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Android 4.0: Ice Cream Sandwich review

Is this the tastiest release from Google yet?

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Ice cream sandwich review

We'll jump right out and say it: Ice Cream Sandwich was the step forward Android has been crying out for. It's slicker, faster and more intuitive than before, and Google should be applauded for improving an already decent system.

Google has offered up data management too - you'll be able to set a limit to how much data the phone uses, with warnings and updates on which apps are the most byte-hungry. This is the sort of thinking smartphone users will love.

Of course, it's been usurped, but that doesn't make it less relevant for some people thinking of updating their OS.

We liked

The overall look and feel of Android was first streamlined here, and that's a real plus in our eyes. Google's OS might be a world-conqueror, but that still doesn't mean people always know how to use it in the same way they might an iPhone.

Things like contact pictures in the notifications bar, the lack of hardware buttons and moving settings to always be accessible are the sort of things many will love, plopping things where you intuitively expect them to be.

The internet browser's improvements to include desktop sites and offline reading are welcome too - anything that gives the user extra control is a good thing in our opinion.

We disliked

One of our larger gripes with Ice Cream Sandwich is, at times, the over-simplicity. Things like the video player being nothing more than a slider and play button are fine, but we expect to be able to do more with the app as we see fit.

There's also the issue of how the OS will work on less-powerful devices - a lot of the features have been scrapped for the budget market, which will annoy some users. Then again, what do you expect if you're paying less for a phone?

The other gripes were truly minor: support for file types, too few home screens and no way to see them all at once.

These are things that have been fixed with updates or manufacturers simply improving on the OS as they brought out their own phones - but the stock version is still pretty basic.

Verdict

Google needed to make sure it kept its OS refreshed and current, and Ice Cream Sandwich ticked that box in so many ways.

It's worth remembering that this was the foundation for manufacturers to go and build on - you should read our review of the phone you're looking to update to see what the new software is like when it's been LG/Samsung/HTC-ified.

In terms of how good you'll think Android 4.0: Ice Cream Sandwich is, it all boils down to personal choice. We're excited to see how manufacturers will customise it and extol the virtues to improve media or the home networking options, but others will simply be huge fans of the simplicity - our score is a mixture of the tools Google has offered up and the base level of performance on show.

But make no mistake - Ice Cream Sandwich was the most accessible and easy-to-learn OS from Google, and that's going to be key in the wars against Apple and Microsoft. It was also the turning point in making Android a real player in the top-end smartphone market, and for that we give it a huge thumbs up.