Ice Cream Sandwich is out and available on the Samsung Galaxy Nexus and the Nexus S (Although pulled but still out there) officially, although for many other users out there we will never see an Ice Cream Sandwich update, ICS on older devices that are not on the list to get the update officially by the manufacturers is a dream only to some.
Well fear not Android users, because as always and due to the one aspect of Android’s open nature i enjoy the most, and this is of course how big the aftermarket development community is now.
With talented, gifted and hard working developers out there we have some wonderful achievements in the Android world. We have countless devices out there that have been stuck officially on older versions and got all the way up to version 2.3 Gingerbread in a daily stable state.
Now with Ice Cream Sandwich source released the early builds have been coming thick and fast. Sure it’s early, sure workarounds have to be made to compensate for missing source, drivers and binaries, but great ground is being made in getting a whole host of Android devices on ICS as well.
I have an HTC Desire and wanted to give it a full 5 days testing on where Ice Cream Sandwich is right now with the great work of the collective of developers working on it currently.
There is a few ICS roms there to use on the HTC Desire including a recent CM9 source compiled effort, but i chose Sandvolds Beta v0.3.6 due to it’s long term work and combined effort on getting it near enough working. Only the camera and HWA are the issues right now, although the camera works, it’s unstable sometimes.
Due to a lack of Adreno 200 GPU source/binaries here lies the main problem, this is also similarly the main problem for many other devices regarding the GPU. Basically the Hardware Acceleration has been hacked to work, but it’s only pretty much half working and a short term workaround method only. Android 4.0 ICS relies on the GPU quite a bit with the hardware accelerated user interface. Google and AOSP are not supporting the Nexus one or related devices such as the HTC Desire, hence the problem getting the Adreno 200 working as it should do. Qualcomm please do the right thing! – You can sign a petition to Qualcomm to get the drivers and source released here – Petition for Adreno 200 drivers.
Great work has been achieved on the HTC desire, and other devices for that matter. We should all give credit to every developer fixing the stock source, Developers providing hacks for the camera to work, Kernel developers back porting drivers and much more. If it wasn’t for the combined community effort we wouldn’t have all the tasty delights we have today, so be nice and grateful people.
Installation was very simple, the usual way via ClockworkMod recovery and flashing the rom after a full wipe and cache wipe of course. If your are not rooted, S-Off and ready to go then head here to check out what it’s all about so you can start flashing ICS roms – XDA Complete guides.
This rom is made for a Stock Hboot and of course changing Hboot is very simple anyway, if you have another Hboot you’ll know already, if not then check that guide again above.
You can use the native A2SD with this rom or flash other scripts to give you more space. Remember though it must be a ext3 or ext4 partition on the native A2SD. I stuck to the native A2SD and it has worked very well. Simply run the terminal emulator app and type the following below to do so.
Type in “su” to give the terminal root permissions first and then after you have that type “a2sd install” you will then be prompted if you wish to move the Dalvik-Cache to the sd card also and simply type y to do so. Simply reboot and you will have the a2sd native option working.
Now with the background out of the way we will move onto my 5 days with ICS on the HTC Desire. I was expecting a few issues as always with flashing a Alpha or Beta custom rom, but to be honest it was and has been a rather pleasant surprise.
Now i have played around with Ice Cream Sandwich on a friends Galaxy Nexus, that’s it though, and even after the first initial setup on the Desire i was hooked. Everything works well pretty much and apart from a few niggles that associate with the HWA issue it’s a lovely experience. A couple of little other niggles though that i need to mention include the stock gallery being buggy and GPS not getting a lock consistently.
With the Gallery simply using a 3rd party replacement works fine and i used QuickPic flawlessly without problems. The GPS didn’t bother me and i couldn’t find a definite fix, some may experience it working better than others though as for me it was simply a case of not always getting a lock on.
The Android Market works with paid apps as well. This is an issue with many ICS roms at the moment but not this one. Fully working and able to download what you like, but of course remember that not all apps are equipped to work with Ice Cream Sandwich as of yet so you may be finding that one out. If you use Titanium backup and restore your apps then don’t. Many people have and it causes issues, corrupt data and as ICS is very different to Gingerbread things don’t work. Clean install and go in fresh if you are going to try ICS on your HTC Desire.
With the standard setting up details and syncing your Google account being done it was time to explore how Ice Cream Sandwich runs. Well its amazing. I literally don’t want to go back to Gingerbread and that’s how much even at a Beta stage this OS version makes me feel.
I’m not going to go into what Ice Cream Sandwich features has or what does what as that has been done before of course. But i will go through the running of what works well, what doesn’t and my experience.
The running generally is pretty much on par with my previous MIUI GB 2.3.7 custom rom and I have been using it for 5 days now quite happily. Transitioning between screens, making calls, messaging SMS and IM, syncing up with Google services, notifications, sound and headphones working, stable 3G connection and well you get the picture it all works flawlessly.
It’s when we get to gaming and anything graphically intense that we hit a wall. This is of course due to the HWA not working as it should and very much a half working piece of the engine. Video playback and YouTube work but are sometimes choppy if it’s playing back a higher-res video or a graphically intense sequence. Still, I browsed various video’s on YouTube and often found it to be okay. On-board stored videos also that I had worked okay apart from one that was choppy, but again it was a higher res video that had intense sequences. Generally its an okay experience but sometimes you get the choppy and laggy feel.
Games like Angry Birds, Fruit Ninja lagged and struggled, so anything more than little games like Scooter Hero will be unplayable. I would give the Live Wallpapers a miss as well to give you a better general speed performance.
The camera brings mixed results I found. Sometimes you will get an message of an unexpected error when opening or using the camera in still and video mode. With the video mode it’s very unstable with use and the results. Often many times it would produce the error message and the saved video would be corrupt, with the actual video when recorded and saved you will find it very choppy, distorted and with poor quality.
With still captured pictures the results are also mixed. The camera works but, as it is a work in progress the results sometimes come out distorted and not working well with light and colours in low light.
Here below is some still shot examples and also a quick video to show you.
Those are the issues of the GPU HWA and Camera out of the way. Now onto what this custom rom is what I recommend it for and that’s 1, a sneak peak into ICS and 2, General use without emphasis on gaming or high graphic use.
The battery life of a regular day is just as good as Gingerbread roms maybe even slightly better, this was unexpected especially in an early build beta as there are at the moment. As I’m quite a heavy user during my day i ran up a full 8-12 hours before i needed a charge. This is with Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Gmail, Google Reader all syncing every hour and along with general SMS, a call or two, a little browsing, Gtalk use, and also 30-45 minutes of music playback via Google Music which is of course streaming. Pretty impressive I’d say.
All the Google services work with it syncing up to my Gmail, Picasa, Calendar, Google+, Docs, Google Reader, Contacts, Gtalk, Google Music, and YouTube. We all like to be plugged into the cloud now don’t we and Google’s services are essential to us using it, this is very easy to do and working as it should with ICS on the Desire.
3rd party apps also sync up and run flawlessly as well, along with all notifications running how they should do. Dropbox, Kindle for Android, eBay, and more work well.
As mentioned Google Music is what I use for my music needs. The music playback is how it should be via the speaker and headphones. Some devices roms i have used before often have distorted sound but not this one at all. I use it via the headphones generally and it works well, I also tried a pair of bluetooth headphones and it also paired up working with good sound.
The time for skins like Sense, Touchwiz and MotoBlur In my opinion have gone. Little touches make a difference and Matias Duarte WebOS like influence is very clear here now. Swiping actions, WebOS cards system now pretty much being implemented with the home button long press bring up the vertical scroll of recent apps, its the first step with Android stock being the experience we all want. Older devices have been given a new lease of life many times over and now with ICS we could see full stable builds again being brought back from the graveyard for another outing.
The developers are doing a fantastic job on the HTC Desire. A device that was launched 22 months ago and shipped with Android Eclair 2.1 is now running Android Ice Cream Sandwich 4.0.3 without too much problem, and those problems look to be hopefully sorted within the future. It’s a testament to the Android community and the hard working developers out there.
You can also view all the details on what’s working down to the fine point from MMS, working ADB, all the Sensors and so forth. I can literally say it all works fine apart from a few issues that i have mentioned. Anything you wish to know specially give me a shout in the comments and I will get back to you ASAP.
Below is a gallery of images from my HTC Desire Ice Cream Sandwich experience.