Google’s fourth iteration of its operating system, Ice Cream Sandwich (ICS), has finally come to the Motorola Xoom, bringing with it a slew of changes. Is Ice Cream Sandwich a big enough upgrade to make the aging and iconic Xoom a worthy competitor in today’s tablet market? Let’s find out.
Right off the bat, the most visually appealing feature of ICS is the new font, Roboto. Its clean, elegant design represents the entire operating system, based on the philosophy that “unnecessary” elements have been removed from the UI, leaving it sophisticated and simple. It is amazing at how much difference a tiny visual tweak can make to the overall feel of a device.
The lock screen has been improved and now presenting you with two options: unlock the device (obviously) or open the Camera application. Although I can see this being useful on a phone, on a tablet it seems rather pointless. One thing I am pleased about, however, is that the lock screen finally has a widget for the music player, allowing you to control the application without having to unlock the device; a feature which was notably missing from Honeycomb. You can also access notifications and basic settings straight from the lock screen by simply tapping the notification bar at the bottom.
Unlocking the device presents you with the familiar homescreens. One great new feature is the ability to make folders, simply by dragging one application on top of another. Long pressing on the home screen will only bring up the wallpaper menu; the widgets have now been transferred to the App drawer. The 2D Tron-like icons have been replaced with ICS’s 3D panels which fade in and out when swiping left or right. Long-pressing an application will let you place it on the homescreens, and gives you two extra options: uninstall and app info. You can now disable almost any applications which you don’t use, keeping your App drawer clean and organised.
Stock applications have been updated such as the camera, which now gives you the opportunity to take panoramic pictures in one smooth motion. With a newly added built-in image editor, you can edit pictures straight from the Gallery application. Also improved are the music player, which now has an equalizer, 3D surround sound and bass booster effects, and the People application which has been completely revamped, integrating contacts from social networks. The recent applications button now also functions as a task switcher and by swiping an application to the left or right you can quickly close it without having to go to the Settings.
In conclusion, Ice Cream Sandwich brings with it some major changes, both performance-wise and visually, resulting in a more fluid, consistent and user friendly interface. The Xoom has come a long way since being the first tablet to run Honeycomb 3.0; for those who bought this tablet early, the wait has been completely worthwhile. Now with Ice Cream Sandwich powering this iconic tablet, the Xoom is back in the ring, ready to fight another round with the competition.