It’s only been official for a few hours, but there’s already been a fair bit of sniping about the Samsung Galaxy Nexus. Largely, it centres around the phone’s hefty price compared to the Galaxy S2 and the rather paltry 5 megapixel camera.

But such early criticism misses the point: Google’s latest announcement is as much about the new version of Android, Ice Cream Sandwich, as it is about the Galaxy Nexus itself. In fact, ICS is a landmark, proof that in the software design stakes, Google is finally ready to go toe-to-toe with Apple and iOS.

For years now, Android’s look and feel has failed to float my boat. The icons have looked naff and the fonts have been way off the mark, especially on more hi-res handsets. Thankfully, the latter is about to change, with a new font dubbed Roboto being unveiled yesterday. This new look typeface works across both smartphones and tablets, thanks to ICS’s device agnostic approach and could actually be the biggest, most important change that Android 4.0 brings.

Some may scoff, but fonts are vital to an OS’s success. Steve Jobs talked of his love of calligraphy inspiring Apple’s early software design, something which is still vital in the iPhone 4S and iPad today. Fonts aren’t just about good looks. Roboto is about readability, especially important as top-end Android phones now come with increasingly large screens. As ICS spreads to tablets in the next few months, expect Google to make a huge deal of this, as much as new features like Android Beam and Face Unlock. It needs to in order to prove that Android phones and tablets are worthy reading devices.

Icons also appear cleaner and clearer on ICS, with Roboto making them easy to find and read while you’re scrolling through menu structures. These are small refinements, but they really can’t be underestimated. Until now, Android always felt like a good, workaday operating system that lacked the spit and polish and design nous of iOS. But with ICS, Google has really hit on something. Not content with trying to outdo Apple with technological advancements that put the iPhone 4S and iPad’s software in the shade, it’s finally looking to make subtle improvements that act like a psychological dog-whistle to first time users of Android devices.

The unification of the operating system, simplifying what could at times be an unintuitive experience on smartphones using Android 2.3 Gingerbread and below, is also evidence of Google’s more mature, grown-up approach. The simple, clean lines and more regulated controls are much more beautiful. Looking rough around the edges is no way to take on Apple and the Big G knows this now. It’s no use shouting from the roof tops about killer content and snappier processors if the phone itself isn’t an absolute doddle to use for technophobes and tech fanatics alike.

Best of all, Samsung’s confirmed that ICS will be rolling out to the Galaxy S2, so you won’t need to buy a brand new blower to sample the OS soon. And when you do download the latest upgrade, you’ll notice how much slicker your older phone looks.

  • Anonymous

    Android has been grown up for a while now.   That’s why iOS stole folders (Introduced in Android 1.6) and Notifications (Introduced in Android 1.0) and plenty of other features besides..

    And as for camera pixel counts, do people REALLY still believe that the pixel count of a CCD is the most important criteria for buying a cameraphone?

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