Google has made the source code for Android 4.0 available, and the fine folks over at XDA Developers and Cyanogen have created a port that will run on last year's Nexus S, but installing it is not recommended unless you know what you're doing under the hood of an Android smartphone.
Verizon Wireless is slated to release the Galaxy Nexus in the U.S. in the coming weeks. Verizon has been coy about the timing, however. We know that it is imminent, and will include Long Term Evolution 4G. But if you can't wait that long to buy a new phone, you should at least be sure to pick one that is slated to receive Android 4.0. Here's why.
Consider all the Android update drama that has unfolded over the last two years. Android saw a big leap in late 2009 from 1.6 to 2.0 (and almost immediately 2.1). Android handset makers spent the first half of 2010 scrambling to update 1.6 devices to 2.0, and eventually to 2.1, and to 2.2. Handset makers and network operators sold devices with the promise of swift system upgrades, only to hit snag after snag.
You don't have to look any further than Android 2.3 Gingerbread, which was released in December 2010 and is still being rolled out to devices that were launched in mid-2011. Yes, that means Android smartphones are still being sold with Android 2.2 Eclair. Shameful! Considering how vast and deep the changes between Android 2.3 Gingerbread and Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich are, you do not want to get stuck on a device that can't or won't be updated.
With that in mind, here is a partial list of smartphones that are expected to receive Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich at some point during the first quarter of 2012, based on comments made by either the manufacturer or the network operator. If the phone you want is not on this list, I highly recommend you pick one that is.
HTC has committed to upgrading a number of its smartphones in "early 2012." HTC hasn't said how early, and will provide more information as it becomes available. The update list includes the Amaze 4G, EVO 3D, EVO Design 4G, Rezound, Sensation, Sensation XE, Sensation XL, and Vivid. Most of these devices are sold in the U.S. by the major carriers, AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless.
LG, too, has announced via its Facebook page that it will upgrade a handful of its Android smartphones to Android 4.0. They are the Optimus 2X, Optimus 3D, Optimus Black, and the Optimus LTE. These handsets are available in the U.S. under different names. So far, LG has only committed to updating the international variants. LG hasn't said if any of the U.S. versions (LG G2x, Nitro HD, etc.) will be update.
The list of Motorola handsets on deck to receive Ice Cream Sandwich is pretty short. The only phones definitely receiving Android 4.0 are the Droid Bionic, Droid Razr (U.S. version), and Razr (international version). Motorola announced that these phones will get Android 4.0 early in 2012. There are a dozen Motorola phones for sale from U.S. carriers that may not get the update.
Samsung hasn't been as forthcoming as its rivals about Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich upgrades. We know that the Galaxy Nexus will ship with Android 4.0. The Galaxy Nexus S II Skyrocket for AT&T will get Android 4.0, according to AT&T, though no timing has been announced. Beyond these two phones, Samsung hasn't said anything about its entire line of Galaxy S smartphones.
Sony Ericsson has been far more vocal about which devices will receive Android 4.0. In a blog post, Sony said that it will update its entire line-up of Xperia-branded Android smartphones to Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich. This includes the Xperia arc and arc S, Xperia Play, Xperia neo and neo V, Xperia mini and mini pro, Xperia pro, Xperia active, and Xperia ray. Sony Ericsson said that it is working to merge the features of its Xperia software with those of Android 4.0, and will have more information on the availability of the system updates at a later time, but the updates are on schedule for delivery in the first quarter of the year. Sony Ericsson has not had much luck with its updates in the past, however, and it wouldn't be surprising for the Xperia handsets to receive Android 4.0 later in the year.
Bottom line: Be careful in choosing a new Android smartphone. It's the holidays, and the carriers are running some excellent sales on many of these (and other) handsets. Given the significance of Android 4.0, it is worth waiting for new hardware if you can, or choosing one of the handsets listed above.
The Enterprise Connect conference program covers the full range of platforms, services, and applications that comprise modern communications and collaboration systems. It happens March 25-29 in Orlando, Fla. Find out more.