Android 4.0: The stakes for Google are huge

Android 4.0: The stakes for Google are huge

Summary: Google's Android 4.0 effort will prove whether the search giant has design chops and can delight customers.

SHARE:

Google unveiled Android 4.0, also known as Ice Cream Sandwich, and to say the search giant has a lot riding on the mobile operating system would be an understatement.

Along with Samsung, Google execs walked the tech world through Android 4.0. Not surprisingly, there is the usual compliment of oohs, ahhs and instant observations that may look downright silly three months from now.

Some of those crazy statements are coming directly from Google. Execs called Android enchanting and easy with its "magazine style." Android 4.0 also makes you feel powerful and smart. I can't help but chuckle every time I hear that last one as if we're all going to mumble, "I have Ice Cream Sandwich hear me roar!"

Going through the various features is a worthwhile exercise since there are some nice features---Face Unlock---image editing, a new people app that looks a bit like Windows Phone's approach and other goodies. A few takes worth checking out include:

But let's fast forward to the strategy here. Google needs Android 4.0 to be enchanting and easy. Android is a geek OS and some of us just want our smartphone platforms to fade into the background and just work. Android to date feels a bit rough around the edges relative to Apple's iOS and Windows Phone. Here's why the stakes for Android 4.0 are so high:

  • Android doesn't update as much as it used to. When I first bought into Android part of the deal was that Google would iterate quickly. However, the development cycles have gotten longer. Google is largely on an annual cycle now like everyone else. With that cycle, you want more polish and expectations are higher.
  • Ice Cream Sandwich is the great unifier. Android 4.0 is supposed to be the OS that bridges the phone and tablet. Distribution ensures that Android 4.0 has a smartphone following. Android tablets have hit a brick wall called the iPad.
  • Apple has more distribution and Microsoft's Windows Phone will follow. Apple is on three carriers in the U.S. and has a ton of upside for iOS just by adding carriers. Microsoft will have distribution via Nokia. In other words, there will be more non-Android choices in the field.
  • Google has to prove it has design chops. Can a company dominated by engineers delight and integrate seamlessly with hardware? We'll see, but when Google CEO Larry Page uses words like "auto magical" I instantly turn skeptical. Samsung's Nexus is the flagship phone for the Google experience. If Android 4.0 doesn't deliver there it doesn't stand much of a chance. As carriers and other hardware makers get Android 4.0 they'll start tweaking.

Related:

Great Debate: Can Android continue its push toward mobile domination?

Topics: Mobility, Telcos, Tablets, Software, Smartphones, Operating Systems, Apple, Mobile OS, Microsoft, Laptops, Hardware, Google, Windows

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.

Talkback

142 comments
Log in or register to join the discussion
  • RE: Android 4.0: The stakes for Google are huge

    Waiting Matt M. WP7/Nokia's rebuttal.
    Return_of_the_jedi
    • RE: Android 4.0: The stakes for Google are huge

      @Return_of_the_jedi This phone is not better then this one: http://www.technologyfazer.com/the-motorola-droid-razr-teaser.html
      nomikhokher
      • RE: Android 4.0: The stakes for Google are huge

        @nomikhokher : never buy Motorola smartphone anymore... This company don't support user and don't give OS update to their users... Shame on you Motorola... I'll never buy a Motorola phone anymore Never...
        EricDeBerg
      • RE: Android 4.0: The stakes for Google are huge

        @nomikhokher I have to agree with never getting Motorola -my Droid2 just wouldn't work, support suggested reboot, hard reboot, new unit, turn off Motoblur (worked, but would freeze), and said update coming soon -never came. There is no incentive for smartphone manufacturers to update the OS -they just want you to buy a new phone. Am satisfied with my iPhone.
        docpark
      • RE: Android 4.0: The stakes for Google are huge

        @nomikhokher It is better. Just one of the many reasons is that the Razr is running an old OS.

        Google now owns Motorola's mobile division Eric, that will soon change.
        mediumsizedrob
  • RE: Android 4.0: The stakes for Google are huge

    What exactly is the killer feature in Android 4.0? The bigger question is if you already have an Android phone, will you even get updated and when?
    Rich Miles
    • RE: Android 4.0: The stakes for Google are huge

      @Rich Miles : No you will not get any update...
      EricDeBerg
      • RE: Android 4.0: The stakes for Google are huge

        @EricDeBerg
        Well, Samsung has already announced that they will update Nexus S. Whether Nexus One will be udated or not is still unclear. Given the 18 month upgrade agreement presented at previous Google IO, it is likely that relatively new phones such as e.g. Samsung Galaxy S2 will be upgrades.
        uno@...
      • RE: Android 4.0: The stakes for Google are huge

        @EricDeBerg What facts are you basing this on? Most likely relatively new phones that have the ability to run it will get updated. It won't be for a while though because they want to encourage people to buy this new phone.
        mediumsizedrob
    • RE: Android 4.0: The stakes for Google are huge

      @Rich Miles
      I have two Android phones, LG Shine Plus (2.1 & no update), Samsung Fascinate Telus version (just got 2.3.3 but its not the debugged version, 2.3.4 is) after nearly a year. The ability to get updates is virtually nil if at all and if one appears is already behind in that series not to mention 3.x is available. Bugs and apps that don't get fixed by the carrier such a voice dialing cannot be used on the Fascinate with any version of Android they released.

      I have but to look at the update link on my carrier and only one phone comes is at 2.3.4 while the others are stuck with ancient bug and security ridden version.

      The experience is not smooth dispite the memory and storage built in. I doubt I will get another Android phone for this reason, no patches or updates even 6 months to a year later. Sooner or later the community will shift to where you can get updates. IOS for sure, & WinM7 is committing to it in one article.
      tripplec
      • Carrier issue

        @tripplec

        Who is your carrier? I have had HTC, and Moto phones, and the updates aren't too far off with Verizon.

        The lifecycle of phones now days is really short. The updates are coming so fast, you cant have a smartphone for over a year without it being out of date.
        doug.montgomery@...
      • RE: Android 4.0: The stakes for Google are huge

        @tripplec I agree. I have an HTC Thunderbolt that was originally to be the 4G flagship of Verizon. After all the time is has been on the market, and with all the promises that Gingerbread would be on it soon after the phone was released, they finally put out a Gingerbread update recently. BUT, when they did, it was buggy and HTC and Verizon immediately pulled it. We're now back to waiting for it to be released AGAIN.

        There definitely needs to be some improvement.
        ComputerDinosaur
      • RE: Android 4.0: The stakes for Google are huge

        @tripplec

        This is what you get with an 'free' OS. It may do wonders, but you are pretty much on your own.
        danbi
      • RE: Android 4.0: The stakes for Google are huge

        @tripplec
        Ice Cream Sandwich was created to fix this. Prior to now all updates were controlled by the phone manufacturer and the Cell service provider. Google got them all to agree that all phones ICS or later will be updated during their first 18 months of availability. That was part of why they are working to unify the interface. All the slap on interfaces like MotoBlur and HTC's Sense meant that the manufacturers had to update their interface if they wanted to update their phone. Phones with pure android on the other hand only needed to have the update pushed out to them. The new interface in 4.0 is supposed to remove the need for these front end interfaces and improve update cycles.
        mdeans@...
  • RE: Android 4.0: The stakes for Google are huge

    I hope Google polished up ICS real good. If Google releases an unpolished version of ICS and its buggy and full of problems (first release of Honeycomb anyone????) This will make the Android fanboys restless and angry, and take also into consideration that could destroy fanboys on 2 separate platforms.
    Bates_
  • android will kill

    iCrap and windoze in the next 2 years.
    The Linux Geek
    • RE: Android 4.0: The stakes for Google are huge

      @The Linux Geek Have anything to backup that claim? I'll go out on a limb and say NO.
      Bates_
      • RE: Android 4.0: The stakes for Google are huge

        @Bates_ i'll also say no. This android tard replies just cause it's free. If and when he picks up an iPhone, he'll piss his pants. Original iPhone 2G will do.
        juantarallo
      • RE: Android 4.0: The stakes for Google are huge

        @Bates_ (cuts the limb while bates isn't looking)
        :)
        readydave1
      • RE: Android 4.0: The stakes for Google are huge

        @Bates_ Nah let him be. He's stuck on the Fry Station at McD's and was on a smoke break, that kind of stuff empowers him. Even though everyone is laughing at him.
        ItsTheBottomLine