Thursday, 8 November 2012

The update to Android 4 | The Ice Cream Sandwich upgrade affects both the performance and battery life of smartphones and tablets.

Deutsche Telekom, Vodafone and Samsung began rolling out the latest iteration of the Android operating system, Android 4 Ice Cream Sandwich in May this year. Samsung Galaxy S2, one of the top-selling Android smarphones, was the first among the company's range to receive the update.However, our first impressions of ICS were very mixed. Galaxy S2 initially runs a little bit faster when on Ice Cream Sandwich as compared Gingerbread, mainly while surfing the Internet with the integrated browser. On the other hand, our test device's battery life dropped drastically right after the update. The temperature of the device also demonstrated that it had to first run through a computationally intensive optimization phase directly after the update - the phone consistently felt quite warm. Even a few of our readers reported the problem. It soon became evident that several processes, which were not coordinated optimally on ICS and were executed only after the update, were responsible for the cellphone’s massive appetite for energy.We've learnt from experience that It's a good idea to backup your data and reset the phone or tablet to factory settings before going for the update. Once done, the ICS update on all the phones will run as it was meant to. We followed the process with all the phones we wanted to test and proceeded with the update.

The user interface often remains almost unchanged

With regards to the user interface, we were disappointed very quickly. On the S2, for instance, the only improvement in the UI that stands out at fi rst glance is the 'recent apps' view, which can be summoned by holding down the 'Home' button. Samsung's TouchWiz interface appears almost unchanged - there is hardly anything of the slick Android 4 look like on Google's Galaxy Nexus smartphone. In addition, some apps programmed for Android 2 no longer run smoothly with Android 4. We know that since we lost the 14 Euros we paid for the TouchDown Mail app.

Smartphones: Higher performance, shorter battery life

Our tests in laboratory conditions (always with factory settings) present a mixed picture - before the update, the Galaxy 
S2 lasted for 6:25 hours while browsing the Web; with Ice Cream Sandwich, the battery life fell to 5:56 hours. This is certainly a poor value but not as dramatic as feared. However, the integrated browser now works noticeably faster - BrowserMark scores shot up to almost twice the older values on Gingerbread.A similar picture emerges when updating the HTC Sensation XE. The browsing performance is higher; although it's not as dramatic an increase in performance as it was in the case of the Galaxy S2. With Ice Cream Sandwich, the Sensation XE's battery life took a dive too, with the phone lasting a good half-hour less than when it was running on Gingerbread. Incidentally, even HTC has heavily customized the ICS user interface to suit its own Sense UI. This has been done to such an extent that one must look twice to ascertain whether the phone is running on Gingerbread or Ice Cream Sandwich.

Tablets: No change in performance, longer battery life

The Codecow benchmarks turn out to be completely different in the case of the first tablets that run on Android 4. The high-end Asus Transformer Prime, as well as the rather reasonably priced, Archos 80 G9, show individual deflections in one or the other direction in the matter of performance - but the performance remains on the same level it was on earlier. This can mainly be explained through the fact that the jump to the Android versions is not entirely so high - most Android 4-compatible tablets were already delivered with Android 3 Honeycomb.Altogether, everything remains the same with Ice Cream Sandwich as it was with Honeycomb in the case of the Transformer Prime. The Archos 80 G9, however, gains just under 100 minutes of additional battery life. The reason for this seems to be the fact that Archos has done away with its individual customizations and simply provides the “pure” Ice Cream Sandwich version for its device - which, we think, is technically the best solution.


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