Tablet S and ICS

The evening of Thursday 26th April 2012 brought forth a flurry of activity in the Sony Tablet community and on the XDA forums too, as Sony’s fabled update to Android 4.0.3 – Ice Cream Sandwich – finally, after a couple delays and false starts, saw the light of day.

Naturally this wasn’t a global rollout, targeted instead at American and Japanese markets. Thank goodness then for the XDA forums’ Tablet saviour that is Condi. This wunderkind provided us with a copy of the U.S. software and the means by which to install it to ALL machines, regardless of region.

His guide, though relatively straightforward, is not for the faint of heart but the results yield a far greater return compared to the time invested – it’s a largely automated process. If you don’t want to wait for Sony to release the update in the U.K., where I’m based, point your browser HERE for Condi’s awesome All-in-One tool for Sony Tablets plus a handy dandy guide to installing ICS on your machine.

There was a slight glitch with his installation tool, but dig deep enough in the posts and you’ll be able to find hints and tips for a cleaner (i.e. working) install from yours truly. Look for TheHurf and ye shall be rewarded! Hopefully Condi will have updated the AiO tool to fix the glitch, as this was bricking some machines. Errors aside if you take the plunge, but you’re a bit of a noob, make sure you read everything thoroughly before beginning anything. A poor workman blames his tools – unless it’s someone else’s fault! – so read up, read it again, then in case of problems, read it some more!

The upgrade itself takes very little time and is very nice looking. Very nice looking – which isn’t to say Honeycomb is hideous, as that was very good looking too, but ICS has got a much better feel to it; it’s cleaner, it’s smoother, it’s faster. It looks better – the grey and blue finish I’ve currently got running looks the biz on the HD screen of the tablet.

Live wallpapers are much better – Bubbles is great fun. The App draw has been improved upon and now has proper pages, as opposed to an endless scroll, and the animation for jumping between pages has improved as well. Very pleasing!

ICS brings a whole host of optimising features as well – from native external SD card reading to a useable task manager that actually lets you close apps you’re not using – this is an OS that’s looked at the last 18 months of Android development through the last stages of FroYo 2.2 in 2010, Gingerbread 2.3 in 2011, Honeycomb 3.0 AND 3rd party development throughout the Market and amateur developers, incorporating many of these advances into a cohesive whole.

For example, the Tablet comes with an external SD card slot, but Honeycomb didn’t have the ability to read the card ‘live’. In order to use this feature, you had to root the tablet then install and run init.d support and a custom script. Not too difficult but very annoying! ICS supports external SD features out the box and resolves the issue.

I believe WiFi connection has been improved – repairing the notoriously finnicky ‘never disconnect’ feature from Honeycomb and GPS location has been improved as well.

It still doesn’t come with a file manager, which is a little strange when the 2012 Xperias come bundled with Astro, but that’s something which has long been a personal bugaboo of mine. Reading up about it though, Jelly Bean 5.0 is rumoured to come with a proper, native file manager. Only taken 4 years!

It’s difficult to say whether battery life has improved as I’ve basically ragged the tablet all weekend, but it does appear to be lasting longer, despite endless fiddling! Watch this space!

EDIT: Condi’s All in One Tool has been updated to fix the ICS error and AiO 2.9 can be found on XDA.

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