Android 4.0: Ice Cream Sandwich Update

T-Mobile finally rolled out the 4.0 update for the Android-powered HTC Sensation 4G. I installed the new OS last night and am impressed thus far with the improvements to the user interface. The movements are more fluid and there are more open/close animations than before. The appearance of buttons, icons, and text (typeface/fonts) have all been modified. The layout of things like the menus, phone keypad, contacts and the like haven’t been changed all that much but they’ve been touched up to be more aesthetically pleasing.

The interface as a whole has a darker color scheme which makes it look much sharper and gives a quality professional feel to the device. Everything about the new look and feel is extremely refined and intuitive. The notifications pull-down from the system bar provides more information about each notification whether it be email, Facebook activity, or text messages. Your recently used apps are still scrollable from left to right at the top and the quick settings tab is still at the bottom right. The quick settings tab has changed from simple check boxes to a slideable on/off switch which is more visually appealing.

While previous versions allowed plain manilla-looking folders on the home screens without any indication of what was inside (with exception to the folder name itself), 4.0 provides a glimpse into what the folders contain by having a grid of icons reflecting the first four applications you’ll find there and the functionality of drag and drop into one another to create a folder is very similar to what you find in the Apple lineup (iPad, iPhone, iPod). As always, the home screens are multimedia-rich and allow you to perform various tasks without launching a full application — Android 4.0 plays into that utilization even more by affording you more options directly from your widget areas.

Possibly my personal favorite addition to the features in this version is the face recognition option for the lock screen. The front-facing camera will scan your face and allow you to unlock the phone simply by looking at it. Not much good if you’re an identical twin, but luckily I’m safe :) In the event that you’re in poor lighting or it is unable to positively match your face with the scan it has stored, it will default to your secondary unlock choice which is either a drawn pattern or a numerical code which is not limited to four digits.

I use Google Apps for the majority of my domains so all of my email is contained in the Gmail app. It now allows me to swipe my finger left or right across the screen to move to previous and next messages, respectively. I can now also choose to compose a new message, search, manage or view labels, and refresh my email without having to click the menu softkey as those items are all in a menu along the bottom of the screen. When viewing an individual message, I can archive or delete it, assign or disassociate labels, or mark it unread also from that same menu spot.

The popup dialog boxes are redesigned to be more sleek in appearance. The whole interface has improved drastically in that respect. I have also noticed a drastic change for the better in the accuracy of typed keys and suggested words when using Swype. The pop up menus are more slender and take up significantly less screen space, which was never an issue for me to begin with but I must admit I prefer the smaller size which results in much higher visibility of the menu content and less scrolling up and down.

From enhanced email features to resizable home screen widgets, Android 4.0 is definitely a worthy upgrade. You can view a full list of new and redesigned elements as well as details about each, including new accessibility options for visually impaired users, by visiting Android.com!

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