The long awaited Android 4.0 “Ice Cream Sandwich” update for the Andy Pad tablet devices is finally here and I upgraded my Andy Pad Pro tablet straight away. The update process is fairly straight forward with detailed instructions available on the Andy Pad website. It is a manual update via an installer package that needs to be run on a Windows PC.

I initially bought my tablet after hearing great things about it on TDL to mainly be used by my two daughters who are 5 and 2 respectively. While I was impressed with the hardware and build of the device the standard software ROM running Android 2.3 “Gingerbread” left a lot to be desired. I found the device very slow and unresponsive and at times touch input pretty inaccurate. Another problem was the lack of the Android Market (now Google Play) on the device, which for a casual user who isn’t as tech savvy could cause confusion. Luckily some clever developers released a series of custom ROMs for the device which greatly improved the speed and usability and added support for the official Android Market. I have been running a custom ROM ever since.

Having never used ICS on a device before I really wasn’t sure what to expect but I have to say it has given the Andy Pad a whole lease of life which in my opinion was desperately needed at this stage of the device’s life cycle. The UI is simply beautiful, fast and responsive making this feel like a completely new tablet. Everything just works so much quicker, from changing settings to loading apps. I’ve also noticed my battery life has improved quite a bit. It is so much more intuitive to use and setup than previous versions of Android that even I feel comfortable using it coming from an iOS tablet background.

Thankfully the developers opted not to fill their software image with unnecessary apps or too much branding whatsoever leaving it up to the user do. You do get apps such as Dropbox, Evernote, TuneIn Radio and Twitter which is a nice start.
Unfortunately the old problem of not having the official Google Play app has cropped up once again (I don’t think they are allowed to bundle it in) but they do supply an alternative called “GetJar” preinstalled. At the time of writing users are finding GetJar to work on certain apps and not others, just hanging on a download screen, as was my experience. Fortunately on the Android ecosystem it is pretty easy to install third party “markets” to get access to the majority of the free apps.
I tried to manually add the Google Play apk and although it did install, let me log in and browse the market, as soon as I tried to download an app it crashed and refused to work again. I small setback but I’m sure it won’t be long before this is resolved.

To summarise, I would definately recommend upgrading to ICS on the Andy Pad regardless of which ROM version, custom or otherwise, you were running before as the improvements in terms of speed, UI and sheer usability greatly outweigh the teething problems that all initial releases encounter. The fact that the developers have worked on this release at this stage of the life cycle of the product shows their commitment as well. The only reason I would not recommend upgrading just yet is if you are a heavy user of PAID Google Play apps as you will lose access to these until somebody figures out how to get it working on this software version.

For more information go to the Andy Pad website here.

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