December 26, 2011, 8:26 PM — After months of waiting, the Galaxy Nexus (and by extension, Android 4.0, aka "Ice Cream Sandwich") is finally here. We've already done an extensive review of the hardware, so here we will be looking much more closely at Ice Cream Sandwich. Whether you are an Android veteran or a smartphone first-timer, this new version of Google's mobile operating system has a few things you should know about before getting started.
Ice Cream Sandwich (ICS) is the biggest update to Android since the OS launched, and the changes are pretty significant. They aren't too dramatic for people used to Android, but people new to the OS may have some difficulties starting out. While Android 2.x was perhaps not the easiest OS to master, once you got the hang of it, it was rather straightforward. ICS, on the other hand, was designed to be easier to use, but even long-standing Android users will have to spend some time learning its ins and outs.
Here's one issue: Not all icons are clearly labeled, so it can be difficult to know what a button does in a particular app. The new Calendar app, for instance, has a small unlabeled square (it looks like a small calendar) that takes you to the present date. Other than pressing the button, you have no visual cues to tell you what that icon actually does. This isn't the same Android that we've all come to know, but rather a new OS that carries on the Android legacy.
A Fresh New Look
ICS is by far the most visually appealing version of Android that I have seen to date. The holographic interface in Android 3.0 (Honeycomb) has been passed on to ICS, though it doesn't translate that well on a smaller display. On a tablet, the holographic interface looks as if it has some depth, but on a phone it appears extremely two-dimensional. ICS, however, adds a few new colors to Android's repertoire, swapping out the old green and gray for a vibrant blue.
Text is also much easier to read thanks to use of the new high-resolution font Roboto. Roboto was designed to be used on HD displays, and is a massive step up from the old Droid Serif in Android 2.x. The font looks a lot cleaner than the one used on Honeycomb, and complements the holographic UI quite nicely.