Android 4.0, or Ice Cream Sandwich, was announced to the world on October 19, 2011, and became available along with the Galaxy Nexus on December 15, 2011; two months later, only a reported one percent of Android smartphones are running ICS. We're getting a clearer picture of how soon this number will be increasing, however, as several major Android phone manufacturers have updated their Ice Cream Sandwich release schedules -- unfortunately, for many popular Android models, it's looking like a long wait.
First, Motorola has posted the updated Ice Cream Sandwich rollout schedule to its online owner's forum, and several of the most popular models don't even have a timeframe for an ICS upgrade. Though Motorola's Xoom tablet already has Android 4.0, other Motorola devices are yet to taste ICS, and may not for a long time. The earliest Android 4.0 update planned for an American Motorola device, for example, will land in July 2012 at the earliest: the Atrix 2, Atrix 4G, Photon 4G, and Motorola Xyboard tablet are all scheduled to receive Motorola's ICS update starting in Q3 2012.
Leading models like the Droid RAZR, Droid RAZR Maxx, Droid Bionic, Droid 3, and Droid X2, meanwhile, are still in what Motorola calls the "Evaluation and Planning phase ("Phase 1 of 4") on the path to Ice Cream Sandwich, and have no real timetable for ICS. After Phase 1 ("Evaluation and Planning") comes "Development," and then "Testing," and then Phase 4, Availability. None of those phases have definite lengths of time attached to them.
For what it's worth, Motorola appears to have fallen behind its own schedule, as a Motorola exec previously said in late 2011, that the Droid Razr -- the manufacturer's top-of-the-line phone -- would get Ice Cream Sandwich in early 2012. It appears that Motorola will miss on that pledge.
You can read more about Motorola's process for developing Ice Cream Sandwich for its smartphones and tablets, along with the updated release schedule, here.
HTC wrote a note on its official Facebook page to announce that Ice Cream Sandwich would be available for the HTC Sensation, HTC Sensation 4G and HTC Sensation XE in March 2012, with the Sensation XL getting its ICS "soon there after."
A gaggle of other HTC smartphones were name-checked by HTC in the post as well: Android 4.0 for [Deep breath] the HTC Rezound, HTC Vivid, HTC Amaze 4G, HTC EVO 3D, HTC EVO Design 4G, HTC Incredible S, HTC Desire S and HTC Desire HD "will be coming later this year."
HTC had previously said (in November 2011) that the HTC EVO 3D, HTC EVO Design 4G* and HTC Amaze 4G would be available in early 2012. From HTC's updated schedule, it appears the company will miss that deadline.
Asus, meanwhile, recently announced that it, too, will miss a proposed deadline for upgrading its Transformer Prime to Ice Cream Sandwich, announcing that its tablet will receive Android 4.0 in February or March. The Transformer Prime was previously expected to get ICS at some point in late January.
In less official news ("This Week In Android Rumors!"), the Samsung Galaxy S II and brand new Galaxy Note have been tipped to receive Android 4.0 in early March, according to a tweet by mobile industry insider Eldar Murtazin. Samsung had scheduled the Galaxy S II and Galaxy Note for a Q1 2012 Ice Cream Sandwich update, so Murtazin's unsourced tweet isn't so far-fetched.
And that's all the pertinent news about Ice Cream Sandwich from the past week! For previous statements from smartphone manufacturers -- including Samsung, Sony, LG, HTC and Motorola -- on when their devices should be getting Ice Cream Sandwich, read our round-up from late December.
UPDATE: HTC has added even more phones that will be getting Ice Cream Sandwich in a post to its Facebook page. No time frame given, but upgrades "are planned" for the HTC Rhyme, HTC Thunderbolt, Droid Incredible 2 and HTC Rezound.
For those of you stuck waiting (or wishing) for your ICS upgrade, here to taunt you are the hottest new features that only the Android elite can enjoy (for now). Check them out in the slideshow (below).
Ice Cream Sandwich's totally revamped interface places even more emphasis on Google's search bar and aims at making Android more user-friendly. Among the new features are a new typeface called "Roboto" with more rounded letters, as well as scrollable and re-sizable widgets. The snazzy UI also places more of an emphasis on finger gestures.
What's different about camera functions in Android 4.0? A whole lot, starting with Instagram-esque photo-editing tools and deeper integration with social networks. TechCrunch is gaga over the improvements, lauding the "image stabilization, improved autofocus, and integration with other apps for sending photos or instant upload to Google+. Oh, and who could forget built-in face detection, panorama and time lapse modes, and on-the-fly photo retouching and enhancements." Like Apple's new iOS 5, Android users will also be able to access the camera right from the lock screen.
Android 4.0 users can rest easy, knowing that their devices will feature the nifty Face Unlock, which scans the user's face before unlocking the gadget.
A data management tool will help the user understand the amount of data their favorite apps use. This tool will also let the user set data limits for herself, and it will send warnings to notify the user when her data use approaches those limits.
Not only will it look sleeker on handsets, Android's native browser will now place more emphasis on tabs and offline productivity. "Users can keep up to 16 tabs open, view a live preview of each and quickly switch between them," explains By Genius Report. "Tabs can be closed by flicking them off of the screen much like webOS or RIM's tablet OS. Google also automatically syncs bookmarks to your Android browser from Chrome, and users can save pages for offline reading."
Gmail users, rejoice! Here's what's new with Google's celebrated email app, according to TechCrunch: "Gmail now supports two-line previews, and sports a new context-sensitive action bar at the bottom of the screen. Gesture support allows you to swipe left and right between emails." Boy Genius Report notes that Gmail will support offline search, too.
Though it's no Siri, Google has upgraded its hands-free speech recognition feature, which lets users dictate text, send messages, open media files and more. Per PCWorld: "ICS voice command software now has a hands free feature that lets you activate voice actions just by speaking to your phone instead of pressing a button." "play music, search the web, and dictate notes, SMS and email messages."
Google touts the security of its Android Beam wireless transfer system, which lets users share content between devices equipped with Near-Field Communication (aka NFC) technology. Engadget explains how the system will work: Much like HP's ill-fated Touch-to-share functionality, it will let you simply tap two NFC-enabled devices together to share a piece of information. That will work with a range of apps and services in Android, including YouTube videos, contact information, maps, web pages" and more. While you can transfer content from apps, you can't transfer the apps themselves, but Engadget notes that Android Beam "links to apps in the Android Market.
Designed with an eye toward button-free Android handsets, version 4.0 of Google's operating system relies more on finger gestures and integrates navigation buttons and music controls into the user interface. The feature could lead to a new generation of sleeker devices with fewer hardware buttons. But will these virtual buttons get in user's way? TechCrunch says no: "[T]hey smartly disappear when viewing video or in widescreen mode."
"The notification window is now slightly translucent with a glowing dot when you pull it downward," according to This Is My Next. "Notifications can be swiped away one at a time, mirroring webOS 3.0 behavior. You can access your notifications on the lock screen if you're not using a passcode, and you can jump quickly to your settings through the window shade."
Version 4.0 will work on any Android device, be it tablet or smartphone. "Ice Cream Sandwich is the OS that's supposed to put a damper on all that fragmentation talk," writes VentureBeat. "[T]he 2.X OS for phones and the 3.X OS for tablets will give way to the 4.X OS for all Android devices."
ICS bakes deeper social integration into many apps. Perhaps the most social is the "People" app. BGR writes that this new app "pulls in contact information and photos from social networks for your whole address book. Whenever a contact updates his or her info, it is also automatically updated on your phone."