Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Galaxy S2 ICS 4.0.3 Review

Recently I upgraded my Galaxy S2 to Ice Cream Sandwich 4.0.3 from Ginger Bread 2.3.6. I grabbed the DXLP7 firmware from xda, and upgraded through Odin. It was painless - even though I started the process with only 42% remaining battery. The upgrade was complete in about 5 minutes, with all my previous apps and settings intact.

Only piece of advice, the upgrade does loose your home page settings. It will help if you create screenshots of your phone before upgrading.

Overall I was pleasantly surprised with the brand new OS, it almost gave me the feeling of having a new phone. There are numerous small upgrades which makes life easier. Though all is not as great as it could be, it is definitely recommended.

Here's my review of the new experience.

Positive -
1. Video/Voice chat in GTalk is finally here in Galaxy S2, officially. Also the interface is revamped as it is the new ICS app.
2. Inbuilt data usage meter/limiter which is very well done indeed. This may well put 3G Watchdog out of business.
3. Folders have small icons of apps inside them.
4. Upload/Download arrows have been added for Wifi connection as well!
5. Improved contacts sync API enables third party apps to integrate better - also now you see which apps have synced with a contact in contact list as icons. (However all is not good on contacts front, read on.)
6. Much better browser. The only thing missing is ability to reflow text when zoomed on the fly. Also you can now install Chrome beta which is exclusive to ICS.
7. A hoard of Developer Options which give you a very good glimpse of what is happening within the phone. Some, like warning when an app takes up CPU cycles for long time, or show CPU usage overlay, are useful to even non developer power users.
8. Face unlock - gimmick, good to have nonetheless.
9. Ability to show a message in locked screen, is useful if your phone is lost and some good soul comes across it :)
10. Rotation animations - Like the Galaxy Tab, now when you change the orientation, whatever is on your screen rotates with a sleek animation.
11. GMail interface is revamped with the new ICS GMail App.
12. Cool screen rotation animation added when you rotate your phone and an application changes from portrait to landscape, or vice versa.

Negative -
1. Contacts & Phone (dialer) are now separated. There is no quick way to move to phone dial pad from contacts anymore! In my mind, this is the biggest and only dumb decision made for ICS.
2. Call recording libraries not implemented yet. There's word that even the call recording giant Total Recall cannot record calls on ICS. If call recording is something you need, do not upgrade.
Update - workaround exists to solve this issue.
3. Contacts now has all (unwanted) gmail addresses. Also I used Social Hub to sync Facebook contacts since it provided pictures, but now it is not supported anymore - I use the Facebook app to sync contacts, and the picture sync does not seem to be working properly.
Update - you can use this free app to sync contacts with hi-res (or optionally low-res) pictures.
4. Camera focus and shutter sounds are no longer linked to System volume (or any other volume), both now play either at max volume (if phone is not on mute), or don't sound at all (if it is on mute).
5. Google Talk now either has option show all friends sorted by name, or to show only 'popular' friends sorted by availability. There's no way to see all friends sorted by availability. Big step back.

Watchouts - it may seem some things are missing, but fear not - merely how to do this has changed.
1. Screenshot - Previously it was Home+Power. Now it is to press Power+VolumeDown simultaneously and hold for a second or two.