A couple of days ago the Sony Xperia P received the highly awaited Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich update.We had held back our review because of the incoming ICS update as it adds a ton of functionality to the Xperia P. Read on to find out more.
The moment we switched on the phone after the update to ICS we expected no UI changes and for the part, that’s exactly what we got. Under the hood, however, the story was completely different. With ICS has received a plethora of new features that include an improved notifications system, a new multitasking system, a data usage monitor, an improved web browser, an improved Walkman app with FLAC support, a ton of new Google apps, a new integrated search, Face Unlock and resizable widgets.
Generally all these features convert to improved usability, but there are the odd weird bits thrown-in here and there. For instance, the screenshot option has been removed from long press power menu to a combination of the power key and the volume down key. Admittedly, this is the stock Android screenshot configuration, but we actually liked the older option over the stock implementation.
On the lock-screen, now one can swipe to open the camera in addition to unlocking the device. While this feature was added in the Galaxy Nexus as a part of the stock ICS experience, Sony’s implementation is rather similar to iOS. One can even swipe away notifications from the lock-screen almost exactly like iOS.
Sony has thrown in a number of updated widgets in the update, but the big deal out here is the ability to resize widgets, which is a core functionality of the Ice Cream Sandwich update. The new Album app replaces the Gallery application. It is by far the most beautiful photo viewing application we have seen till now. It not only integrates Google Maps, but also one’s Picassa web albums, so one can find their entire repository of images in one clean, simple and beautiful UI.
Another usability enhancement comes in the form of the new multi-tasking menu that allows the user to swipe away apps, which even makes it easier to manage all the running applications. Previously on Gingerbread there was no proper way of managing apps.
The new notifications menu also is a boon and now one can directly access the settings menu directly from the notifications pull-down. In the settings mode we also get access to developer options where the user can ‘Force GPU rendering’ for improved performance and also turn of some of the animations. Unfortunately though, the ICS update on the Sony phones does not bring along the beautiful ‘Roboto Font’ heralded in ICS.
The stock browser on the Xperia P is a tad faster and now it can support up to 16 tabs simultaneously. But one can also now download Chrome for Android from the Google Play market, which is perhaps the fastest mobile web browser doing the rounds.
The Data Usage monitor can be used to keep a tab on one’s data usage. This is a really handy tool if one has a penchant for hogging 3G bandwidth, as it can help throttle ones usage. Another ICS feature that shows up is Face Unlock. It’s more of a party trick, but handy nonetheless. That said, it is not a very reliable security feature.
In our tests so far the good news is that there is no disconcerting performance dip as experienced by the users of the 2011 line of Xperia devices. On the whole, the update to Ice Cream Sandwich further improves the Xperia P which was already pretty darn good.