What I’m hoping for in Android Ice-Cream Sandwich

Over the past week or so (since the Samsung/Google event got postponed), we’ve seen a load of leaks for the upcoming release of Android – Ice-Cream Sandwich. Whether these leaks can be believed is for each person to decide for him- or herself, as we have seen that even credible sources can sometimes fall by the wayside.

With these leaks in mind along with previous releases of Android (specifically Gingerbread and Honeycomb), I have made a list of improvements that I am hoping for in ICS, and think aren’t too far-fetched.

The default launcher in Gingerbread needs some work. I think I replaced it on the same day that I got my Nexus S, because it simply couldn’t do things that it should have been able to. Things like having more than 2 shortcut icons and the drawer launcher and having scrollable-widget support.

Honeycomb takes care of the scrollable widgets so I think it’s reasonable to expect this same support in ICS. Whether there will be more than 2 shortcut icons remains to be seen (there is no precedent in Honeycomb), though if the leaks are to be believed, this will be a reality. Hopefully, those shortcuts will also be customisable (i.e. the user can change them at their leisure).

Being able to place widgets similar to how one does in Honeycomb would be great, and again, if the leaks are to be believed, this will become truth.

It also wouldn’t go amiss to have some of the nicer transition animations that Honeycomb has, as well as the little known, but useful feature of tapping on the edge of the screen when in landscape mode to go to the adjacent home screen.

Android notifications are already fairly good. So good, in fact, that iOS has mimicked Android, though that’s a discussion for another day. However, Android’s notifications aren’t perfect (WHAT?!).

In Gingerbread (and before) it’s possible to clear all notifications, but not one at a time. This means that you have to open up the ones that you want to and after you’re done, clear all the ones left over. It’s a slightly unintuitive procedure and it means that you might miss something important – a problem you would have less of if you could just take care of notifications from top to bottom (or bottom  to top), clearing them off or opening them as you see fit.

Honeycomb has gone somewhat closer to this ideal by allowing you to clear notifications one at a time, but for some reason they removed a way to clear all notifications.

A combination of Gingerbread and Honeycomb notification systems would be the best solution – giving the power and flexibility of both.

The stock Android widgets have long been a sore point for me. The calendar widget is ugly and useless. The rest are OK in terms of functionality, but don’t really blend in well with the rest of the theme. It’s almost like they were cobbled together as an afterthought and abandoned thereafter.

Again, Honeycomb has come to the rescue to give some functional and visually rich new widgets. The new calendar, email, GMail, music, and YouTube widgets are all sterling examples, and I hope to see them all in one form or another in ICS. (There were some more recent leaks to suggest that this wish may also come true).

Let’s face it: some of the stock apps aren’t amazing. Sure, the stock messaging app is OK, but enough people disagree with me to give apps like Handcent and Go SMS Pro a substantial user-base.

The default dialer also isn’t that wonderful – some number-to-name-based searching (T9?) would go a long way there.

What about the stock browser? I replaced that with Opera Mobile so fast it made my head spin. The default browser on Honeycomb is oodles better, and if the reports are to be believed, we can expect to see Chrome on Android soon, though I’m guessing not at ICS launch day.

The apps can also do with some uniformity with regards to their interfaces. At the moment they appear to have been developed by completely separate teams with no uniform guidelines. I’m not one to put much stock in interfaces – my own designs usually suck and I much prefer function over form – but if you’re developing a suite of apps it’s better to have some uniformity to give users a baseline for interaction. Google has been working on that with their web-apps, and from the new Market and Music app designs, it seems as though they’re working towards unifying things.

There’s a lot of work that needs to be done (or, I guess, needs to have been done), and I really hope Google got around to doing it. There are some leaks and other, less obvious, cues that indicates that they have lived up to this, but only time will tell. I for one, am looking forward to the Google/Samsung announcement later this week.


About HawkiesZA

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