The Keyboard

The stock Gingerbread keyboard was a significant step forward, but the ICS keyboard is really good. I don't know that there's much that's truly groundbreaking about the ICS keyboard, but it's at the point where short of Swype for those users who care about it, I would be very disappointed to see any third party keyboard replacements from HTC, Motorola or Samsung.

The basic layout hasn't changed from Gingerbread, although there are a few subtle differences. You get the same standard four row keyboard with two alternate modes (numerics and symbols). Where the Gingerbread/ICS keyboards differed from the standard iOS or Windows Phone keyboard is there's a fifth row of punctuation keys by default above the rest of the keyboard. This fifth (or first, depending on how you look at it) row actively changes into a list of predicted words. The word in the center is what the autocorrect engine believes you're typing, while the words on the left/right are alternates. While Gingerbread allowed you to scroll horizontally on this row, the items are fixed in ICS. As a consolation, you can bring up additional autocorrect suggestions by tapping and holding on a word in the prediction row. Accented characters are available by pressing and holding on keys that can be accented. Popup menus also exist for punctuation and the smiley key.

Keypresses are still accompanied by a magnified duplicate of the key itself. Unlike in Gingerbread where the magnified key hovered unconnected, the ICS keyboard connects the magnified key to the key itself. In my opinion this makes the keyboard look less chaotic when you're typing very quickly. Rather than giving the impression of random letters flying around everywhere, the animation serves its intended purpose better: letting you know what you just hit.

 

There's also a hidden Android Keyboard debug settings pane with some different themes that can be selected. 

Gingerbread vs. Ice Cream Sandwich - Keyboard & Autocorrect
  Gingerbread Ice Cream Sandwich
Keyboard

Quick Punctuation

Autocorrect
Autocorrect

Facial Recognition

Android has historically offered multiple options to secure your phone or tablet. Ice Cream Sandwich continues the trend. You can choose a basic PIN with a minimum of four numbers and a maximum of 17. There's an alphanumeric password option, simple slide to unlock and no security at all. ICS adds a new option to the list: Face Unlock.

The feature is exactly what it sounds like. ICS can store a photo of your face and use it as authentication for unlocking your device. While you only need a single picture to start, Google recommends taking multiple photos in different lighting conditions, with/without glasses and with a clean vs. unshaven face if applicable. As a backup you have to provide ICS with a PIN in case it can't recognize your face (either due to lighting conditions or because of a recent tumble down some stairs).

Google warns that someone who looks like you would be able to unlock your device, making Face Unlock less secure than a long PIN, pattern or password. Admittedly a thief would have to either be really lucky or know what you look like to fool the technology, but it is a valid point.

The feature actually works surprisingly well in practice. With Face Unlock enabled the lock screen has a front facing camera live view window that you're supposed to use to center your face. With the exception of really bright (with the light shining into the camera) or really dim scenarios, Face Unlock worked for me almost every time. When it works perfectly using your face to unlock the phone is extremely quick. In the right conditions I've seen ICS unlock itself a split second after I even saw my face on the screen. On average though the process is slower than typing in a PIN or using any of the other unlock methods. Furthermore, if you use your phone a lot at night (especially in cars) you have to hit the power/lock button then tap the lock icon to circumvent Face Unlock and go directly to your PIN/password/pattern. Finally, don't try to use Face Unlock to unlock your phone while driving - that's a recipe for bad, or worse, death.

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  • JohnJackson - Wednesday, February 08, 2012 - link

    You mean the one where the devices were running the benchmarks at the respective device's NATIVE resolution? 960x640 has 60% more pixels than 800x480...

    http://www.anandtech.com/show/4064/glbenchmark-20-...
    Reply
  • Subzero0000 - Thursday, January 19, 2012 - link

    Where do you get "lag" in iPad 2?

    I use it everyday and the only lag I found is when I slide to the spotlight screen, or browsing webpage (while rendering).
    Reply
  • sonelone - Thursday, January 19, 2012 - link

    Seriously, where do you get lag on the iPad or iPhone? With the SGX543MP2 rendering nothing but a grid of icons, getting lag would be ridiculous. Reply
  • augustofretes - Thursday, January 19, 2012 - link

    Pseudo power users, judging mobile operating systems based on their home screens since 2007. Reply
  • audioman83 - Thursday, January 19, 2012 - link

    LOL agreed. So sad. Reply
  • Owls - Thursday, January 19, 2012 - link

    blah blah blah I don't like my iphone/ipad being compared so let me make fun of that person for being objective.

    I know the gnex is not perfect but guess what, neither is your apple product. We all live with compromises and this is no different. However, I refused to be ripped off by apple AND be forced to use itunes.

    sorry mr apple user.
    Reply
  • Subzero0000 - Friday, January 20, 2012 - link

    Firstly, I think you are over-reacting (so did augustofretes).

    See, I wouldn't complain if someone finds a few lag on Android, because I appreciate the fact that Android is running true-multitasking, with all the widgets and background tasks give us the flexibility that iOS can never dream of.

    But then, you cloud your judgment with hatred...

    For example, I use Windows 7 at home, Android for phone, iPad for everything else (reading, browsing, gaming, etc...).

    I use Google account to sync calendar+contact between Android and iPad.
    I buy books in Amazon, and read them through Kindle app on iPad.
    I upload my own mp3 to iPad through iTunes, no problem.
    Mobile games are better quality on iOS (the truth), so I am happy to buy in AppStore.

    There is nothing forcing you to use iTunes.

    and "ripped off"? I actually think iPad is cheap, as a outstanding CONSUMER product.

    So, calm down, it's just a product. And have a nice day :)
    Reply
  • medi01 - Friday, January 20, 2012 - link

    Yeah, nothing is "forcing" you to use iTunes apart from the fact that many Apple's products won't even switch on for the first time without itunes. Reply
  • Subzero0000 - Friday, January 20, 2012 - link

    Well, what is the matter with one-time activate with iTune?
    If you find that annoying, then how about the procedure to root/flash your Android, or jb your iOS.

    How on earth would a tech-savvy find it annoying/difficult for such a easy task (iTune) ???
    I am really confused.
    Do you ever forget about the brand-hate and not being stubborn for a second?

    btw, I remember I got my iPad activated at the store, their staff open the box and do it for me anyway. I could have done it by myself, but hey, it's "customer service".

    oh, and if you think iTune is crap, wait till you try Samsung's "equivalent" (KIES)...
    Reply
  • medi01 - Saturday, January 21, 2012 - link

    Oh, now easily you've switched from "nobody is forcing you" to "what's the deal".

    It's not one time activate with most devices it's "one time activate and this PC is your only way to put stuff on your device, unless you are using yet to be closed internet way of doing it".

    @@@If you find that annoying, then how about the procedure to root/flash your Android, or jb your iOS.@@@

    Could you get a clue, before whining about stuff about which you have very little idea? The only reason I had to root android device, was bacause it was rather old OS with fonts that didn't contain glyphs I needed.

    And one thing you're completely missing, dear "I'm not an apple fanboi", YOU DON'T HAVE TO ROOT YOUR ANDROID DEVICE TO GET ACCESS TO IT. You don't have to root it to access it as a hard drive. Neither do you have to root it to install whatever you want on it.

    @@@oh, and if you think iTune is crap, wait till you try Samsung's "equivalent" (KIES).@@@
    I've never used KIES (even though I have a phone and a tablet by Samsung), so it's hard to compare them. But unlike apple "customers", android users have absolutely no need in using KIES.
    Reply

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