8 Things I Want in My Ice Cream Sandwich

With Google teasing us about the next major release, codenamed Ice Cream Sandwich, of its popular mobile operating system fan sites and online forums are already brimming with speculation about what new features the latest incarnation of Android could contain.

We already know from Google’s announcement at I/O 2011 back in May that ICS is going to combine Gingerbread and Honeycomb into one operating system, avoiding the need for two separate versions of Android, and that this version of Android is “the most ambitious yet” when compared to previous incarnations such as Gingerbread and Froyo.

Leaked screenshots posted on the Internet a few days ago show that ICS has heavily borrowed from Honeycomb (for example the slidable application changer) and the ring unlock screen. They also confirm what everyone has been speculating: that this version of Android will be known as Android 4.0.

ICS screenshot

Two leaked screenshots of Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich), courtesy of Romanian website Mobilissimo

But Google are still being sneaky and not disclosing all the new features that we can expect. After looking at some of the past faults in Android as an operating system, here are eight features that I would love to see in the upcoming release!

1. Security

Android has been criticised recently for being a relatively unsecure operating system, and seeing as it is the most popular smartphone OS in the world, it is naturally the target for hackers and their bugs and viruses. Since we use our smartphones for lots of different things, such as checking our e-mail or browsing our favourite social networks, it is a bit unnerving to think that our personal details could be in the hands of hackers.

android-security

The security of Android has been brought into question recently

It would be nice to see an integrated security system (something like Windows Defender) built in to ICS just to assure Android users that their personal details are safe and cannot be accessed by others. This would also mean that Android users don’t have to sift through the range of security software on the Market, which is diverse to say the least.

2. Improved OTA Updates

Apple has always had the upper hand over Android when it comes to software updates. Unlike Android, Apple pushes out software updates to all of its devices that are compatible with the new system, unlike Android where it is down to the individual device manufacturer to approve and push out the update.

android-updates

Manufacturers of Android devices haven't got the best track record when it comes to pushing out software updates

This can mean that Android owners can be left waiting months for the new update to be pushed out to their phone, which probably explains the popularity of custom ROMs (such as CyanogenMod), where owing to the much more active developer community updates are pushed out more often. Google should address this “fragmentation” of Android and push out updates centrally, instead of making owners wait months on end. I certainly want ICS on my phone as soon as it is officially released…

3. Google Music

Google Music was announced at Google’s I/O back in May this year, however the service is still in the beta stage and only available to users in the United States.

Google Music

Google Music offers cloud-based streaming for up to 20,000 songs

It would be nice to see Google Music released to everyone around the world alongside ICS, since Apple’s iCloud service, which offers pretty much the same thing (plus a few more features), is set to be released this Wednesday.

4. Better Look

I may get a lot of stick for this, but I still think that Android has been designed more with functionality in mind rather than aesthetics. The whole OS is still quite blocky looking, in comparison to iOS’s smooth, round design. Although Android has its advantages, the whole look of the operating system isn’t one of them.

tumblr_ljdbyqZTMd1qakv34

iOS certainly beats Android (currently, anyway) when it comes to looks

I would like ICS to take a good few leaves out of Honeycomb’s book, as I found the design of Honeycomb a refreshing change to Android. However, judging by these screenshots, it seems like Google have sussed this one out already…

5. Application Development

One of the major gripes about Honeycomb was the fact that developers had to actually optimise their existing Android applications for the new, tablet-based operating system. This meant that although existing Android applications will work on Honeycomb devices, they are simply stretched to make use of the bigger screen. As ICS is one operating system for phones and tablets, I would like to see Google make the transition between phone apps and tablet apps a lot easier, meaning that two separate applications don’t have to released for each platform.

6. Better PC and Mac Integration

Anyone who has tried to sync an Android phone with a PC or a Mac will know that it’s not a pleasant experience. Most manufacturers provide their own solution, but these can vary greatly. Google should have one program for all Android phones (like iTunes) to make it easier to synchronise phones and tablets with computers.

kies2

Kies is Samsung's program which helps you synchronise your Android phone with your PC or Mac

7. Screenshots

Whenever I want to take a screenshot of my phone, I have to dig out my phone’s USB cable, fire up the Android SDK kit, make sure USB debugging is activated on my phone and take one that way. Many of the screenshot applications available on the Market will only work if your phone is rooted. Google really needs to address this and make it easier to take screenshots on your phone without having to search around for your USB cable…

8. Open-Source

The most important feature about ICS is that it should remain open-source. The great beauty about Android is that manufacturers and developers are allowed to freely modify it, compared to iOS where Apple locks down their operating system tighter than Fort Knox.

android-open-source

Android 4.0 should remain open-source and accessible for all

Developers welcome Android as a modding system as it gives them the freedom to do what they want, and the results are sometimes pretty spectacular. Look at CyanogenMod for example, which Google actively welcomes. Through the active developer community, as well as Google’s own software engineers, Android can strive to achieve far greater goals and become an operating system to rival all others.

Have you got any other wishes for the new version of Android? Share your thoughts in the comments below!


  • tobik

    iTunes for Android? Why on earth whould we want that? iTunes sync the whole iPhone to computer (something like nandroid backup) but I dont think that android needs that.

    Syncing and backing up mails, contacts and calendar is already done in the best way possible – with the cloud. It sync automatically and I can access my data from anywhere. If I lost my android, I just login and everything is there within a minute.

    Syncing images doesnt really makes sense to me – if I take some pictures with my android camera, I want to copy them to pc and print or share online. Both things does android perfectly.

    Syncing music is different of course, everyone would like to sync easily his collection to the phone but everyone is using different music player! We dont need another one just to sync music! Instead Google should implement MTP so Android phones could communicate with any advanced music player. And keep mass storage for those who like too keep things simple. And anyway, with Google Music, this will be probably soon less relevant.

    Syncing videos is also quite useless. I can keep in my phone only few movies/videos/episodes at once and I dont want to sync the whole phone with some extra app just to add _one_ file to the sdcard. I can also rent a movie directly in the Android market (at least I could if I lived in the USA) and I really dont need a pc for that.

    The only thing I miss and its not synced is list of installed apps, my customized settings of my apps and general settings of the whole phone. And I dont think that syncing it with some special local program is the solution – this should be synced with cloud as well. Imagine the typical situation – I lost or break my phone, buy a new one, type in my Google Account and everything (contacts, calendar, mails, apps, settings…) is loaded to my phone automatically over the air and I dont have to do one thing.

    The biggest disadvantage of iPhone is that its tightened to the Pc and iTunes. We dont want that for Android.

    • http://bluehayes.me/ Mike Hayes

      I believe that Android 3 syncs applications with your Google Account for re-installation after a reset, logging in on a new device etc. So I’m sure that will be carried into Android 4 :)

      • tobik

        Really? That’s awesome, I can’t wait to get rid of Gingerbread :D

        • http://iamzb.com z4ngetsu

          Yea I remember i loaded a custom rom with android 2.3.5 and upon setup it started downloading all my apps that i had from my previous rom….tho i dont know if that was something that the devs cooked into that specific rom from honeycomb or if its a new feat added to later versions gingerbread

          • Alex

            That happens to (mostly) everyone’s phone that is back up by google, so if you happen to do a factory reset or install a new ROM (which also requires a factory rest) then their all backed up for you. But I also wish Google would make something on the web/phone kinda like the Amazon App Store, where no matter what apps you have installed or backed up you were able to delete them.

    • Hunt

      Actually, iOS five is supposed to do all of that. ( All of the cloud stuff.) Because apple doesn’t want to necessitate the computer, that’s what iCloud and iOS 5 are all about. You can go find a WWDC video. It’s actually pretty neat, and makes for good competition to be able to open the box and have a working iPhone, maybe a replica of a lost/stolen/broken/old one in minutes/hours(depending on the whole downloading apps, movies, music, etc.) iCloud not only ties the PC/Mac and iPhone together, it allows allows a cord cut.

      • Matt

        But based purely on iOS5 download speeds and problems, it’s pretty self-evident that Apple still hasn’t learnt to scale up such network systems very well. Ars did a pretty decent review of it, and mentioned quite a number of bugs (and weird control methods) existing still. In addition, I wouldn’t call wireless syncing “a cord cut” when you still need it plugged into power.

        As a side note, Android not looking good? Need a screenshot button? -> MIUI!

    • Denis

      totally agree. last thing needed is a clunky desktop application for syncing. It will not happen 100% because everything a desktop app does, Google does in the cloud. They won’t go back from that, it’s against their philosophy.

      My Sony Arc comes with a desktop sync app but I do not use it at all.

  • http://hotelalbi.net Tim

    Hi,

    I live in France and I use Google Music every day… So I guess beta is now open to all people, isn’t it ?

    For OTA and PC/MAC integration, I’m so happy to have Nexus S.

    But I have to admit the 7th is a good point. Screenshot should be painless

  • Batfan

    Definitely with you on the OTA Updates and Screenshots.

  • http://iamzb.com z4ngetsu

    dont you have to pay a monthly fee for icloud if you want more space than what is provided to you? I dont think google music has a limit

    • Alex

      Googe musics has a limit of 20,thousand songs. But you can ONLY back up music, and the 20k song limit in the beta so it might be either higher or lower when it comes out of beta, but hopefully were able to back up other files such as Doc’s Videos, Pictures with a set limit in Gigabytes or Terabytes ;)

  • tobik

    The ninth thing for me would be hw accelerated UI and especially hw accelerated web browser. The default one and all derivatives like Dolphin are really slow…

  • Alex

    If I were to add a ninth thing in my ICS id want it to be, theme support for just the normal
    ICS (nothing tweaked by other device manufacturers). For Example : MIUI is a different ROM that has its own store for themes created by users but you can literally change everything about the phone from Icons,Wallpapers, Notification Bar, and even the Boot Logo. I know you have to have a rooted phone but just if Google would create their own store and have people create stuff like Icons,Wallpapers, etc… I mean you can change the theme of you’re Gmail, The wallpaper of the Google homepage, Google + (need an extension) but still most of all Google apps on the browser can be themed. So if they just integrated the Chrome Web Store along with the Chrome browser (would only make sense) then id be one happy man!

  • R3D1 J3D1

    I would hate to see an iTunes app for android… most of the difficulty with syncing android devices come from the drivers on the PC/Mac or the way the manufacturer designed the USB interface for the phone…. either way, the issue stems from the manufacturer and their software/hardware development team(s). Its not hard to mount the device as USB storage and copy files, which is all you have to do with stock android as long as the phone/drivers work correctly.

    The issue with OTA updates being delayed also stems greatly from the device manufacturer. Once Google releases the source code, the manufacturers have to develop the drivers that will alow the new OS to run on the device(a delay that can’t be easily avoided) and after that, most manufacturers develop a skin like HTC sense, Samsung touchwiz or Moto blur(a delay that could be avoided but the manufacturers feel the need to brand their products)…. once all that is done, then the OTA update is released.

    I’m not sure what versions of android support this but I’m running cyanogenmod 7(android 2.3.7) and my apps, some settings, wifi passwords and contacts all sync with Google so if i wipe my phone, everything is restored over the air after i log in to my Google acct.

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  • DarkStar

    I think you might want to reconsider some of these. For example your looks statement. If you dont like the way it looks then change it. Its simple. There is so much FREE support to make android tailored to you that complaining about its look and comparing it to iphone is down right shameful. You sir need to go buy an iphone and stop pretending. There were way to many “well iphone has it”‘s in your little article.

    • philip

      You sir are an arrogant *******. Android is no where near as good an OS as Apple.

      • R3D1 J3D1

        If this is true, why is it that since ios 4 almost every new improvement apple has added, was on android first… the personal hotspot, custom app launcher from lockscreen, pull down notification viewer, OTA updates, OTA syncing, voice control, and those are just a few there are more… android OS takes up less space(~100mb vs 800mb with ios) making it more efficient and practicle for a phone that has limited space… the only thing ios has that android doesn’t is hardware accelerated UI.

      • DarkStar

        You know it’s okay to be a fanboy, although I do feel you should probably be able to produce some sort of fact in your defense statement. Just saying. PS. Just for giggles I changed my theme to ios on my android. Only thing cool about it is the fact that it’s now powered by android;)

  • DanielRP

    You know any samsung android handset has screenshot functionality built right in? Either hold back + home or power + home depending on which phone you have.

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  • Josh

    If it weren’t for #8, I’d say you should just buy an iPhone.

    On a more serious note:
    1. The reason it’s so unsecure is because it’s so open. The reason iOS is so secure is because it’s so closed. So take your pick…freedom or security?

    2. The reason OTA updates are so infrequent is because it’s so fragmented. It would be impossible for Google to push out updates centrally, because there’s no central verison of Android. There’s probably a hundred different hardware configurations, with every carrier and manufacturer putting their own little tweaks in the OS. So any update has to be specifically tailored for each individual phone, hence the general lack of updates. And in some cases, some phones can’t even run every aspect of a newer verion of Android. I’ve owned two smartphones, and ran CM7 on both of them. It was great, but on both phones there were features that were permanently never going to work just because of the phone’s hardware. And that’s another thing to take into consideration — carriers/manufacturers aren’t going to release an update until every aspect of it runs cleanly. So the only way you’re ever gonna get consistent OTA updates is if Google seriously reins in the carriers/manufacturers and completely closes down their code — in which circumstance you might as well call it iOS.

    4. Some of us prefer functionality over aesthetics. That’s one reason I like Android so much.

    5. Since ICS is basically condensing Gingerbread and Honeycomb into one, I’m sure this will be the case.

    6. See #2

    8. As long as Android remains open source, you’re probably not going to get most of your wishes. But I’d much rather have the freedom and customization of Android over the security and closed nature of iOS. To each his own.

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