Where in the world is Ice Cream Sandwich? (aka Hurry Up and Wait)

ICS was supposed to be the Android for the mainstream. For those that would otherwise run to a white iPhone 4S (with pink, jewel encrusted sleeve). But, then something happened: nothing.

Samsung Galaxy Nexus Review
Ice Cream Sandwich on Galaxy Nexus. The rest of us are locked out.
Samsung Galaxy Nexus Review
Ice Cream Sandwich on Galaxy Nexus. The rest of us are locked out.

It’s not on my Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1. Not on my S II. It’s certainly not on my trusty OG Droid (achingly due for an upgrade… HTC One X?). And Ice Cream Sandwich is not on just about any other Android tablet or smartphone you can find at any store – Verizon, T-Mobile, AT&T… you name it.

So, where in the world is ICS?

I’ve written before about how slowwwwwly Google is rolling out its new OS. It reminds me of the time I ran N.A. Marketing out of Silicon Valley for a Japanese company. Reporting in to Tokyo often meant, “Hurry up, and wait.”

When you make a splash – as the Galaxy Nexus did late last year – you have a chance to grab the tech spotlight, no easy task, even if you’re Google. ICS was supposed to be the Android for the mainstream. For those that would otherwise run to a white iPhone 4S (with pink, jewel encrusted sleeve). But, then something happened: nothing.

Now we’re already hearing about “Jelly Bean,” and even “Key Lime Pie” the next desserts in the Android OS naming convention line-up.

This, in a word, is ridiculous.

What Google should’ve done is ensured vendors were ready to go, and able to roll out devices (or upgrade existing ones) with ICS. It’s hard to create market momentum and interest in something new when only about 1% of the market has got their hands on the new thing. Sure, vendors need to test. There’s that dreaded fragmentation – what, Google worry?! – and no doubt things like HTC sense and other skins add complexity and delays to ensuring a new OS works properly. But these are issues that can readily be overcome with foresight and planning. What could’ve been a massive groundswell in early 2012 is fizzling out into a non-event.

Then, Google booted Android Market, and introduced the world to… “Play.”

Mistake!

Huge mistake!

I see that “Play Store” icon on my S II and get noxious. It absolutely doesn’t feel or look right.

Which has more brand cache: “Android” or “Play” ?

Now we “Play with Books” … that’s what it’s come to. That’s too bad. Android is a great brand name. If anything, Google should embrace it through and through. I like that Android is the anti-Apple of sorts. As I’ve said before, if Apple is sticky-sweet, fluffy cotton candy, then Android is savory, robust porterhouse. Give us who like customization, large displays, widgets, and great Google apps integration what we want… and that includes a name that differentiates.

These two latest hiccups – the Snuffleupagus that is Ice Cream Sandwich, and the Disney-like “Play Store” — are head scratchers. They’re not going to tank Android’s prospects any time soon, but, man, Google needs to get it’s execution in order. And it all starts with sticking with your core, with what got you here: Android. And Android on lots of devices. Meanwhile I’ll just “Play” the blues.

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  • derekmorr

    A few thoughts:

    1) Google doesn’t roll out Android to most Android devices — the OEMs and carriers do. Google releases the AOSP source code (which they did in November, 2011 for ICS). So if you’re upset about the lack of ICS on your Galaxy Tab 10.1, blame Samsung.

    2) Samsung has said that the GT 10.1 will get ICS in 2Q 2012. The GS II should get ICS sometime this quarter (it’s rumored that deployments will start in Israel next week). I have a list of which devices are slated to get ICS, with the best availability dates I can find – https://www.evernote.com/shard/s50/sh/a36300c1-dfb2-4c0e-abd4-ee5623ba15fe/89ae85cf09e67d82d7f58dfdd1f2878e

    Hope this helps.

    • user311

      Correct on both points. Right now, I am feeling that Samsung is really paying more attention towards potential dollars coming in and releasing new rehashed products rather than dollars already spent and supporting their current customer base. As an owner of a Tab 10.1  LTE and an 8.9 wifi, it kinda sucks that they are still both only on Honeycomb.  Unless the Exynos A15 tablet comes out soon and kicks ass, my next tablet may be an Asus or even something from W8.

      • derekmorr

        I’m not sure I follow.

        Samsung has committed to releasing ICS for every Android tablet they’ve ever built, save the original Galaxy Tab.

        Samsung heavily skins Android, which is likely causing the delays. That’s one of the reasons I’ve stuck with unskinned devices (I’ve owned a Xoom and a Transformer Prime) — they get updates faster. Personally, I’m not a fan of skins for a few reasons (I think they’re ugly, and the delay updates), but I’m glad people have the choice to use them if they want to (so long as they know what they’re in for).

        • user311

           Saying that you’re committed and being committed are two different states all together. As the saying goes, “A man is only as committed as his options.” Well, Samsung has plenty of options when it comes to customers as what I was trying to convey is that right now it feels that they are spending a  greater amount of resources trying to get rehashed devices such as the Galaxy tab 10.1 2 and Tab note 10.1 out rather than focusing on releasing the ICS updates.  Sure they have said Q2 for the upgrades, but for as big as a company Samsung is and the source code having been released back in November you’d think that it would be out by now.  They already have
          ICS running on the Galaxy tab 10.1 2 and Note 10.1.  How hard would it be to port it over? I guess that gives you a reason to upgrade; for now.  All in all it kinda sucks not having ICS yet mostly when you hear companies such as Archos already releasing updates for their tablets.

          • derekmorr

            Of course a for-profit company is going to focus on new product development. That’s how they make money. But there’s no evidence that Samsung is ignoring their older products. There have been leaked builds and videos of ICS on various Samsung devices, so they are working on it. Samsung heavily customizes Android, and that will add delays. Again, if you don’t want delays, I suggest buying a stock device (like the Xoom, the ASUS tablets, or the Archos tablets, all of which have ICS now).

            It takes time to optimize and debug an OS on a device. I’d rather that Samsung take their time rather than rush something out with bugs.

          • Antoine Spann

            There is no reason at all for the Galaxy Tab 10.1 to NOT have ICS by now. NONE. They’ve had at least 5 months to get it up, and nothing because they have the Note 10.1 coming out. And of course, they won’t upgrade the Tab 10.1 to undercut the Note 10.1 when the Tab should have had it MONTHS ago.

          • derekmorr

            There could be any number of reasons why ICS hasn’t been released, which have nothing to do with the Note line of products. It takes time to bring up a new OS on a device and get it stable (look at the issues ASUS had with the Transformer Prime). The carriers could be delaying it for testing. Or maybe Samsung ran into problems porting Touchwiz to it.

            Samsung has publicly said that the Galaxy Tabs and the Note line will get ICS. They’ve offered time frames for those releases, and we’ve seen leaked builds. All of that shows good faith efforts. I’m not happy about the delays, but there’s no indication that its being done out of malice or a desire to force consumers to upgrade. But, this is another reason why I recommend buying Google experience devices or devices that are lightly skinned, since they get updates faster.

    • Nigel

      Except I have a “Google Nexus S” which Google have not updated yet either.

      • derekmorr

        The Nexus S updates were suspended because people were experiencing bugs. When the bugs are fixed, rollouts will resume.

        Frankly, it seems as if Google is in a no-win situation here — if they release a buggy update, users complain. If the delay the update because of bugs, users complain.

  • mike

    I like your article google moves slower then a turtle if apple was main stream google would lose its grounds.I find it hard how google updates work so slow by the time most update of ics start jelly beans Will be out.

    • JbR

      How is apple not mainstream?  And google actually had to slow themselves down to the norm (which Apple follows) of one major update per year, they were moving REALLY fast…. check your information!

  • Woody

    Android is a mess. This is the year we’re really seeing the effects of fragmentation. Only a few android app developers seem interested in updating their apps with the look and feel of ICS. I’ve been a fan of stock android since the G1 but ever since google decided not to update the N1, my interest has taken a nose dive. I got a GN anyway, it is nice, but it restarts itself every once in a while… totally unacceptable when it happens during a call. Hell, even my wife’s old iPhone 3GS was perfectly capable of a smooth glitch free OTA update to iOS 5.1 yesterday and it’s running great. I am extremely disappointed in the way Google has mismanaged android.

    • derekmorr

      People say that every year, largely because they don’t understand how Android works.

      Google releases the Android source code. Then OEMs optimize it for a specific device, then carriers test it. If you’re upset that Android doesn’t run on a particular device, it’s not Google’s fault (save for the Nexus devices).

      Regarding the Nexus One, it’s an old device with a slow GPU. ICS relies much more on the GPU. It also has extremely limited internal storage. I’ve seen videos of users who tried to put ICS on the N1, and it wasn’t a good experience. I owned a Nexus One, and it’s a shame it can’t run ICS, but many of devices of that generation just aren’t up to the task.

    • Ron

      Why would developers update their apps?  As of March 5, 2012, only 1.8 percent of android devices are running ICS.  In fact only 3.3 percent of devices are running Honeycomb.  87.3% of devices are stuck in Froyo and Gingerbread.

  • TheUI

    Bro, your condescending remarks about people “running to a jewel encrusted white iPhone,” are totally uncalled for. Stay minor, fangirl.

    Sent from the Shooter powered EVO.

  • Ron

    Google needs to get a handle on it’s own operating system.  It is in their own best interests to do so.  Developers need powerful new OS features to develop the next line of great apps, and Google does get a slice of that pie.  Apple has made it’s share of mistakes, namely the lack of flash and ruthless developer agreements which Google should have been able to capitalize on, but sadly hasn’t been able to because they can’t get their own house in order.

    What Google needs to do:

    1. Separate add-ons from the OS and let developers push those updates separately.  The old ones would simply be used until they did.
    2. Handle hardware drivers in house.  Most hardware uses the same chip-sets so this should be relatively easy to do.  If hardware vendors prefer to write their own, vendors could provide them to Google as long as they meet the OS interface expectations.  At a minimum, Google needs to ensure that hardware developers have the tools they need to easily quickly develop and update there drivers for subsequent OS methods.
    3. Modularize the way features are blocked such that a simple configuration file downloaded separately from the manufacturer lets them maintain the control they want. i.e.  some cell phone companies charge for tethering, so they may wish to block this feature as a default…(probably not a popular thing, but there is a business element that must be addressed as well)
    4. Google needs to push the OS to devices, not the companies.  Google’s brand reputation is at stake here.  They need to take it seriously.

    This is just an overview of what they need to do.  Some steps will cost Google money, but it will also make development of new devices cheaper as well.  Improved performance of the OS will also drive app development and the Android brand as well which Google will benefit greatly from.  More customers, more devices running Android, and more apps all mean a larger bottom line for Google.

  • dickydodinsdale

    I don’t even care about all these companies being slow to update.  I just rooted my device and download different roms and the roms run way smoother and have better functionality than the stock os.