I will go on the record and state that I love Android Ice Cream Sandwich. I love the fluid user interface, the futuristic Holo theme, the aptly named Roboto font and its swipe-able UI elements among many other qualities. Hell, I love it so much that I’ve even started eating more Ice Cream Sandwiches ever since it was announced.

ICS is a completely new direction for Android, it is its first version that has a coherent design vision behind it, and its Director of User Experience, Matias Duarte has outdone himself. The care and love he has put in while designing it was pretty self-evident, that is, until OEM’s got their slimy hands upon its shiny, beautiful interface.
The crux of the matter is that Samsung just started rolling out its ICS update for its most popular smartphone to date, the Galaxy SII. And it is horrendous. Absolutely horrendous. There is nothing intrinsically wrong with it, except the fact that it looks EXACTLY the same as Gingerbread. Samsung have taken a revolutionary update to the Android operating system and turned it into an iterative one, which is behaviour that I cannot, in good conscience, condone. I am surprised that Google is not yet up in arms against such a base defilement of its beautiful child.

Samsung’s logic states that it does not want to change an interface that millions of its users have now gotten used to, which, superficially, seems pretty sound. But, the problem is that people were expecting ICS to be an absolutely revolutionary change and as Nokia and Symbian have already shown us, companies should not keep sticking to a familiar UI and ebb the tide of progress while the world around them keeps evolving. It is a cut-throat world right now, you either innovate and move forward or stagnate and die.

Not doing ICS justice

Not doing ICS justice

Which brings us to future innovation from Samsung. The company is about to introduce its latest flagship smartphone, the Galaxy SIII. The question then arises as to what Samsung shall make of the software atop such a seminal device; will they again cater to legacy users and use the same version of TouchWiz as on the SGS2, or will they completely re-vamp the UI to accompany the new device? As the situation stands, both of the options present potential pitfalls. If they stick to SGS2’s UI, the tech industry at large would be completely disappointed, as Samsung would be the only company to blatantly ignore ICS to such an extent. On the other hand, if they do introduce a new UI, they would be fragmenting their own Android smartphone portfolio.

Samsung has already garnered a reputation for being very flaky with regard to their updates. They decided not to update the Galaxy S to ICS at all and all this further confusion might be a potential nail in Samsung’s coffin for the year 2012. That is just how fast a single bad decision travels among the tech fraternity in these times.

I don’t want to sound like an Apple fanboy, but this is one place where Samsung and the whole Android OEM conglomerate sorely need to learn the ropes from Apple. They update their phones regularly and consistently. You can still pick up the iPhone 3GS, launched 3 years ago and it would still have more or less the same experience as a newly minted iPhone 4S, while in Samsung’s case, every subsequent generation of their flagship ‘S’ line has a monumentally different experience. Come on Sammy, wise up!

You can connect with Harshit Passi on Twitter @hrshtpassi

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