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23 Dec 12 Samsung Galaxy S3 ‘Sudden Death’ Problem: Device Getting Bricked Without …

A post on Reddit, which currently has more than 160 comments, pointed towards a thread over at XDA Developers forum entitled “Ultimate GS3 sudden death thread.” At the time of reporting, the thread, started just over a month ago, had 67 pages and 665 posts, explaining various cases in which Galaxy S3 suffered from such a sudden death experience.

According to a number of affected Galaxy S3 units, their devices gave up about 150-200 days after activation without any warning. The users also noted that the affected handsets neither responded to rebooting nor had any “bias towards rooting on manufacturer’s standard hardware,” Redmond Pie has reported.

Reddit user TurtleRecall speculated that the NAND memory on the affected Galaxy S3 units could have been corrupted for some reason, ending up with a complete failure and bricked device. Here is how the user summarized the problem:

The XDA thread has 56 pages (so far) [at the time of his comment] of people whose mainboards have suddenly died. The devices seem to last between 150 and 200 days before failing. Samsung are replacing them under warranty whether or not people have rooted the devices or installed non-standard firmware.

There’s speculation that the NAND is becoming corrupted and failing. Worryingly, Samsung are replacing the mainboards with the same revision so this may just be putting the problem off for another 6 months or so.

It happened to my S3 last week and I’ve never rooted or installed anything other than the official 3UK Samsung firmware, first ICS then JB. Samsung haven’t officially acknowledged that there’s an issue, but both the guy I spoke to in the authorised repair centre and the chap in the Samsung warranty call centre have said they’ve seen this issue a lot lately.

Tl;Dr – S3 mainboards dying for no reason, Samsung replacing mainboards for free, but no new hardware revision so it might just happen again.

“My phone died today. Was chugging along till 2AM yesterday night and then I dozed off with the phone connected to wall charger. Woke up and saw the green light on but the phone was unresponsive. I ‘long pressed’ the on/off button and the phone switched off (no vibration, so it probably died then). I pressed the on/off button again, no response. Removed the battery and tried again. Nope. Tried another charger, no response,” said a user at the XDA thread.

“Same thing happened to my girlfriends S3. After updating to JB about 3 weeks ago from Vodafone Australia, the phone started rebooting and crashing a lot with very sudden battery drains,” said another user. “I assumed it was due to the JB update, but based on this thread it appears she may have been getting the early symptoms of sudden death.”

Samsung is said to be aware of the issue and although it is yet to comment on the anomaly, the South Korean tech giant is reportedly replacing mainboards of all the affected devices under the product warranty with no questions asked.

However, some still speculate that “it is nothing more than a stop-gap procedure that will ultimately lead the device to the same fate in a few months time.”

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13 Jun 12 Android already offers more than iOS 6, but…

Android vs. iOS

Android vs. iOS

There’s no doubt about it. Android, especially Ice Cream Sandwich (ICS), version 4.0, already offers more than what is coming in Apple’s forthcoming iOS 6. But, Android has its own flaws.

True, as Tom Henderson, principal researcher for ExtremeLabs and a colleague, told me, there’s a “Schwarzschild radius surrounding Apple. It’s not just a reality distortion field; it’s a whole new dimension. Inside, time slows and light never escapes– as time compresses to an amorphous mass.

“Coddled, stroked, and massaged,” Henderson continued, “Apple users start to sincerely believe the distortions regarding the economic life, the convenience, and the subtle beauties of their myriad products. Unknowingly, they sacrifice their time, their money, their privacy, and soon, their very souls. Comparing Apple with Android, the parallels to Syria and North Korea come to mind, despot-led personality cults.”

I wouldn’t go that far. While I prefer Android, I can enjoy using iOS devices as well. Besides, Android fans can be blind to its faults just as much as the most besotted Apple fan.

For example, it’s true that ICS has all the features that iOS 6 will eventually have, but you can only find ICS on 7.1 percent of all currently running Android devices. Talk to any serious Android user, and you’ll soon hear complaints about how they can’t update their systems.

You name an Android vendor-HTC, Motorola, Samsung, etc. -and I can find you a customer who can’t update their smartphone or tablet to the latest and greatest version of the operating system. The techie Android fanboy response to this problem is just “ROOT IT.” It’s not that easy.

First, the vast majority of Android users are as about as able to root their smartphone as I am to run a marathon. Second, alternative Android device firmwares don’t always work with every device. Even the best of them, Cyanogen ICS, can have trouble with some devices.

Besides, while Cyanogen supports many smartphones and tablets, it doesn’t support all of them.
For example, there’s still no stable CyanogenMod 7 (Android 3.x) firmware for Barnes Noble’s Nook Tablet. Sometimes even when there is support, such as there is for the popular Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1, there are driver troubles that keep the camera from working for many users.

Another issue is consistency. When you buy an iPhone or an iPad you know exactly what the interface is going to work and look like. With Android devices, you never know quite what you’re going to get. We talk about ICS as if it’s one thing-and it is from a developer’s viewpoint-but ICS on different phones such as the HTC One X doesn’t look or feel much like say the Samsung Galaxy S III.

A related issue is that the iOS interface is simply cleaner and more user-friendly than any Android interface I’d yet to see. One of Apple’s slogans is “It just works.” Well, actually sometimes it doesn’t work. ITunes, for example, has been annoying me for years now. But, when it comes to device interfaces, iOS does just work. Android implementations, far too often, doesn’t.

So, yes, Android does more today than Apple’s iOS promises to do tomorrow, but that’s only part of the story. The full story includes that iOS is very polished and very closed, while Android is somewhat messy and very open. To me, it’s that last bit-that Apple is purely proprietary while Android is largely open source-based-that insures that I’m going to continue to use Android devices.

Now, if only Google can get everyone on the same page with updates and the interface, I’ll be perfectly happy!

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13 Jun 12 Android 4.0.3 update out for T-Mobile’s Samsung Galaxy S II


Samsung Galaxy S II owners on T-Mobile can update to
Android 4.0.3, but they may have to jump through a few hoops first.

The latest flavor of Ice Cream Sandwich launched as of yesterday evening for Samsung’s Galaxy S II. Owners of the phone can learn how to install it via a T-Mobile support page. But be forewarned — the update isn’t available over the air (OTA), meaning you can’t download it directly to your phone.

Instead, you have to install it via Samsung’s Kies software, which requires you to download and install the update on your PC and then sync it with your phone.

Beyond offering ICS, the update promises improvements in performance and stability.

But wait.

Before you can scoop up a dose of Ice Cream Sandwich, you’ll need to make sure you’re running at least Android 2.3.6 on your Galaxy S II phone, which is available as an OTA update.

Got all that? Don’t worry. T-Mobile’s page describes all the steps required to reach the peak of Android. But the carrier does warn that if you run into any trouble, you’ll have to call Samsung. “The Kies update through Samsung is not supported by T-Mobile and we are unable to assist with Kies or PC questions,” T-Mobile explained.

Though T-Mobile is trying to be helpful by outlining all the steps involved, this convoluted process clearly shows why Android updates are such a mess. With Google, the device makers. and the carriers all involved in the mix, no one party is truly responsible or accountable for the entire chain of events.

Compare that with the process on iOS devices. Apple is the sole party responsible for all updates. The carriers have no involvement. Apple users can download iOS updates to iTunes and sync them with their iPhones and iPads or download and install the updates directly to their devices.

It is any wonder Android users have to wait so long for the latest version of Android and other updates?

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12 Jun 12 Android’s fraying tightrope with app developers

Watching the hoopla around Apple’s Worldwide Developer’s Conference is always an exercise in spin management, as Apple’s promotion of iOS always leads to a flurry of counter arguments from those who prefer (or sell) devices with the Android operating system.

Some of those counter arguments, though, fall more than a little flat, much to my frustration.

Take Matthew Miller, who argues (quite thoroughly), that the latest version of Android, Ice Cream Sandwich (ICS), already has many of the same features that iOS 6 will have when it is released this Fall.

While Miller makes an excellent case, he forgets that ICS only has 7.1 percent of total Android market share, according to Google. Right now, the latest version of Apple’s mobile platform, iOS 5, is around 75-80 percent, depending on who you ask.

When iOS 6 rolls out, because of Apple’s unified platform strategy, I would expect similar market penetration in a matter of weeks. At ICS’ current growth levels of about one percent per month, ICS might be around 10 percent of the Android market by September.

This is the F-word problem: fragmentation. Android is constantly dogged by it, because there are not only seven deployed versions of Android out in the wild, but there are also thousands of Android devices deployed, many of which require some sort of tweaking by an apps developer to get their app stabilized, because of the differing hardware requirements.

So why do developers even bother? It is the open source factor at work?

Perhaps, but I think a better case could be made with the numbers. While Apple CEO Tim Cook touted 360 million iOS devices sold in the platform’s entire lifecycle at WWDC, Android chief Andy Rubin twitter-bragged that 900,000 Android devices are activated every day. (That’s 328.5 million devices per year.)

That’s a mighty big target, and on the surface that would seem to be a big reason to develop for Android. But then you get reports like this one from mobile analyst Flurry that state “[f]or every $1.00 a developer earns on iOS, he can expect to earn about $0.24 on Android.”

Assuming Apple’s devices grow on average at about 72 million devices a year (and I just took a straight averaging here), then an iOS developer could see $72 million on new iOS devices this year, or $78.8 million on new Android devices.

This, more than any other reason, may be what is keeping Android growing. After all, assuming Flurry’s report is correct, then even though an Android developer can expect to make one-fourth per app than an iOS developer, the potential market is four times as large.

This seems a tenuous balance, though: Android’s openness is to be lauded, and it’s clearly doing what it needs to do be attracting new hardware vendors and devices all of the time. But the lack of consistency in hardware and APIs is slowly driving Android developers nuts–something I hear repeatedly from mobile developers.

Then there’s the S-word: saturation. There are growing concerns that smartphones in general are reaching the saturation point in the U.S. When that happens, all this phenomenal growth will vanish and Android’s (and iOS’) numbers won’t look so hot. There are other markets of course, but will they be better or worse in terms of revenue for app developers?

My concern is that sooner of later the problems will become more painful than the pleasure of the potential revenue. Or growth of Android will slow due to market saturation. Either way, app development on Android could slow to a crawl.

If that happens, it won’t matter how cool the Android features are: no new apps will mean no new users.

Read more of Brian Proffitt’s Open for Discussion blog and follow the latest IT news at ITworld. Drop Brian a line or follow Brian on Twitter at @TheTechScribe. For the latest IT news, analysis and how-tos, follow ITworld on Twitter and Facebook.

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12 Jun 12 Android ICS already offers more than what is coming in iOS 6

Apple officially announced iOS 6 yesterday and while it is a welcome update for iOS that I look forward to installing on my iPad 3, most everything Apple revealed can already be done today on Ice Cream Sandwich Android devices.

Apple does a good job of taking existing technology and features and making it more user friendly (they did it with iOS 5 last year), but ICS took Android a long ways and the experience on the HTC One X is fantastic.

Apple stated there are over 200 new features in iOS 6 and we will have to wait until the fall to see everything. Developers will be loading up beta versions soon so we will see some more discussions on features over the next few weeks and months.

They did reveal several major features and functions at WWDC, so let’s take a look and compare them to what we see with existing Android ICS. You can check out the table below that summarizes the differences, followed by more lengthy discussion and my opinions. Don’t forget that Google revealed ICS last year and is likely to show off Jelly Bean this month at Google I/O.

Maps: Apple has always included a Maps application, based on Google Maps. As we discussed in May, Apple has decided to finally put some effort into navigation (powered by TomTom) and will be rolling out their own mapping solution in iOS 6.

In typical Apple fashion, the application has lots of attractive visuals with good functionality. It is their first attempt so there is still work to be done, but the new Maps does provide for turn-by-turn navigation, traffic monitoring (crowd-sourced like Waze), location-based integration in apps, and some great lock screen capability.

There doesn’t appear to be any offline navigation support, which is something that Google just recently announced for Android devices.

It also appears iOS owners will lose bicycle, pedestrian, and transit functions seen in Google Maps on iOS 5. Google Maps Navigation is a tried and tested service and application that will be tough to beat.

Siri: Siri looks to finally be getting some functionality that it should have had at launch, including the ability to launch apps, real-time sports, movie, and restaurant information and integration, and support from auto manufacturers for true eyes-free usage.

As a sports fan, I liked the demos at WWDC. Then again, I follow the sports I enjoy most with dedicated apps anyway so it isn’t as critical as it was made out to be. These functions are great to see in Siri, but I wonder how many people will use it past the week or two novelty period. I only used Siri on my iPhone 4S for reminders after the novelty wore off and rarely see people talking to their phone so am still not yet sold on the practicality of Siri.

Passbook: Passbook looks like it takes the best from multiple 3rd party apps like TripIt, Starbucks, Flixster, and more to provide one location for storing airline info, store reward cards and more. It is not a payment system application, but seems like it could move that way in the future.

Mail enhancements: I almost fell on the floor laughing when I saw how excited people were about multiple email signatures coming to iOS. You can now have a different signature for each email account on your iOS device, WOW

You can also now finally add attachments from within the email client rather than having to go to the Photos app and then create an email. However, attachment support is still extremely limited due to Apple’s closed approach to the file system. You can attach just photos and only one at a time.

iOS 6 will also include a VIP mailbox so you can filter people’s email that you really want to see. One thing I love about HTC Sense is this same ability to have groups that let you quickly filter your email with the touch of a tab. Again, nothing new or groundbreaking for Android, but nice to see Apple catching up.

Facebook: iOS 5 brought some basic Twitter integration to the platform and now we see Apple including some Facebook support. Windows Phone launched with Facebook support and Android is the king of sharing capability with the most extensive support for sharing across a large number of services.

Notification center: Like other devices have for years, iOS 6 will now enable you to quickly reply with a text message when a call comes in and you don’t want to answer it. There will also be a Do Not Disturb feature that seems very handy.

If you do a quick search in the Play Store you can find several of these same type of apps available now for Android devices. I never gave much thought to it, but I might just try a couple of these out and find one for my HTC One X.

FaceTime over 3G: Since the launch of FaceTime on iOS, people have been asking for the ability to use it over a connection other than WiFi. Other developers provided this capability through their apps, Skype, Tango, and others. Apple will be making carriers happy in iOS 6 if people use it a lot with restricted wireless carrier data caps. Again, it’s another feature that was expected and good to finally see, but I prefer using Skype since it is able to be used with more people across all platforms.

Video stabilization: You will find that iOS 6 helps you reduce shaky videos, something seen on other platforms for some time.

Some other interesting new features include:

  • Guided Access enhancements that will help those with challenges use iOS devices.
  • Game Center improvements. (I never use this so maybe the improvements will have me finally trying it out on my iPad.)
  • Full screen landscape support in Safari. (will help with iPad browsing for sure.)
  • Safari browser syncing. (It’s teason why I use Chrome on my computers and HTC One X.)
  • Photo stream sharing.

iOS 6 is a welcome update for iOS fans. iOS 5 Apple borrowed quite a bit from multiple platforms and improved the user interface elements. It looks like they did the same again, but ICS already has some solid user interface elements for these features and the differentiation isn’t as great as it used to be.

With Google likely to reveal Jelly Bean later this month at Google I/O I can understand why analysts predict iOS to continue with a fairly flat rate of adoption. Microsoft may also hit it out of the park with Windows Phone 8 and hopefully we see some of what they have coming soon at their June developer conference.

I personally find the HTC One X to be a better piece of hardware than the iPhone 4S and with the customizations and useful glanceable widgets I intend to update my new iPad to iOS 6, but skip picking up a new iPhone when they are announced.

It depends on how compelling the new iPhone hardware is, but iOS 6 isn’t compelling enough itself to sway me from Android or Windows Phone.

Related ZDNet and CNET coverage

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05 Jun 12 Android 4.0 for Droid Razr delayed, Verizon says June 12

Soon to be a little sweeter…

Last month I reported that Motorola Droid Razr and
Razr Maxx users might get to taste the sweetness of Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich as soon as May 21, while Xoom 3G and 4G owners seemed stuck in Honeycomb thanks to an upgrade holding pattern for the foreseeable future.

That was then. Today, Verizon began pushing the Android update to Xoom users while Razr owners like myself are still hanging out in our digital gingerbread houses waiting for the next course of mobile OS dessert.

I got in touch with a source within Verizon to ask for a status report on the Razr update and was told that over-the-air updates are now expected to commence June 12.

Apparently the cause of the delay was a need to update the servers delivering the goods from
Android 4.0.3 to Android 4.0.4.

If you just can’t tolerate the wait any longer, you can get a little shot of Droid-based sugar with this leaked, and not fully functional, build of ICS for the Razr.

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04 Jun 12 Android ICS to have a shorter shelf life than Gingerbread



It will be close to nine months now, since Google announced their Ice Cream Sandwich, the successor to Gingerbread and even though it’s every bit as good as it’s advertised, the adoption rate leaves a lot be desired. Having said that, Android Developers reports that the adoption rate has gone up and is now up to 6.7 percent, as of June 1, which is a healthy growth, when you compare it to the 0.4 percent it was at the beginning of the year. However when compared to Gingerbread, which still holds the major slice of the Android distribution pie, ICS adoption has been a lot slower than expected. The delay most likely lies with the OEMs, since they have to skin the new OS, test it out to make sure nothing is broken and then release it. This ideally shouldn’t take too long, but most manufacturers have a fleet of different versions of the same phone that’s being sold in different countries and for different carriers, which is where the bottleneck comes in. It’s not like the iPhone, which is just one phone and one version that’s being sold globally. Gingerbread launched in December 2010 and according to the chart, more than 50 percent of all Android phones were already running 2.3.3 by December 2011. We are almost half way through 2012 now and the number of ICS handsets is nowhere close to that number.

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31 May 12 Samsung Galaxy S3 S Voice App Starts Working On Other Androids Again

Samsung Galaxy S3 S Voice(Photo: Samsung | Mobile Apps)

The most innovative feature of Samsung Galaxy S3 – S Voice – was hacked and ported to other Android smartphones last week. However, the joy was short lived as Samsung quickly figured it out and restricted the device access to servers required for functioning of the app. Surprisingly, however, the leaked S Voice app is functional again on Android smartphones other than Galaxy S3, if the latest reports are to be believed.

According to The Verge, the leaked S Voice app has started working again on ICS powered non-Samsung smartphone without any change in the code. Samsung’s voice assistant S Voice has been released on the company’s new flagship smartphone. It was hacked and distributed to the public around the same time. S Voice is an updated version of the voice assistant found in Galaxy S2. The app is widely popular due to its Siri-like functionality. S Voice can virtually do anything that Apple Siri does. You can place a call, text a friend, check weather, organize meetings, open apps and even shoot pictures on voice guidance.

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Earlier, it took less than a day for Samsung to shut down the unauthorized access to the app. However, it appears that Samsung has opened the gates to the servers and the leaked S Voice apk app is again working on other Ice Cream Sandwich devices. Folks at Android Community also confirmed the functioning of the app on Samsung Galaxy Nexus and HTC Sensation.

You can download the S Voice app in .apk file format from XDA Developer forums. However, to install it, you will need to enable application installations from non-market sources. Go to Settings – Security – Device Administration and check the “unknown sources” option on any Android 4.0 ICS powered smartphone.

In case, you have already installed the app and it is not working, it is recommended to re-install the app again.

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31 May 12 Dear Android App Developers, Can We Quit With the Menu Button Already and …

You see that massive, ugly black bar across the bottom of my HTC One X? Yeah, that would be the menu button that Android app developers refuse to move away from even though the Android team announced back in January that the death of the menu button was happening.

What they were hoping to accomplish with this move was a more consistent experience on Ice Cream Sandwich devices because going forward, Android was moving away from dedicated hardware menu buttons. Instead of coding your app to use a dedicated hardware menu button, they recommended that you take advantage of the action overflow capabilities in Android 4.0, which is essentially a menu button that is added to the app rather than one that is tied to a navigation button. If you do not code your app to use action overflow and instead tie it to a navigation button, you get the experience I have captured above if no menu button exists. 

Here are a few examples of apps still using the menu button, one being a Google app. And these aren’t all of them either, Foursquare, Hootsuite, ESPN Scorecenter, Sonos, Amazon MP3, Huffington Post, LinkedIn, and so on all continue to use a dedicated menu button with their apps. The list is enormous, and as you can tell, we aren’t talking about some tiny one-man operation here. These are the big boys that are failing to follow Android guidelines.


How should it work and why this move? Well, Google got half way there in their Reader app. As you can see from the screenie below and above left, the top right corner includes a 3-dotted button that is the action overflow area. When pressed, you get additional options that you would normally find when pressing a menu button. It makes sense to use this approach since ICS was built for multiple screens, some of which do not have hardware navigation buttons at all. If you code your app to use action overflow and it is tablet and phone compatible, you get the same experience on both. If you code it to use a menu button, depending on the phone and tablet that a person has, you may have two totally different experiences, which could be confusing to your users.

The reason I bring this up today is because we are seeing more and more phones launch without dedicated hardware menu buttons. The entire HTC One series along with the Incredible 4G LTE and EVO 4G LTE all do not have dedicated menu buttons and will have to experience the evil black bar. It’s time that developers recognize this. Unfortunately, these companies all likely test their apps on a Galaxy Nexus which has the ability to add a menu button to the on-screen navigation area, so they probably think that nothing is wrong.

The end of this issue is no where near completion, but you may want to start asking your favorite app devs to code their apps correctly. As devices continue to launch without dedicated menu buttons, you will soon understand the pain that some of us are experiencing on a daily basis.


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30 May 12 Android 4.0: Tracking Ice Cream Sandwich’s Availability on Smartphones

Last week HTC published a list of phones that will receive an update to Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich, along with approximate launch dates and a projected completion date of late August 2012. This is not a very encouraging prospect considering Google officially introduced ICS last October. Also because Android’s next major revision codenamed Jelly Bean will be close to release by then (slated for Q3/12).

But this is not an issue with HTC phones exclusively. In fact, Ice Cream Sandwich is more the exception rather than the rule on Android devices across the board. Theres a total of four smartphones shipping with the OS preloaded, just over a dozen with upgrades available, and more than 30 on the coming soon list (also: see a list of Android 4.0 ICS highlights).

Your choices here are limited to the Samsung Galaxy Nexus, which was released in December in partnership with Google and features an unskinned version of Android 4.0, and the HTC One lineup comprising the One S on T-Mobile, One X on ATT, and Evo 4G LTE on Sprint. These are soon to be joined by the Samsung Galaxy S III, which is expected to launch globally soon, including all four major carriers in the US.

These smartphones are already being upgraded to Android 4.0. If you own one of these and are still waiting for the update to come through, keep in mind that theyre being rolled out over a period of several weeks.





Galaxy S II (unlocked, Canada)


Xperia Ray


Sensation XE


Galaxy S II LTE (unlocked, Canada)


Xperia arc S


Sensation 4G (T-Mo, Bell, Virgin Ca.)


Galaxy Note (unlocked)
Xperia neo V


Vivid (ATT)


Nexus S 4G (Sprint)


Xperia arc


Velocity (Australia)


Nexus S (unlocked)


Xperia neo


Amaze 4G (T-Mobile)

Raider 4G (Bell Canada)

Not all phone manufacturers are offering specific details as to when each of their devices are getting upgraded to Android 4.0. Motorola is only listing them by quarter, while HTC recently provided a two-month release window, and Sony is being a little more specific with the next round of updates starting this week and continuing throughout June into the third quarter. Samsung is not giving out any dates whatsoever.

HTC notes that due to localization, testing, and partner approvals, updates do not roll out to all devices at the same time. For devices on a wide variety of carriers and in many countries, rollouts can take up to 45 days from the initial update to reach everyone. You can manually check for updates by going to SettingsAboutSoftware Updates if you are not prompted to update automatically.

The upgrade to Android 4.0 will include Sense 3.6, not Sense 4, since some aspects of Sense 4 require dedicated hardware, which is not available on all devices.

To date, the only Motorola device that has been upgraded to Android 4.0 is the WiFi-only XOOM (and only the versions in the US or Canada). The company outlined their 4-step updating process back in December and plans to start rolling out a few of those soon. Regarding the selection of phones that qualify for updates and the ones that dont, Motorola has this to say: Obviously we want the new release to improve our devices. If we determine that cant be donewell then, were not able to upgrade that particular device.

Samsung has been at the forefront of the move from 2.3 to 4.0, rolling Ice Cream Sandwich out to a number of unlocked devices, including the hugely popular Galaxy S II. Unfortunately, updates to branded devices tend to get held up in carrier-specific testing so a lot of users with subsidized phones are still waiting their turn. Making matters worst neither Samsung nor carriers are sharing a timeframe for the update.

Sony has been pretty forthcoming about its Ice Cream Sandwich rollout and so far theyve mostly kept true to their planned upgrade schedule. Just recently they started rolling out updates for two of their 2011 devices and more should follow throughout the week and over the next month. Notably, the Xperia Play will be the only Xperia phone from last years lineup not getting the update, as Sony cited stability and consistency issues.

Sony is rolling out Android 4.0.4 to its devices while remaining on kernel 2.6.32 technically, ICS should feature Kernel 3.0.X+. Its unclear if this will result in any issues or missing features. A developer for Sony Ericsson had previously said that it takes a lot of testing and validation to make a new kernel stable, so they decided to keep the tried and tested 2.6.32 kernel to release ICS as quickly as possible.

If theres one lesson to learn here is that you should buy a phone that makes you happy today, not one that promises new features with an update that may or may not appear. Granted, thats a valid advice for any consumer electronic purchase, but Android serves as the perfect example for it.

That said, its not unreasonable to want your one-year-old phone to be able to get the latest software update, especially when you know its technically capable of running it. There are many new features to be gained in the transition from Gingerbread to Ice Cream Sandwich. Here are a few of the most noteworthy:

  • UI Improvements: Android 4.0 is based on a new look and feel, the Holo theme, which offers a more consistent experience throughout the OS and makes it easier for users to find those common buttons and actions. Theres also a new Roboto font thats easier on the eye and has a more modern feel.

  • Multitasking, Widgets, and Folders: Theres a new Recent Apps button that lets users jump from one task to another, and a side-swiping gesture to get rid of apps youre no longer using. Users can also resize widgets to their liking and drag and drop icons on top of each other to create folders.

  • Contacts and sharing: ICS ditches the old Android 2.3 contact list for one that shows richer profile information, including large profile picture, phone numbers, addresses, and a button for connecting on integrated social networks. Theres also a new NFC peer-to-peer sharing feature that allows users with NFC-capable devices to share apps, contacts, music, videos by touching one phone to another.

  • Improved speed and full hardware acceleration: Tests have shown significant performance improvements in Android 4.0 when it comes to handling graphics and using the web browser.

  • Data usage manager: Android 4.0 allows users to monitor total data usage by network type and application, as well as set limits on those data-hungry apps so you dont incur in expensive overage fees.

  • Various other new features and enhancements: You can access the camera and notifications without unlocking your device first, theres a new face-unlock feature, Wi-Fi direct support to share files between compatible devices, improvements to the camera and video apps, and more.

Lastly, its also worth noting that the lack of timely updates exacerbates Androids fragmentation problem, which makes it that much harder for developers to QA apps. If youve ever wondered why you run into bugs and other unexplained behaviors on Android but not on iOS, well, fragmentation probably played a part on it.

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