the top 5 most downloaded apps) work. Both of these are communications related. I feel cut off from the world. I'm sure this could have been sorted before release. Swype is another big name that doesn't support the screen resolution.

Google launched the Galaxy Nexus weeks ago. Facebook was initially unusable due to the absence of a menu button. The app was updated today to a version akin to the iPhone. However, the drag-to- refresh animations don't work as they should, and the damn thing will alert you of 'new messages' every 30 minutes if you have any unread, regardless of whether or not they are new. Atop this, Facebook will still not sync with official Google devices as Facebook does not properly use Google's contact API. Rather than being stubborn, Google should be helping Facebook, or seconding engineers, as they know full well that the majority of their users will require his service.

I appreciate that a lot of this is out of Google's hands, but this is just a warning to early-adopters – be prepared to lose the services you use most.


13. The browser is still useless with forms. Try entering text in a field. It'll type past the edge of your viewport and you can't scroll to the cursor. The viewport should follow the cursor. You can't zoom in and out because you can't get 'hold' of the web page due to the full-screen text entry field.


14. Horizontal lines everywhere. Did I mention that text fields are now horizontal lines? Text boxes are indistinguishable from divides and text doesn't sit on the lines so you never know where one ends and the other starts.


As I said, all in, it is an improvement. However, there is a heck of a lot of room for improvement. There is still a feeling that things aren't really designed, or connected; just a bit haphazard. I'm just hoping Cyanogen pulls something wonderful. For the standard consumer, the experience aspect is still playing catchup with Windows Phone and iOS.

yawns, i respect your opinion. But i can list 15 things wrong with IOS5 as well. Overall ICS and android has matured over the few years android has existed. No product software/hardware is perfect. Most of the issues can be corrected with customization. Like i said i respect your complaints and opinions, but i just feel they are picky...Comparing the OS from my G1 to what android is now, i LOVE IT
 
mstyle88
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Thanks for typing this up. While I still plan on buying it, I like to get a well-rounded opinion about the device and software. I have to agree with #12. Launching this device exclusively on one carrier and then delaying it is very embarrasing. I know, the better developers will have a Verizon account or buy the phone unlocked from an international dealer, but still not good. It makes it more difficult for app developers to work their apps for ICS.

I had to laugh at Eric Schmidt's thought that ICS will be #1 for development in 6 months. ICS wont be off exclusivity or on any other devices for at least 3 months.
 
_hyperdude
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First of all, the theme Android has used for Honeycomb and ICS - holographic, blue themes, etc. - is awesome. Everybody has their own opinion but for me it's no turn off.

As far as action button placement, Google's central idea on that is leave it to the developer to say where it goes - in the top bar? Bottom ribbon action bar? Wherever is more appropriate for the app design. Matias himself said he's pushing Android to a more unified UI style without straight-jacketing it (ala iOS).

As for apps being compatible with new releases, it's up to the developers to keep that up. Google is not responsible for if Swype or Facebook doesn't update their app before a new release.
And for saying Google should help Facebook, why should they? You realize Google has their own social network, don't you? It sounds like you do know that in the past Google has let Facebook basically hack their way into your contacts list separate from the Contacts API, but later blacklisted that because it didn't conform to their data exportability policy and API. "the majority of their users will require his [sic] service." Since the 2.3 update that cut out Facebook's hackish ways, customers who want Facebook integration in their Android phones should get something non-Nexus. That's why Google is advertising the deep integration with G+, not social media in general.
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Sim-1
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First off; I love Android.

- cut -

Couldn't agree more. This could easily become the best Android phone I've bought (and I had them all), but at the same time it's the first one (and only one) I cannot stand because of the too many hiccups and bugs it has. Can you believe that I haven't put my main SIMcard in it yet? I keep playing with it at home, trying new roms and kernels, but when it comes to using it as my main phone... we're a long way from it!

- The Stock browser is not that good (have you tried to write something in a forum and then move the cursor back in the text to change a word? Good luck with that!!) and Dolphin Browser is not yet supported.
- As we know, Flash doesn't work yet (this is just hilarious).
- The stock Keyboard in the browser doesn't correct your mispelled words, and Smart Keyboard Pro doesn't work all the times.
- speakers are too quite, I have found a workaround using Volume + (but beware! The version available in the market is not working).
- if you try any animated wallpaper, UI will slow down painfully.

In the end as much as I love its gorgeous screen and huge potential, as things are now, I find it one of the most detestable phones out there.

Great job, Samsung/Google!
 
Danny80y
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Nice write up....but so many of your complaints are just because you don't like them. Really your complaining about the color.... I'm sorry so much bothers you because honestly ICS makes Android and the Galaxy Nexus a great phone! Windows phone is a far cry from being compared to Android and IOS.

I'm all for putting out there the faults of devices but if you say I like Android -cut- I hate everything about it bla bla bla....um... how can you like it if you think another brand or device works better?? Wouldn't that mean you like _____ << insert favorite OS here??

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Sim-1
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Windows phone is a far cry from being compared to Android and IOS.
But on my Lumia 800 I can write effortlessly on this and every other forum, and things just work well!
 
mike freegan
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I agree, colour is generally subjective. But what they've gone for is almost universally accepted as a poor choice by designers.

And to the dude above: I know very well that I can patch around a lot of these issues. I mentioned that in the article. However, most users buy this phone, don't root and don't change much.

ICS is good. IT could have been great.

And saying Google shouldn't be concerned that third party apps don't work is incredibly ignorant.
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I was just using Whatapp two days ago and it was working fine. Is there something specific you were having problems with?

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