Slowly and not so surely, Ice Cream Sandwich is rolling out. The Motorola Droid Razr and Droid Razr Maxx will be the latest handsets to receive an update, bringing them from Android 2.3.6 (Gingerbread) to Android 4.0.4 (Ice Cream Sandwich). We were given a Droid Razr Maxx with the update to test out.
The update is currently in user testing and not yet available for download. But when it is, there are two different ways to get ICS on your device. If you don’t mind waiting, you’ll automatically receive a prompt on your phone at some point in the future asking if you’d like to install the update. But due to the amount of users out there, those update messages are sent out in batches over a period of time, and chances are you’ve waited long enough. If that’s the case, you can initiate the update yourself when it’s available.
From your phone’s home screen, tap the Menu Key Settings About phone System updates Download. Once the download has completed, tap Install now. The device will power off and back on, show a progress bar and an installing icon. Once installation is complete the device will power off and back on again, finalizing the installation. When complete, you will see an install successful confirmation.
Once installed, you’re ready to get a taste of Ice Cream Sandwich. The first thing you’ll notice is that Motorola has adopted many new visual elements directly from Google’s stock ICS UI. The Maxx now has a much more of a Google feel to it than it did with Motorola’s heavily skinned version of Gingerbread. Most of the icons are new, and a fifth app has been added to the launch bar at the bottom of the home screen: People. More on that in a bit.
Another change you’ll notice occurs right when you turn the phone on, with the lock screen. You can now unlock the phone directly to the camera, home screen, phone dialer, or text messaging. Additionally, you can now use Face Unlock, which is an ICS feature that uses facial recognition and your phone’s front-facing camera to unlock automatically when it recognizes your face. This worked very well in testing, although it’s not the most secure option, as it may also unlock for a face similar to yours, or even a printout of your face.
You’ll notice another big change on your Apps screen. You can still use it to launch apps and place them on your home screen, but now there’s an additional tab at the top of the page for Widgets. Additionally, the portfolio of available widgets is now more comprehensive and streamlined, which makes it even easier to customize your phone exactly the way you like. New home screen folders let you group your apps and shortcuts. To create a folder, simply drag and drop shortcuts onto one another. This can help you clean up your home screens, and keep more of your favorite apps front and center.
A new People app replaces your old Contacts app. It offers richer profile information, large pictures, status updates, and integration with social networks. The Phone app has received an update as well, which makes it easier to place calls. The new Favorites page looks great, with large photos of each of your favorite contacts, rather than a list.
The Web browser has been upgraded as well, which gives it a decent speed boost. The phone received a BrowserMark score of 97518 running Gingerbread. With Ice Cream Sandwich, the phone scored 105849. That isn’t a huge difference, but it helps.
Additionally, a new voice input engine makes it easier for your phone to take dictation. Compared to a Motorola Droid 4 running Gingerbread, for instance, voice input on the Razr Maxx with Ice Cream Sandwich feels slightly faster and is a touch more accurate.
Another major bonus is is that the ICS upgrade will make your Razr Maxx global ready, so you can use it to talk, text, and browse the Web in over 220 countries. There are plenty of other helpful new features, too, like the ability to take screenshots natively, a built-in data manager that helps you track data usage, some cool new features in the Camera app, and more. You can read about all of the new ICS features in Sascha Segan’s review and more details about the update are available on Verizon’s support website.
The bottom line is that Motorola’s version of ICS is here, and it’s much closer to stock than what we’ve seen from HTC or Samsung on their latest handsets. So if you want a phone running a relatively unmodified version of ICS, the Droid Razr or Droid Razr Maxx are now viable choices.
The Motorola Atrix 4G, Atrix 2, Droid 4, Droid Bionic, and Photon 4G are still waiting in line for an ICS update. When it comes, I expect it’ll look a lot like what we see here.
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