Editorial: Samsung Releases ICS Update For Tab 10.1 8 Months After ICS Source Code Drop: Why I’m Happy

Your first thought should be “Why the hell did it take 8 months? What the hell is wrong with you for being happy? Be mad!” Well, let me tell you, I was mad. I was mad for a long time. Why should I be stuck on Honeycomb 3.2, an OS that was in all fairness a beta test? It had hardware acceleration that wasn’t smooth, a new UI that was very unfinished, and no support for all the best apps. It was a beta test and I didn’t want to stay on it. Yes, I had the custom ROM scene, and trust me, I used it. If developers could get ICS running so well, why can’t Samsung. I’ve been running a generally stable ICS build for months, and even a pretty stable Jelly Bean build. Sure, there was no camera, and even Project Butter couldn’t save the Tegra 2, but it WORKED. Samsung, why have you forsaken us?

Enter my thought process. What led me to appreciate it. 8 months of waiting, yet I’m happy. First, I observed ASUS. They original Transformer was one of the biggest competing tablets to the Galaxy Tab 10.1. It received its Ice Cream Sandwich about 3 months after the ICS source drop. Sounds great right? I thought so. ASUS got so much praise for this, and no one saw a reason not to praise them. Eventually, I did. I know a few people with Transformers. The updates broke their tablets. I read around on the internet, seeing reports of this to various degrees. Some people had random reboots. Some people got hard lockups many times a day. In essence, a lot of people were left with nearly inoperable tablets due to one update that obviously wasn’t tested enough. It took two or three updates to get it generally stable, the last one being a month or two ago, and it still has issues from what I hear. But at least the serious issues are fixed.

How about Lenovo? They gave up on the IdeaPad K1. They did release ICS, but it was a fully AOSP build with no support and no Play Store. It was not OTA, and had to manually be installed. In my opinion, the lack of Play Store made the tablet useless, and I’d have rather stayed on Honeycomb. I mean, I definitely am glad that Lenovo released it, it’s better than nothing, but it isn’t good enough.

Take a look at all the other first generation tablets in the wild. How many have Ice Cream Sandwich? My bet is very little. Updates for the first wave of tablets were trash, overall. They were a big beta test, using the crap Tegra 2 and unfinished Honeycomb software. For the most part, manufacturers didn’t care about them anymore and moved on, trying to forget that nightmare. A few did, and I’m sure we are all thankful for that. But let’s examine the ICS update for the Galaxy Tab 10.1.

I haven’t personally flashed it (I’m saving that for tonight), but I’ve already done some extensive reading on it. I already had issues with a Tab update (the TouchWiz update had a weird glitch that made it unusable until I factory reset the same day, so I’m a little cautious. Everyone around me updated perfectly fine and noticed better performance, so it was a fluke). So from my reading, I’ve heard nothing but glowing reviews of the new software version. People say it’s smoother and better than even Jelly Bean with Project Butter (and yes, we had it working). Making a Tegra 2 tablet smooth is nearly impossible, but apparently Samsung did it. After a few days, there have been no major bugs. Nothing bad. It’s a clean, stable, working update that actually improves the user experience, like any update should.

“Yes, it’s a great update, but why are you happy it took so long? Idiot!” says you, with a smug look on your face. I rebut: At least I had a working tablet for these 8 months. One that wasn’t unusable due to a rushed update. One that I knew won’t be permanently stuck on an old and inferior software version. And now that the Tab 10.1 has the update, we can be happy that it is an improved experience. That’s most important for the consumer world: keeping a tablet working and improving it. Making it smoother was a great move, and honestly an incredibly impressive one (no, seriously, the Tegra 2 was a bad processor for UI interation). Samsung played all their cards right. Yes, I still think it took far too long. But considering how well everything went, I was happy to wait. Samsung did it better than any manufacturer I’ve seen (XOOM in my eyes is a quasi-Nexus device, having Google’s blessing and support, so it doesn’t count here).

What does this mean for the Android world? If Samsung did it best, and it still took 8 months, what does that say about Android? Very little, really. These tablets were the first wave, a literal beta test of a software version that had no source code drop and hardware that was limited to one type of chipset. No, the manufacturers aren’t right for mostly abandoning these devices. But in a way, I can see why they did. They were old, unimpressive, and never provided the right consumer experience a device should provide. That’s why they were abandoned by many. The new wave of tablets (and devices) are being updated quite fast. If you look at the number of mid to high end devices that have had the ICS update available (many people ignore updates, so let’s look at the number that have it available), and it’s decent. Not piss poor like most people like to say. Sure, the market is oversaturated with crap phones on Gingerbread that everyone knows won’t be updated because the manufacturer doesn’t care. But some of the bigger companies have been very dedicated recently. These specific tablets should say nothing about the rest of the Android ecosystem. Even if the ecosystem is bad in terms of updates, it isn’t broken. It is just completely far from ideal.

This editorial is based on a debate I had with a fellow editor, Joey Lehto. Debate should be used loosely, as it was more of a heated argument laced with the inability to count and a lot of hilarious antics. He will be writing his side of the story, but here is mine. General satisfaction, despite a wait that was definitely longer than necessary. Was it perfect? Far from it. But in the end, it was acceptable. I hope all of you can look past your pessimism and agree.

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