TODO alt text

Android 4.0: Ice Cream Sandwich review

Is this the tastiest release from Google yet?

Jump to Section:

The media capabilities of Ice Cream Sandwich have been much improved in our eyes, with all aspects of the media experience updated to make it that much easier to manoeuvre through your phone.

While some areas could still do with tweaking, we're a world away from the super-basic music app and complete lack of video player on the first Android release.

Music

The music player on Ice Cream Sandwich has been completely overhauled to make it more in keeping with the super-blue theme that pervades throughout the OS.

Ice cream sandwich review

Once opened, you're presented with a playlist of recent songs and albums you've listened to, which instantly makes you feel like the music player is more personalised.

Swiping left and right will get you to Albums, Artists and Songs - although we'd prefer the option to choose the order of these, as many people prefer to jump straight to the songs if they're hankering for a spot of Girls Al... erm, Michael Bub.... erm.... oh sod it. We have awful taste in music.

Google has chucked in a little search icon at the bottom of the app too, along with the 'Now Playing' bar. This makes it simple to jump to a song or artist you've got on your mind.

The actual music player itself isn't much to write home about, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. We're talking big album art, and play/skip buttons. Press the little up arrow and you can like/dislike the song or shuffle and repeat songs.

We're not sure what liking a song really does, but we hope it improves the Shuffle aspect.

Video

The video portal has taken on a much larger significance from Google since it unveiled its movie download service, and as such your personal collection will be boosted too.

The new red-themed offering sees you taken to a dual-tabbed arena: one the left side, all the videos you've rented from Android Market, and the right all your personal videos.

Ice cream sandwich review

The big boost here is the clear and easy to use thumbnails with description of each vid; if you've ever used an HTC phone or read our reviews of one, you'll know of our ire at the lack of any kind of signpost as to which video is which.

This system doesn't pervade through all phones though - HTC still is making its videos opaque as it stand, which makes us want to throw the phone in a big hole.

The video player is still disappointingly basic though, with only a slider bad and pause button to mess around with. We're still gobsmacked Google hasn't bought one of the clever apps already on the market (for instance, MVideoPlayer) and offered that as a free premium app to download.

We get that simplicity is key for a lot of people, but we really would love a bookmarking system, or the ability to change the screen brightness in the app. If Google does this at some point - you heard it here first, people.

Ice cream sandwich review

Books

The Books app is pre-installed in the Galaxy Nexus, and is set to be a staple feature of the Android 4.0 OS too.

It's one of the better e-reading experiences on a mobile phone no matter what the size of the screen - the page turning animations lend a very book-esque experience that many will enjoy.

Ice cream sandwich review

It's a lot like the Kindle app to be honest, although the scroller along the bottom of the application will alert you to the different chapters you're bouncing through, making it easier to find the page you're looking for.

There's also a neat 'view original pages' feature for older books, where the original edition is scanned in to be viewed as the first eyes would have done. It's a cool feature, but one we turned off pretty quickly - we want to be able to read a book properly.

The interesting thing is these books are actually stored in the cloud, so each will load the first time you start reading... although the option to make them available offline makes a lot more sense.

Given books don't take up much space, we're more than happy to make sure everything is cached... we don't want to be left hanging on the Underground.